Boys Soccer: Groveport Madison responding to early adversity

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior midfielder L.J. Minah is one of five returning starters for the Groveport Madison boys soccer team, which went 14-3-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Capital Division last season. It was the program's first league championship.

Groveport Madison boys soccer coach Tyler Gleason knew his team would face moments of growth this season as it tried to build on its historic achievements of a year ago.

One of them might have happened almost right away, when three nights after a 4-0 season-opening win at Teays Valley on Aug. 22, the Cruisers took an early 1-0 lead in their home opener against Chillicothe only to give up four unanswered goals to end the game.

With a home game against downstreet rival Canal Winchester looming in less than 48 hours, Gleason wanted to see how his team reacted.

"We were kind of wondering which way this season was going to go," Gleason said. "We let them have it (after the loss to Chillicothe) and let them know nobody is good enough to just show up and win. You have to want to play. ...

"But that's part of having a new team. Our leadership really showed. Our guys proved what they want this season to be. I'm proud of them."

Senior midfielder L.J. Minah continued a strong start against the Indians, scoring the only goal as the Cruisers improved to 2-1.

Minah, who had four goals through three games, is one of five returning starters from a team that went 14-3-1 overall, 5-0 in the OCC-Capital Division to win the program's first league championship and fell to St. Charles 3-0 in a Division I district semifinal.

Seniors Jeffrey Asamoah (forward), Foday Camara (defender), Chandler Jones (defender) and Edward Olusemo (forward) are back, along with two other players who earned a handful of starts or saw considerable playing time in junior Calvin Blevins (forward) and sophomore Abraham Ochoa (midfielder/forward).

"L.J. is probably our best skilled player. (Asamoah and Olusemo) are big, skilled, strong and fast," Gleason said. "We lost pieces, but we also feel like we brought a lot back."

Groveport must replace two key contributors in forward Austin Snyder, who scored 23 of his program-record 61 career goals last year, and goalie Eddie Monroy.

Senior Abdul Ahmed and freshman Mike Musungu are splitting time in goal.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Mitchell Ashburn (defender), Edgar Martinez (defender), Don Roberts (defender) and Isa Suzuki (forward), juniors Ali Alanfagi (midfielder), Jaden Atkinson (defender), Harris Musungu (defender) and David Pascua Lopez (midfielder) sophomores Erick Gonzalez Rosales (defender) and Eyobe Teferi (defender) and freshman Cale Hilligas (midfielder/defender).

Groveport begins OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Reynoldsburg, which won the OCC-Ohio a year ago.

"These guys got a taste of what winning was like," Gleason said. "Our division has realigned and we've our sights set on another (league) title. We think it's realistic. That's our in-season goal, to win the league, but we want to find a way to make a district final. I want them to set lofty goals to see where we can go."

Seven starters return for Indians

Canal Winchester returns its second- and third-leading scorers as well as two goalies under first-year coach Cody Thomas.

Senior midfielders Sam Dowden and Jack Jenkins each had six goals as juniors as the Indians went 5-9-3 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital.

Jenkins nearly matched that total Aug. 21 with four goals in a season-opening 6-1 home win over Chillicothe. Canal Winchester was 1-2-1 before playing Pickerington North on Sept. 5 and lost its league opener, 3-1 at home to Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 1.

Other returning starters are senior Will Root (defender), juniors Caden Bjorkland (forward), Jacob Cressy (defender), Mark Hatley (defender) and Kylan Lewis (defender).

Juniors Caden Groff and Chase Newsome split time in goal with senior Jacob Stedman, who has moved to forward.

"All summer long, we worked on the ability to possess the ball, advance it up the field and attack specific areas of the field to give us scoring opportunities," Thomas said. "We very much believe in a ball control and field position battle."

The Indians tied host Pickerington Central at 4 on Aug. 25 before falling to Groveport.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Jonathan Bates (goalie), Marcello Carenzio (midfielder) and Blessing Johnson (midfielder), juniors Isaiah Hall (defender), Hussam Mohamednoor (defender), Piercen Phillips (defender) and Ryan Stedman (midfielder), sophomores Isaiah Coleman (forward), Evan French (midfielder), Matthias Noffsinger (sophomore) and freshmen Sam Howard (midfielder) and Beck Snode (defender).

Thomas was an assistant at former OCC-Capital rival New Albany for five seasons before coming to Canal Winchester in January to succeed Erik Feinstein.

Feinstein stepped down last November after 22 seasons in which he led the Indians to eight league championships and two district titles.

"These boys who trained like crazy all summer to prepare for something special," Thomas said.

"Our goal has been to bring in a new vision, new direction and new way of doing things while still honoring the tradition that has been built here."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CANAL WINCHESTER

*Coach: Cody Thomas, first season

*Top players: Jacob Cressy, Sam Dowden, Jack Jenkins and Jacob Stedman

*Key loss: Ian Monesmith

*Last season: 5-9-3 overall

*2019 OCC-Capital standings: Groveport (5-0), New Albany (4-1), Canal Winchester (3-2), Big Walnut (2-3), Newark (1-4), Franklin Heights (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Lost to Dublin Scioto 3-0 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVEPORT MADISON

*Coach: Tyler Gleason, second season

*Top players: Jeffrey Asamoah, Foday Camara, Chandler Jones, L.J. Minah and Edward Olusemo

*Key losses: Melvin Escamilla, Austin Gautier, Eddie Monroy and Austin Snyder

*Last season: 14-3-1 overall

*2019 postseason: Defeated Whitehall 1-0; lost to St. Charles 1-0 in Division I district semifinal

Senior midfielder Sam Dowden (right) is among the top returnees for the Canal Winchester boys soccer team after scoring six goals last season.