Soccer is "a thinking man's game" for Ian Smith.
The St. Charles Preparatory School senior carries a 4.36 GPA and believes his study habits have helped his play for the soccer team.
Smith started at defender last season, when the Cardinals lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 2-1 in the Division I state final. He since has moved to midfielder and hopes to help St. Charles to another strong finish.
"Last year, set pieces were our bread and butter as we were trying to find creative ways to get our targets loose and confuse the defense," said Smith, who plans to go into pre-medical coursework at schools such as North Carolina, Notre Dame or Vanderbilt but likely won't play soccer in college. "That's the main way (the classroom) can apply (to soccer). It's a thinking man's game, especially when you play center-(midfielder), you always have to look around for ways to unlock the defense. Also, the discipline of studying that I have developed in my three years of high school has helped me prepare by studying teams in film sessions and scouting reports."
Coach Chris Vonau said Smith is invaluable to the Cardinals. Not only is he intelligent and has the ability to adapt to new situations, he has the versatility to play all over the field.
"Ian can literally play any position in the center of the field," said Vonau, whose team was 7-1-1 overall and 2-0 in the CCL before playing Watterson on Sept. 26. "He played center-back exclusively last year, but we have moved him around all over the field and he has answered the call at all of the positions.
"Ian has the overall talent and leadership qualities of a kid who can play at the next level. He's extremely intelligent on and off the field. He knows what he's doing and he is a vocal asset in terms of leadership and on-field productivity."
Smith said the move forward on the field has been a change of pace, but has helped the team.
"It's different being in a new position, but the back line has come together and our center-backs, Henry Valachovic and Ethan Marshall, have had good chemistry," Smith said. "We keep getting better."
Although several players saw significant action during the Cardinals' postseason run, Smith said the team has a different vibe as it looks for similar results.
"We have a different play style entirely," he said. "We lost a lot of size so we're focusing more on on-the-ground play. We're not as direct on defense, just building it up the middle. There is a lot of passing and moving instead of sending it directly to our good strikers, who are running in trying to get good throws."
The Cardinals have a CCL showdown Tuesday, Oct. 3, at DeSales. Last season, the teams shared the league title at 3-0-1 after playing to a scoreless tie.
"That's always a big game and we still have a bad taste in our mouth from last season," Smith said. "We have to go one game at a time and not get caught in any trap games. We have to come to practice ready to work hard, and we need to stay focused."
prepares for DeSales
The football team picked up its first win with a 34-12 victory at Washington Court House on Sept. 22, but it had little time to celebrate.
The Cardinals quickly turned their focus to a home game Friday, Sept. 29, against DeSales to begin the CCL schedule. The Stallions won 38-7 last season and hold a 39-2 edge in the series since 1976. St. Charles won 14-6 in 1976 and 36-0 in 2013.
"(The Stallions) are a CCL team and they are perennially good," said quarterback Brooks McCann, whose team is 1-4. "They are only 15 or 20 minutes away and everyone knows everyone. The CCL is one of the most intense conferences for that reason."
McCann said the win over Washington Court House was an important step for the Cardinals.
"We have made so many strides since the first week," he said. "In the opener, we looked like complete chaos out there, but now we look like an offense that knows what it's doing.
"Maybe getting beat 53-0 (by Upper Arlington on Aug. 25) in the opener and then (34-0) to Reynoldsburg (on Sept. 1) worked us up. We were tired of it and really focused in practice to get better. Everyone has been looking to improve every day and we have a strong will to win."
McCann accounted for four touchdowns against the Blue Lions. He rushed for scores of 13 and 3 yards and was 7-for-15 passing for 151 yards with a 60-yard touchdown to Dylan Forsche and a 22-yarder to Roland Rowe.
Clayton Anderson added field goals of 37 and 22 yards.
Golfers win another
The golf team won its 10th consecutive CCL championship after finishing first in the league's postseason tournament Sept. 24 at The Players Club at Foxfire.
Led by medalist Keagan Younkin's 72, the Cardinals shot 300 and finished ahead of Watterson (322), Hartley (335) and DeSales (376).
Jack Kozlowski (74), Andrew Shyu (75), Anthony Ricaurte (79), Reece Yakubov (81) and Michael Shyu (89) also competed for the Cardinals, who finished 6-0 in the league. Hartley and Watterson tied for second (3-3) and DeSales was fourth (0-6).
"Anytime that you win, it's a good thing and it makes the school proud," coach Brian Unk said. "It also helps you get focused for the postseason."
St. Charles will compete in a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Clover Valley. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.
"We have played at Clover Valley for the last two years and this is the part of the season that we all look forward to," Unk said. "We have sectional, district and state highlighted on our calendars. The boys know what they need to do and focus on that."
Last fall, the Cardinals placed second (307) in the state tournament at Ohio State's Scarlet Course behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (303). Evan Yakubov, a 2017 graduate now playing at Indiana, shot 71 to tie St. Xavier's Cameron Frazier for medalist honors.
St. Charles started that journey by finishing second (301) in the Clover Valley sectional behind New Albany (299). The Cardinals then shot 297 at district at Apple Valley to finish ahead of runner-up Dublin Jerome (300).
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles cross country, soccer and water polo teams:
Sept. 30 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*Oct. 3 -- At DeSales
Sept. 30 -- Upper Arlington Duals