Boys Soccer: MSL preps Grandview Heights for tourney success

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Grandview Heights' Adam Bechtel (left), Collin Haj Abed and Jack Mollette celebrate after Bechtel scored a goal during a 4-1 loss to Olentangy Berlin on Aug. 25.

The Grandview Heights boys soccer team continues to pile up Division III district championships, winning six in a row.

During that successful run, however, the Bobcats have won the MSL-Ohio Division only twice -- tying Bexley and Worthington Christian for the title in 2014 and Columbus Academy for first in 2018.

That doesn't bother fifth-year coach James Gerdes, who said the league schedule has helped prepare his players for postseason success.

The MSL-Ohio produced three district champions last fall in Grandview, Columbus Academy (Division II) and Wellington, which won the Division III state title.

The Bobcats defeated Worthington Christian 3-2 in two overtimes in their district final, rallying from a 2-0 deficit late in the second half to tie the score and then winning on a top-corner blast from well outside the box by 2020 graduate Lance Trares.

"It's definitely a lot more difficult to win the league than the district," said Gerdes, whose team finished 10-6-4 overall and fourth (2-3-1) in the league behind co-champions Wellington and Worthington Christian (both 4-0-2). "Playing in that league really helps us get ready for the tournament."

The Bobcats return seven starters in seniors Adam Bechtel (midfielder; 3 goals, 4 assists last season), Kai Iisaka (defender; 6 goals, 7 assists) and Henry Murphy (forward; 6 goals), juniors Owen Carter (goalie; 70 saves), Collin Haj Abed (forward; 2 goals, 4 assists) and Jack Mollette (midfielder) and sophomore Will DeVere (forward; 3 goals, 3 assists).

"Considering the circumstances (with COVID-19 coronavirus protocols), I think we've been doing really well, and I think we can be better than last year," said Bechtel, who was second-team all-league. "We're solid all-around. In the past few years, we have had two or three players who were really good and kind of carried the team. This year I believe we're more solidified as a team."

Iisaka said the key to success for the Bobcats is to remain focused in each game they play.

"With this team we have to keep it serious and continue to fight through the whole season," said Iisaka, who also was second-team all-league. "Since it's the beginning of the season, we really have to get focused and become more intense. We definitely have to use our bench and use our depth this year."

The midfield and back line are strengths for the Bobcats. Bechtel, Mollette, juniors Connor Hayes and Keegan Kearney and sophomores Leo Marcellana and Gunnar Szynal patrol the midfield, with seniors Johnnie Herlihy and Iisaka and juniors Joe Kessler and Adam Narcelles anchoring the defense.

"We have to keep it tight," Gerdes said. "We have some options up front but we have to score by committee. The midfielders will have to chip in with goals and we have to play strong in the back."

The Bobcats opened with a 10-0 win over Madison Christian on Aug. 22 before losing 4-1 to Olentangy Berlin on Aug. 25. They began league play Sept. 5 against Worthington Christian.

"I like that there is a lot of harmony in the group," Gerdes said. "They are all willing to be team players. There aren't too many egos on the team. They're willing to work and put in a lot of effort."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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At a glance

BOYS SOCCER

*Coach: James Gerdes, fifth season

*Top players: Adam Bechtel, Owen Carter, Will DeVere, Collin Haj Abed, Connor Hayes, Johnnie Herlihy, Kai Iisaka, Jack Mollette, Henry Murphy and Adam Narcelles

*Key losses: Sam Amurgis, Ross Day, Charlie Ferguson, Jack Freeman, Jack Kessler, Ravi Kumar, Ethan Page and Lance Trares

*Last season: 10-6-4 overall

*2019 MSL-Ohio standings: Wellington and Worthington Christian (both 4-0-2), Columbus Academy (2-1-3), Grandview (2-3-1), Whitehall (1-2-3), Bexley (1-3-2), Buckeye Valley (0-5-1)

*2019 postseason: Defeated Harvest Prep 15-1; def. Liberty Union 4-1; def. Worthington Christian 3-2 (2OT); lost to Cincinnati Seven Hills 2-1 in Division III regional semifinal