Grandview Heights Roundup: Adam Bechtel, Kai Iisaka take leadership reins for boys soccer squad

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior Kai Iisaka, a three-year starter, is one of the key leaders for the Grandview Heights boys soccer team, which hopes to win its seventh consecutive district championship.

As the Grandview Heights boys soccer team enters the Division III postseason in search of its seventh consecutive district championship, coach James Gerdes knows exactly who will be leading the charge.

Seniors Adam Bechtel and Kai Iisaka have started for the last three seasons, and they have put their stamp on the Bobcats, who were 10-3-4 overall and finished 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division after beating Columbus Academy 2-0 on Oct. 15.

“Both Adam and Kai are just natural leaders, and I feel like it’s their team,” Gerdes said. “They are playing every minute of every game, and they both are the real deal.

“They lead by example and they are the first ones here at practice. They encourage their teammates when they need to be encouraged, and they get after them when they need people to give criticism in a constructive way. They have great skills and work rate.”

Bechtel is a three-year starter in the midfield and Iisaka started as a defender for two seasons before moving to forward this fall.

“I had a pretty big impact in the back,” said Iisaka, who had five goals and seven assists before playing Academy. “I was the leader back there and was super-vocal. Now moving up to the top, I have lost a bit of the control and I’m trying to find some creativity.”

Gerdes said Iisaka was part of a lineup shuffle that helped the Bobcats go eight games without a loss through the Academy win. They lost to Bexley 3-1 on Sept. 23 but rebounded to go 6-0-2 in the next eight contests.

“We found the right positions for the right players,” Gerdes said. “We put different people in different roles.

“We moved Collin Haj Abed to the back and Kai up front. Our goalkeeper, Owen Carter, has more confidence, and Johnnie Herlihy has grown every game at center-back. We’re just jelling, the chemistry is good and our confidence is high.”

Bechtel said moving players around on the field is par for the course.

“I feel like during the season we try out different positions,” said Bechtel, who had seven goals and three assists through 16 games. “Then in the last 10 games or so, we kind of solidify where everyone plays and we kind of bond together.

“The most important thing is consistency. Some games we put up eight goals and other games we put up one or zero. I think we’re finding a rhythm, and getting into that will put us above everyone else.”

For much of the preseason, the Bobcats were limited to nine-player pods because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. That caused them to possibly start the season before they were fully prepared.

“That definitely affected us,” Iisaka said. “In the past we would have tournaments and a whole preseason to bind us together but this year we were lacking that. Really the beginning of the season was our preseason, and we were trying to figure it out from there.”

Bechtel said the season was different because of the small senior class that consists of himself, Herlihy, Iisaka and forward Henry Murphy.

“This year is completely different because we only have four seniors,” he said. “We have been showing (the younger kids) the ropes and what Grandview soccer is all about. 

“(Winning a seventh district title in a row would mean) everything. You have to keep the streak going, especially since we’re seniors. It’s on us now. You have to hype the team up and try to go all the way.”

That drive begins Monday, Oct. 26, at home with a second-round game against 12th-seeded Ready or 13th-seeded West Jefferson. The Bobcats are seeded second.

The winner advances to a district semifinal against seventh-seeded Tree of Life or ninth-seeded Fisher Catholic on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the home field of the better seed.

The district final is Oct. 31 with top-seeded Worthington Christian as a possible opponent.

“If we don’t get (the district championship), it will feel like a failed season for us,” Iisaka said. “We have to keep pushing.”

Football team

adds two games

The football team added a pair of games following a 57-6 loss at Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant on Oct. 10 in the first round of the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs.

The Bobcats played at Bexley on Oct. 16 and play host Friday, Oct. 23, to Fisher Catholic. They were scheduled to open Aug. 28 against Bexley, but the Lions weren’t able to play because of coronavirus protocols.

Grandview dropped to 0-7 with the loss to Dawson-Bryant. It had 81 total yards, including only 17 rushing. Connor McCormick had 12 yards on three carries, and Mason Gastesi had seven yards and one touchdown on two carries. Quarterback Logan Baker was 8-for-16 passing for 64 yards.

Girls soccer team

earns top seed

The girls soccer team is the top seed in the Division III district tournament.

The Bobcats have a first-round bye and play at home Saturday, Oct. 24, against 10th-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek or 11th-seeded Johnstown. The winner advances to a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 27, against fourth-seeded Fairbanks, fifth-seeded Fisher Catholic, eighth-seeded West Jefferson or 12th-seeded Ready.

Grandview was 11-2-3 overall after beating Tree of Life 9-1 on Oct. 13. It finished 5-1-2 in the MSL-Ohio.

Senior Audra Naille and the Bobcats girls tennis team ended their season in a Division II sectional tournament Oct. 8 at Columbus Academy.

Tennis team ends

season at sectional

The girls tennis team saw its season end Oct. 8 in a Division II sectional at Academy.

The doubles team of seniors Juliana Bongiorno and Kate Kurkura went 1-1 to lead the Bobcats, and seniors Audra Naille and Marit Swanson were 0-1. Seniors Dylan Dobbs-Euans, Lydia Robertson and Cate Stanley all went 0-1 in singles.

Grandview finished 8-9 overall and seventh (1-6) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Academy (7-0). Stanley was honorable mention all-league.

“Our top 11 players were seniors so it’s a very unusual situation and one I have never had before,” eighth-year coach Kathy Kinnard said. “The sophomore class has a good 12 or 13 participating and they have some good talent, but I can’t put any names on who the top performers might be.”

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

GIRLS TENNIS

Record: 8-9 overall

MSL-Ohio standings: Columbus Academy (41 points, 7-0), Wellington (35, 6-1), Worthington Christian (26, 5-2), Bexley (24, 4-3), Columbus School for Girls (21, 3-4), Buckeye Valley (11, 2-5), Grandview (8, 1-6), Whitehall (0, 0-7)

Seniors lost: Juliana Bongiorno, Dylan Dobbs-Euans, Caroline Kahle, Kate Kurkura, Maggie Lobley, Maggie Lyon, Audra Naille, Lydia Robertson, CeCe Simmons, Cate Stanley, Marit Swanson and Cora Wilson

Key returnees: None