St. Charles Preparatory School soccer coach Chris Vonau struggled to come up with the right words to sum up a 2-1 overtime loss to Olentangy Liberty in a Division I regional final Nov. 3 at Dublin Jerome.
The eighth-ranked Cardinals tied the game with 23 minutes remaining on a goal by senior midfielder Christian Buendia. The second-ranked Patriots won when Ludwig Conrad scored with 11:15 left in the 15-minute overtime.
The Cardinals finished 15-4-2 overall after winning their second district championship in three seasons and capturing their third CCL title in four years by going 4-0 in the league.
"I'm somewhat at a loss for words," said Vonau, who completed his third season. "When you put it out there like that, and you end the season like that, as a coach you can be nothing but proud. Sure you would like a different result, but hats off to Liberty. I hope they win it all because they are a talented team. We deserved a different result because of the work we put in.
"That's the cruelty of the game. It's unforgiving. Just sometimes the team that works harder comes up on the short end of the stick. That's why we play the game, because it's like that."
Junior forward Ben Saas scored twice as St. Charles defeated Dublin Coffman 3-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Westerville Central. Senior forward Austin Schmitt also scored and senior goalkeeper Joe Marchionda had four saves.
"This is the third year that I have been on the team and I have played with these (seniors) since my freshman year," Saas said. "They have been a good influence, and I have learned so much from them. They have been great leaders for us this year."
In the district tournament, the third-seeded Cardinals won a championship by defeating 20th-seeded Dublin Scioto 2-0 on Oct. 27 at Hartley.
Buendia (first-team all-district and all-league) has committed to Saint Louis University and senior midfielder Owen Sullivan (second-team all-district, first-team all-league) has committed to Ohio State.
Also earning postseason honors from the senior class were defender Kevin Macias (first-team all-league), Marchionda (second-team all-league) and defender Ethan Marshall (first-team all-league).
"Our seniors are irreplaceable," Vonau said. "We had a good ride with some bumps and bruises along the way. I love them like they are my own children."
Junior defender Will Byorth (second-team all-league) and Saas lead the players expected to return. Juniors Tyler Cunningham (defender), Hayden Hospel (midfielder) and Josh Remeis (defender) also started in the regional final, and sophomore Jake Koehler is a candidate to replace Marchionda in goal.
"We have a strong contingent coming back," Vonau said. "We have to work hard and try to get back here."
Football team showed continued improvement
Deke Hocker found a sense of pride in the strides his players made in his first season coaching the football program.
The Cardinals finished 4-6 overall and 0-3 in the CCL after winning just once last fall.
"I think our guys got better each week on multiple levels as a team and fundamentally learning the system that we were putting in," Hocker said. "I was proud of how far we came along from the start of the season. I think we had so many individuals improve from then until now. As a whole team, we kept improving and each player was getting better every week."
Senior running back/linebacker Taylor Bryant was first-team all-league, leading the Cardinals in rushing and tackles. He ran for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns on 188 carries and had 58 tackles.
Senior quarterback Dan DiNapoli completed 53 of 139 passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns and seven interceptions before being injured in a 35-7 loss to DeSales on Sept. 28.
Senior wide receiver Drew Williams had 13 catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
Aidan Brennen (OL/LB), Peter Griffith (RB/WR/LB), Jake Moore (DB/P) and Marvin Moore (WR/DB) all were second-team all-league and key performers in a 23-player senior class.
Griffith caught 16 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown and had 38 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Jake Moore had 36.5 tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
"From coming in and having three coaches in four years, our seniors were coachable and they did everything we asked of them," Hocker said. "They worked hard and bought into what we were trying to teach."
Leading the expected returnees are junior first-team all-league performers Connor Corretta (OL/DL) and Roland Rowe (WR/DB). Corretta had 20 tackles, including a team-leading 13 for loss, and four fumble recoveries.
Rowe caught 22 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 30 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Junior Andrew Mason took over at quarterback for DiNapoli, completing 20 of 51 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Junior Luke Eversole is the top running back expected to return after rushing for 271 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries.
Junior defensive back Thomas Berry had 32 tackles, and juniors Mark Feldmann, Dimitri Mays, and Evan Porter are expected back on the line with junior Cameron O'Neal at tight end.
"It's exciting anytime that you have players with a year under their belt that know your offensive and defensive schemes," Hocker said. "Everything we have tried to instill this season will be there already. They will be ahead of the game and ready to work on the things we want to do."