Boys Soccer: Hilliard Davidson's Lorenzo Nieves providing leadership from back

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Davidson senior goalie Lorenzo Nieves clears the ball during a 2-0 loss at Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 6. Nieves is a four-year starter in goal. "He’s an exceptional athlete as far as his technical skills and communication in the back," coach Dan Hoover said.

As his teammates battled Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 6, Hilliard Davidson boys soccer goalie Lorenzo Nieves shouted guidance and encouragement from near his net.

Nieves, a senior, has been providing that support for the last four seasons as the Wildcats’ starting goalie.

“He’s a good kid. He’s a very smart kid,” coach Dan Hoover said. “He’s been a leader in the back. He’s an exceptional athlete as far as his technical skills and communication in the back. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, which is what we need from the back.”

Since beginning the season 3-0-1, Davidson had gone 1-8-1 since to take a 4-8-2 overall record into a game against Marysville on Oct. 8.

The Wildcats closed OCC-Central Division play and the regular season Oct. 13 against Upper Arlington, and they entered the game 0-3-1 in the league. The Division I district tournament draw was Oct. 11, and the postseason begins Tuesday, Oct. 20.

“I’m trying my best to be a leader,” Nieves said. “When I was a freshman, I wanted leadership and support from the seniors, so I’m trying to do the same thing.”

With Nieves playing in goal, Davidson and Worthington Christian were tied at 1 at halftime Oct. 5. With the offense struggling, however, Hoover moved Nieves to forward for the second half in search of more offense. 

The strategy didn’t work as the Wildcats allowed six unanswered goals in a 7-1 loss.

Nieves returned to goal the following night at Liberty and helped keep the game scoreless at halftime before allowing two second-half goals in a 2-0 loss.

“We have a lot of underclassmen,” Nieves said. “It’s a learning process, and 2-0 at Liberty and 0-0 at half, we did some things right … coming off a 7-1 defeat, (in a game) we didn’t expect to lose 7-1. We came out and battled Liberty. It’s a good thing we didn’t give up.”

Davidson’s win during its recent struggles was a 4-1 victory over Hartley on Sept. 23. The Wildcats tied Bradley at 0 on Sept. 22 for its second scoreless draw against a district opponent this season, as they also tied Darby at 0 to open the season Aug. 28.

Through 14 games, Lucas Baker led Davidson with four goals and three assists, followed by Bilal Katabay with three goals and an assist. Nieves scored a goal in a 5-0 win over Newark on Sept. 1.

Nieves, who was second-team all-OCC-Central a year ago, plays at the club level for Ohio Premier.

“Him and I have established a special relationship over the years,” Hoover said. “We’ve gone back and forth, but this year we understand each other and understand what he needs to do. He had to grow up a bit and I understand him a lot better this year, as far as coachability. He’s been the pinnacle of what we’re trying to get done.”

Nieves plans on playing soccer in college, but remains undecided on a school.

“He can play somewhere,” Hoover said. “A lot of colleges are always looking for a good goalie, a good leader from the back that knows the game, knows how to distribute. He’s not a bad field player, either. He can distribute from the back with his hands. He can distribute with his feet. He can create counter attacks when he wants to and he’s a leader.”

Nieves will close his prep career by playing for the boys lacrosse team in the spring. Nieves, who joined the team as a sophomore, plays defensive midfielder.

He missed his junior season in lacrosse when spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“He was one of the hardest-working kids on the team, but the thing that impressed me was how he always was smiling,” said Adam Beasley, who stepped down as lacrosse coach Sept. 26. “We knew from the get-go that soccer was Lorenzo’s future, but you could tell he played lacrosse because he loved his teammates and the game. I could win a state championship if I had a team of Lorenzo Nieves.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank