Upper Arlington Roundup: Defense powering boys soccer squad

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Upper Arlington's Nate Erre clears the ball away from New Albany's Will Fischer during a game Sept. 26. Erre has been among the defensive standouts for the Golden Bears, who allowed only eight goals through their first nine games, four of which were shutouts.

The Upper Arlington boys soccer team allowed only eight goals through nine games, four of which were shutouts.

But when pondering what might have been their best game to date, several Golden Bears defenders point instead to two games — both from last year against eventual Division I state runner-up Olentangy Liberty.

UA had its roughest defensive game of the 2019 season in its second outing, losing 6-2 to the Patriots. The rematch was much closer but more heartbreaking for the Bears, as they lost 1-0 in double overtime in a district final.

“Our performances haven’t always been what we’ve liked, but we’re piecing things together,” junior defender Evan D’Herete said. “We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder from last year, still. That loss in double overtime to Liberty still hasn’t gone away from any of us, so we’re still playing with our grit.

“I like our back four. We’re all playing well together (with) good chemistry and communication.”

After that lopsided loss on Aug. 20 of last year, the Bears allowed only 17 goals in their next 26 games. On the heels of last year’s 13-5-2 record, UA was 5-3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Olentangy Orange on Oct. 1.

That league matchup followed a 3-1 victory over previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked Pickerington North on Sept. 29. Max Collier put the Bears ahead 1-0 early in the game with his team-high fourth goal, and Perry Stevenson scored twice in the second half.

“They’re nearly impossible to break down from the run of play,” coach Kevin Donovan said of his defense. “We’ll be in every game. It’s a confident group. They’re veterans.”

Seniors Nate Erre, Alex Kennedy and Sam Milburn and D’Herete start in front of senior goalie Mac Scholl. 

Scholl, who also has been a goalie for the perennially successful boys lacrosse team, stopped 30 of 39 shots through nine games.

Senior Sergio Ly is the defensive midfielder, and junior Zac Yoakam is the first defender off the bench.

UA allowed two goals in its first two games before posting four consecutive shutouts from Sept. 1-15.

“Saving a goal is better than scoring a goal in my opinion. We have great chemistry,” said Erre, whom Donovan sometimes moves into the midfield.

“Nate stepping into the midfield has been big. Evan was a first-year starter last year and as the season he went, he just solidified that spot,” Donovan said. “We went from question marks to two of the best center backs in the city. They’re like the bash brothers. They love defending with one another. This year, they’ve taken steps forward. The mindset is better.”

Milburn thought a 5-0 win over longtime Division II power DeSales on Sept. 8, the second in the streak of shutouts, might have turned some heads across the area. 

“That was one of those games where we showed our attacking ability and our defensive ability, too,” Milburn said. “I think people noticed that.”

UA had two OCC-Central tests remaining entering the week, Oct. 6 at home against Dublin Coffman and Tuesday, Oct. 13, at defending champion Hilliard Davidson.

“Our coach always says ‘master the ability to compete,’ ” D’Herete said. “We have a chance in every single game if we work together and play our hardest. We don’t want to feel how we did at the end of last year.”

Girls volleyball team 

endures tough schedule

Girls volleyball coach Chris Van Arsdale is confident that his team is better for having played a challenging schedule within the OCC-Central, including two matches against state-ranked Orange, and five other matches that went four or five games entering the week.

UA was 5-9 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Central before beginning the second round of league play Oct. 1 against Hilliard Bradley.

“I’m pleased at the level at which we’ve competed,” Van Arsdale said. “It’s a difficult schedule. We have three teams in our league (Coffman, Liberty and Orange) that are among the best teams in the area and the other three (Davidson, Bradley and UA) aren’t slouches either. We’ve been playing together a lot better last year. We took a set from Liberty (in a 25-16, 25-11, 17-25, 25-22 loss Sept. 15) and I think that showed our growth. Even if we haven’t won, we’ve been getting better.”

Jenna Harold’s 121 kills through 14 matches led the Bears, ahead of Erin Murphy (85) and Lilian Entenmann (74). Entenmann also had a team-leading 45 blocks, and Macy Medors led UA in digs with 156, ahead of Harold’s 109.

“Macy drives us on defense. She makes great digs and she’s one of the best passers in the area,” Van Arsdale said. “Carly Ness has come off the bench and given us some big serves. Front row-wise, Jenna has been big and we’ve switched Lilian and Erin between middle hitter and outside hitter. We have a lot of versatility.”

Steiner out

to fast start

Freshman Aubrey Steiner made an immediate impact in her first three races for the girls cross country team, leading UA in each outing and winning once.

Steiner finished 10th in 19 minutes, 56.2 seconds in her first race, the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 5 at Davidson, and two weeks later in the Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park trimmed more than a minute off her time to finish first in the Section 1 race in 18:45.7.

That led UA to 64 points and first place, well ahead of runner-up Dublin Jerome (93) in the 11-team field.

Steiner was fourth overall (19:17.9) on Sept. 26 in the Celtic Clash at Jerome, and the Bears finished second (105) of 15 teams behind Davidson (57), which was ranked first in the Division I state poll Sept. 25.

Steiner, who also is a forward for the girls soccer team, is one of four freshmen to have spent time in the top seven along with Maggie Malone, Khera North and Adelaide Petras. They have joined seniors Elizabeth Lembach and Lydia Schoedinger and juniors Megan Kiehl and Maggie Sells.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave