Boys Soccer: Olentangy Liberty to feature new look under Konkolewski
One thing that sticks out about the resume of new Olentangy Liberty boys soccer coach Ricky Konkolewski is its diversity.
In addition to a one-year stint more than a decade ago as the Briggs girls coach, Konkolewski spent nine seasons coaching boys and girls programs in Houston before returning to central Ohio to serve as the Westerville North girls coach the last two seasons.
After guiding North to a Division I district championship last fall, Konkolewski next will attempt to keep Liberty among the top programs in central Ohio after stellar seasons the last two years.
Liberty was a state semifinalist in 2018 and then lost 4-0 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state championship game last fall to finish 18-3-1, but there is only one starter returning.
"It was a huge learning experience coaching sports in Texas," Konkolewski said. "I was teaching and coaching at North and it was a great experience. We were really proud of winning our district championship last year.
"Liberty opened up and I thought it would be a really good opportunity. I live about eight minutes from the high school and I know the prestige they had. My whole career has been based on building great teams."
Liberty, which lost 12 players to graduation, improved to 2-0-1 with a 1-0 victory at Dublin Jerome on Sept. 1.
The Patriots were scheduled to face Grove City on Sept. 3 and Thomas Worthington on Sept. 8, and they play their OCC-Central Division opener Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Dublin Coffman.
Liberty won OCC-Buckeye titles each of the last three seasons under former coach Marc D'Auteuil.
The only returning starter is junior defender Parker Cameron.
Senior midfielders Riley Carrier and senior defensive center midfielder Jack Cruise also were contributors last season.
Senior Jayson Castellanos, who missed the beginning of the season with an injury, is expected to be one of the leaders on offense along with senior forward Evan Scott, sophomore midfielder Aade Rajmohan and senior midfielders Ryan Bonanno and Jacob Maisonneuve.
Junior Andrew Bartosik is at goalie, with senior Blaize Buzash serving as the backup.
Also on defense are seniors Jack Beirne and A.J. Varchetti and junior Grant Montgomery.
Others looking to contribute include seniors Logan Braun (midfielder), Daniel Buehrer (midfielder), Logan Carrier (midfielder), Luke Ettefagh (midfielder), Anthony Sirianni (midfielder) and Aidan Twiss (defender) and junior Ethan Herr (midfielder).
Pioneers easing way into season
Second-year Orange coach Brett Weiss believes his team was still in preseason mode when it started the regular season Aug. 21 with a scoreless tie against Berlin.
The Pioneers also played Pickerington Central to a scoreless tie Aug. 27 before defeating Thomas Worthington 4-2 on Aug. 29 and Olentangy 2-1 on Sept. 1.
Weiss expects to see continued improvement.
"It's all part of the learning curve, and we have to be realistic," said Weiss, whose team finished 12-5-2 overall and second (3-1-1) in the OCC-Buckeye last fall. "The first four games are essentially scrimmages since we didn't get them in the preseason (because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic).
"You kind of tether your expectations in the first few games because you normally work out the early season jitters and questions of tactics in the scrimmages. You learn so much about your team in those scrimmages."
The Pioneers have 10 players who started at some point last fall. Seniors Charlie Debolt, Nate Hoang (honorable mention all-league) and Justin Nichols anchor the defense along with senior Aaron Kim in goal.
Other returning players are seniors Ryan Borger, Baracah Gimei and Alex James (second-team all-league) in the midfield and seniors Jerry Ashmeade and Zach Blendick and junior Jack Behre at forward.
"Most of these guys were first-year varsity players last year," said Weiss, whose team has 12 seniors. "They all play at a high level and they understand what we need and what we want. They're feeding off each other and doing a nice job."
Weiss likes the makeup of his defense, which surrendered just three goals in its first four games, and he also expects the offense to start heating up.
"That's really a matter of timing," Weiss said. "One thing we need to get better at is getting timing down as we move the ball up the field. That will give us better chances to score. That really dictates how we attack the goal."
The Pioneers have moved to the OCC-Central and open league play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against defending league Hilliard Davidson.
Bears return seven starters
Berlin is still looking for its identity in the program's third season.
The Bears return seven starters from last season, when they finished 11-2-4 overall and third (4-1-2) in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Dublin Scioto (5-1-1).
"As a young program we're continuing to build our identity daily," third-year coach Josh Diehl said. "Every day is an opportunity to contribute, compete and grow. We have a mature group who wants to raise the standards higher."
Senior Connor Sexton returns in goal along with senior defender Kyle Rinehart (first-team all-league; 2 goals) and sophomore defender Aidan Ackermann.
In the midfield, seniors Landon Kuhn (2 goals) and Ryan Miller (second-team all-league) are back. Senior Will Harrington (6 goals) and sophomore Mike Lapid (2 goals) return to start at forward.
Senior forwards Austin Corley (2 goals) and Mason Morris and sophomore midfielder Luke Butzier also add scoring punch.
"We're really balanced again in our attack," Diehl said. "As we continue to attack as a team, we expect a lot of guys to get on the score sheet. We expect guys like Corley, Harrington, Morris, Lapid, Kuhn and Butzier (to contribute)."
Rinehart is a third-year starter in the back.
"Every senior in our program has stepped up and taken ownership into our season," Diehl said. "The group has locked in on adversity and kept a positive attitude daily. They've shown a bring-it-on attitude. This is a solid group of young men. "
The Bears were 3-0-1 before facing Worthington Christian on Sept. 3. They played Orange to a scoreless tie Aug. 21 before wins over Grandview (4-1 on Aug. 25), Worthington Kilbourne (1-0 on Aug. 27) and Groveport (6-1 on Sept. 1).
Berlin opens OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Olentangy.
Six starters return to lead Braves
A midfield that includes four full- or part-time returning starters could prove to be a strength for third-year Olentangy coach Kyle Hamrick as the Braves vie for the OCC-Cardinal championship after four years in the OCC-Buckeye.
Senior Brandon Eddy and Colin McComb and juniors Dany Leeper and Bennett Pinkerton are back in the midfield for the Braves, who were 1-3-1 before playing Westland on Sept. 3.
Junior defenders Andrew Van Pelt and Michael Zenios are Olentangy's other two returning starters from a team that went 6-8-4 overall and 1-1-3 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"Our defense looks different this year with five new players in the rotation. While this is a new rotation, I believe our defense is exceptionally strong," Hamrick said. "The experience gained by Bennett, Colin, Brandon and Danny has set up our midfield to be high quality this season.
"I also believe our goalkeeping this year is a tremendous strength throughout our program. We have two varsity keepers who could start and excel at any time."
Junior Tommy Chilicki has been the Braves' starting goalie.
Olentangy opened Aug. 21 with a 1-0 home loss to Olmsted Falls. The Braves fell 3-1 at Worthington Christian on Aug. 25 before getting their first win, 5-0 at home over Grove City on Aug. 27, and playing Liberty to a scoreless tie Aug. 29.
Olentangy also lost to Orange 2-1 at home Sept. 1.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Eddie Kondrad (defender) and Nick Manivilovski (midfielder), juniors Daniel Davies (defender), Daniel Gallagher (forward), John Kibat (defender), Bryce Kravitz (midfielder) and Ryan May (goalie) and sophomores Anthony Barton (defender), Jake Eby (forward), Ean Encarnacion (forward) and Brady Smith (midfielder).
Olentangy begins OCC-Buckeye play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Berlin.
"We'll be a very deep team this year. I expect in most matches to have 17 guys get playing time, and we could call up a few junior varsity players to see time as well," Hamrick said. "This team may be young with only four seniors, but they're fun to coach and they're extremely talented."
At a glance
*Coach: Josh Diehl, third season
*Top players: Aidan Ackermann, Austin Corley, Will Harrington, Landon Kuhn, Mike Lapid, Ryan Miller, Mason Morris, Kyle Rinehart and Connor Sexton
*Key losses: Dominic Antronica, Ethan Cochran, Cody Collins, Luke Eisenhower and Adam Wiseman
*Last season: 11-2-4 overall
*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Dublin Scioto (5-1-1), Worthington Kilbourne (4-0-3), Berlin (4-1-2), Hilliard Bradley and Dublin Jerome (both 3-3-1), Thomas Worthington (2-3-2), Hilliard Darby (2-5), Delaware (0-7)
*2019 postseason: Lost to Upper Arlington 1-0 (OT) in second round of Division I district tournament
*Coach: Ricky Konkolewski, first season
*Top players: Andrew Bartosik, Ryan Bonanno, Parker Cameron, Riley
Carrier, Jayson Castellanos, Jack Cruise, Jacob Maisonneuve and Aade Rajmohan
*Key losses: Jaggar Brooker, Blake Collins, Ludwig Conrad, Liam Garcia, Theren Handlon, Tyler Harris, Nate Logozzo, Luke Sensky and Graydon Shook
*Last season: 18-3-1 overall
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (5-0), Orange (3-1-1), Westerville Central (2-3), Olentangy (1-1-3), Westerville South (1-3-1), Westerville North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Defeated Northland 4-0; def. Pickerington Central 3-1; def. Upper Arlington 1-0 (2OT); def. Westerville Central 3-0; def. Worthington Kilbourne 5-0; def. Liberty Township Lakota East 1-0; lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-0 in Division I state final
*Coach: Kyle Hamrick, third season
*Top players: Tommy Chilicki, Danny Leeper, Colin McComb and Bennett Pinkerton
*Key losses: Christian Bowens, Drew Clement, Vik Hudson and Grant Robinson
*Last season: 6-8-4
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (5-0), Orange (3-1-1), Central (2-3), Olentangy (1-1-3), South (1-3-1), North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Def. Newark 5-0; lost to Gahanna 3-1 in second round of Division I district tournament
*Coach: Brett Weiss, second season
*Top players: Jerry Ashmeade, Jack Behre, Zach Blendick, Ryan Borger, Charlie Debolt, Baracah Gimei, Nate Hoang, Alex James and Justin Nichols
*Key losses: Jack Kossoudji, Cole Lewis, Eddie Muller, Spencer Rose, Kellen Sargent, Jason Stewart and Kyle Stringer
*Last season: 12-5-2 overall
*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (5-0), Orange (3-1-1), Olentangy (1-1-3), Central (2-3), South (1-3-1), North (0-4-1)
*2019 postseason: Def. Columbus West 1-0; def. Zanesville 4-0; lost to New Albany 1-0 in Division I district semifinal