When Jamie Dato took over the Westland boys soccer team four years ago, he counted on a group of freshmen to help lead the program's turnaround.
The Cougars had some success behind those freshmen, including going 8-8-1 and 8-9 in their first two seasons. Westland slipped to 5-10-1 last season and 5-10-2 this year.
Dato credited those players -- now a 10-member senior class -- for providing leadership this fall, but thought the team underachieved as several younger players attempted to make contributions.
"It was a frustrating team," Dato said. "They were young to begin with. They were young as far as no varsity experience and some of them just never gained the skill needed for varsity. I don't think we improved as much from point A to point B like I would have liked."
Westland continued its domination of its series with Central Crossing by winning all four meetings during the seniors' career, including 4-1 on Oct. 10.
After losing four of the first five games in the series, Westland now leads 9-4-2.
Along with defeating Central Crossing, senior defender Abraham Perez called a 3-2 win over Canal Winchester on Aug. 27 another highlight of the season. Perez scored a goal and senior forward Bawi Lian netted the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick in the second half.
The Cougars went 1-4 in the OCC-Central Division to finish fifth behind champion Hilliard Davidson (5-0).
"We definitely could have played a lot better in some games," Perez said. "There were a lot of tough games where we played really well. Not every game goes as you expect it to go, but hopefully next season they can do better."
Senior defender TeiTu Bawi was first-team all-league, Perez was second-team all-league, senior defender Junior Garcia was special mention all-league and junior midfielder Khalil Suleiman was honorable mention all-league.
"The past two years it's really fun being there with the team," Perez said. "Everything was fun overall. I'm happy (with the second-team all-league honor). ... I have to give it to TeiTu. He's a really good defender."
Junior forward/midfielder Mohamed Suleiman led the Cougars in scoring with seven goals and one assist. Perez had six goals and two assists, senior midfielder Bawi Lian had five goals and three assists, sophomore forward Jeremy Canchola had five goals and an assist, Khalil Suleiman had four goals and two assists and junior forward Flavio Santiago had three goals.
Senior goalkeeper Trent Beach finished with 63 saves.
Others expected to return are juniors Jayden Bruna (forward), Omar Campa (goalie), Gerardo Guzman (midfielder), Ulises Martinez (midfielder) and Ethan Masanja (midfielder) and sophomores Noah Fryman (midfielder), Bryan Garcia (defender) and Pato Rebollar (forward).
Football team closes season with Davidson
Football coach Rick Rios said he sensed a different mindset as his team prepared to close the season Nov. 1 against Davidson.
The Cougars entered the game 1-8 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Central.
"It definitely feels different," Rios said. "Going into the first week, you have all that hope and anticipation of seeing what you did in the offseason and how it unfolds. It's a little bittersweet. It's definitely worn on us a little bit, all the injuries and everything. It's time for us to head back into the offseason and get back to work."
Westland lost at Dublin Coffman 44-12 on Oct. 25 as Peterson Iresne rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
The Cougars managed just 129 yards of offense.
"It's definitely tough playing these teams, but those games are our measuring sticks," Rios said of closing with Coffman and Davidson. "It gives you an idea where you're at and what you have to work at. It's still an opportunity for us to go out there and compete and show what we're capable of doing."
Jason Cooper started at quarterback against Coffman and was expected to also start against Davidson. Senior Kyle Bowles had played quarterback the previous two games, but was lost for the season after sustaining a concussion in a 17-13 loss to Central Crossing on Oct. 17.