Boys Soccer: Olentangy Berlin Bears rise quickly into elite program

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Berlin boys soccer coach Josh Diehl, left, talks with Kyle Rinehart following a 1-0 loss to Thomas Worthington in a Division I regional semifinal Nov. 4. The Bears defeated Westerville Central 2-1 on Oct. 31 in the Division I final to secure the school's first district championship.

The Olentangy Berlin boys soccer team has completed a rapid climb to becoming district champions. 

The third-year program won the first district title in any sport at Berlin by defeating 16th-seeded Westerville Central 2-1 on Oct. 31 in a Division I district final. Two years ago in the school’s inaugural sports season, the Bears reached a Division II district final but lost 1-0 to Bexley. 

Senior forward Austin Corley said the team has made incredible strides in such a short time. 

“We had little or no varsity experience when we came here and to make two district finals and win one already is unbelievable,” said Corley, who had seven goals with one assist this season. “I think our best attribute is being selfless. We all want everyone to succeed and we want our team success to be greater than our own. We get the job done when we need to.” 

The Bears lost 1-0 to host Thomas Worthington in overtime Nov. 4 in a regional semifinal to finish 15-3-2. The teams played to a scoreless tie Oct. 13 in the OCC-Cardinal Division finale as Berlin tied Hilliard Darby for third (2-2-1) in the league behind Dublin Jerome (4-0-1) and Thomas (3-1-1). 

“It’s a game of bounces and a game of moments, and in that moment and in that play, (Thomas) won that play,” third-year coach Joshua Diehl said. “The game is full of plays. 

“I’m so proud that our team came out and played selfless in the way that we want to. We’re a young program and we showed a ton of maturity. I thought we handled it well.” 

In the district final, senior forward Mason Morris and sophomore forward Gavin Kiener scored after Berlin trailed 1-0 at the break. 

“At halftime, we were really trying to get things together,” said senior midfielder Ryan Miller, who was second-team all-league and scored one goal with three assists. “All of the seniors, we were trying to rally the guys because that’s not the way we were used to playing. The second half had to be better and we were able to play Berlin soccer and get the win.” 

Morris said the feat came in part because of the brotherhood the seniors have built since the program began. 

“We’ve been working really hard over the past few seasons, so winning it meant a lot to the seniors and the guys who have been here for a while,” said Morris, who was special mention all-league and scored a team-high 10 goals with two assists. “Coach (Diehl) stresses a lot about brotherhood, so it’s all about the culture that we build in the program. Being one cohesive unit has really helped us improve our game.” 

Depth also was important, according to senior midfielder Landon Kuhn (second-team all-district, first-team all-league). 

“I think we have a good balance on the team,” said Kuhn, who had five goals and 10 assists. “We have a lot of depth on the team. We have 23 or 24 guys that will play. We have lots of numbers. 

“You get a shift in and you go 100 percent. Then you know that you’ll have a brother who will come in and give 100 percent so you can take a break for a few minutes.” 

Senior defender Kyle Rinehart, who first-team all-district and the league’s Player of the Year, scored seven goals with three assists. Corley (honorable mention all-league) scored seven goals with one assist. 

Senior defender Kaden Foreman (second-team all-league) scored five goals with two assists, and the two goalies – senior Connor Sexton and junior Joey Dittmar – combined for 11 shutouts and just 10 goals allowed.  

Junior midfielder Ryan Betts, junior defender Conner Cropper and sophomore defender Lincoln Ulrich also started the regional semifinal. 

“They’ve been a great group,” Diehl said. “They have awareness that this season could have gone a lot of different ways, so they take it pretty seriously. They've taken things like, ‘Let’s go all in today and whatever happens will happen.’ 

“I don’t think I could put it into words. They’re a great unique group and I’ve seen them mature over the years. They left really big shoes to fill. They were great players and great teammates and they’re just great people." 

shennen@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekHennen  

•Record: 15-3-2 overall 

•OCC-Cardinal standings: Dublin Jerome (4-0-1), Thomas Worthington (3-1-1), Berlin and Hilliard Darby (2-2-1), Olentangy (2-3), Marysville (0-5) 

•Seniors lost: Blake Borquist, Wilson Combs, Austin Corley, Kaden Foreman, Will Harrington, Landon Kuhn, Ryan Miller, Mason Morris, Sam Rietz, Kyle Rinehart and Connor Sexton 

•Key returnees: Ryan Betts, Conner Cropper, Joey Dittmar, Gavin Kiener and Lincoln Ulrich 

•Postseason: Defeated Reynoldsburg 2-0; def. Westerville North 3-0; def. Westerville Central 2-1; lost to Thomas 1-0 (OT) in Division I regional semifinal