Girls soccer gaining game experience
By Michael Krieger
Despite losses in both of the season’s opening games, the Rossford girls soccer team has “shown improvement from game one to game two,” according to new head Coach Mike Pierce.
“We’re not focusing on wins and losses as much as we are on getting better game to game,” he said.
Although the score in the first two games didn’t show it, he believes his team showed improvement and an enhanced ability to work together.
Pierce is in his first year as the varsity girls coach. However, he is not lacking in soccer coaching experience.
He has coached a club team, ESSL Arsenal, for the last 10 years and last year he served as the assistant varsity girls coach at Oak Harbor.
He believes in teaching the game to the girls by creating game situations in their practices.
“I like to let them learn the game by letting the game teach itself,” he noted. “We practice game-type situations and so far they are responding well.”
He acknowledges that the soccer players, despite being inexperienced, have been hard-working and eager to learn the game.
Key returners from last year’s team are Jenna Demko, Taylor Royal, Alyssa Carroll and Kathleen Hermes.
While they provide the most experience and some athleticism, Coach Pierce wants to use this year as a base for the future of the program.
“I want to get more involved with the Rec program to reach out to younger players,” Pierce said. “We need to get kids playing soccer at a younger age. That is where we lack compared to other schools in our district.”
In the meantime, the current team will continue gaining the necessary game experience so the future might be realized sooner than later.
Cross country strides toward improvement
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School varsity cross country program strides into the start of a new season with high hopes for improvement.
With nine boys and six girls, the Bulldogs look to improve on a sixth place finish in the Northern Buckeye Conference last year.
The boys team, especially, should be better. They return all runners from last year’s squad, leaning on key returners Nolan York, Jake Pietrasz, Tanner Krotzer and John Bergstrom in their efforts this season.
“We are looking for a fifth runner,” Head Coach Vern Kiehl said.
In varsity cross country, seven runners make up the team, and five runners count for the team score.
Kiehl is in his fifth year as head coach and believes the team’s improvement is inevitable.
“They are a year older. They’ve worked hard in the off-season,” said Kiehl, whose main focus for the Bulldogs is “to keep it fun.”
To do that, he doesn’t generally push his runners to complete extensive mileage.
“They only run three miles in races, so there’s no reason to do more than five miles to train for races,” he explained.
Kiehl has a similar outlook for the girls team–to see them improve race to race and stay injury free.
Returning letter winners Kayla Kirkman and Maddie Potts should pace the efforts this season.
Kiehl is encouraged by the team’s numbers this year and hopes to recruit more runners for the future.
For this season, the coach’s goals are simple. “The intention is to improve by one second over the previous race.”
Both teams open the season this Saturday, August 29 at Mills Creek Golf Course in Sandusky for the Sandusky St. Mary’s Warm Up Run. This is a two-mile event that serves as a light beginning to a season that will see the team competing in conference jamboree events and Saturday invitationals through October.
The first NBC jamboree will be September 1 at Elmwood.
Bulldogs prepped for Northern Buckeye title shot
By Michael Krieger
Head Varsity Football Coach Todd Drusback shies away from saying Rossford is a favorite to win the Northern Buckeye Conference championship this season.
But he will acknowledge that it is “time to get over the hump.”
“We have been in the middle for the past three years,” he said. “It’s time to take that next step.”
The Bulldogs have finished fourth for three consecutive years.
While they have managed to be dominant against most teams in the NBC, they are regularly stopped by the power trio of Lake, Genoa and Eastwood.
And all three look to be tough competition for Rossford again this year.
The Bulldogs bring back a host of experience and athleticism at several key positions, and the players seem ready for the challenge ahead.
“This is the best skill group we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Drusback explained. “We have depth, for a change, at several spots.”
Returning for RHS are all-league selections Erik Davis and Chase Baney.
Davis accounted for more than 1,000 yards of total offense and 18 touchdowns last year. He will be used in a variety of ways in the offense this season.
Baney makes the transition from a hybrid flanker position to quarterback. So far, he is picking up the change quickly.
Drusback likes the run dimension that Baney brings to the position because of the strain it can put on opposing defenses.
Other key returners are Travis Szczublewski, Sam Beale, Spencer Shultz, Brennan Reynolds, Nick Wagner and Kyle Sherman.
According to Drusback, “Sherman has been the ultimate team guy. He has been playing in multiple positions, and he has been good about helping Chase with the switch to quarterback.”
Sherman has significant game experience at quarterback as well.
Wagner is stronger and more athletic and should contribute on both sides of the ball after an injury plagued season last year.
“Nick is the kind of player that we have wanted to have, but just haven’t quite found,” the coach said. “He gives a lot of versatility whether it’s running the ball or making catches.”
Baney isn’t the only one making a change this year. Several players converted to new positions to gain more playing time and help the team.
“We want to get our best 11 on the field at the same time,” Drusback noted. “To do that, some guys had to accept new positions. We’ve been happy with their development so far.”
The Bulldog coach also sees several other players poised to make an impact this season.
Ben Sauter has been a big surprise so far, he said, and brings intelligence and size to the offensive line and the defensive end positions.
Cody Orr looks strong at safety. Billy Zeller is emerging on the offensive line, and sure-handed junior Cota Sinclair returns to the receiving ranks after a one-year hiatus from football.
For the Bulldogs to accomplish their goals, Drusback believes the team needs to take better care of the football and stop the run.
“The upper echelon teams in our league are run-oriented,” he pointed out. “If we stop the run, it will create opportunities for our offense.”
This season fans should see a much improved run defense with a team who tackles better and is more aggressive.
On offense, the goal is to get the ball to the athletes in space and let them create, he said, adding that the Bulldogs should have much better red zone efficiency this year–an area that has been their Achilles’ heel in previous seasons.
Rossford opens the 2015 season tomorrow evening at home against non-conference opponent, Bowling Green. The two teams have traded victories the past two seasons with BG winning last year.
“BG should be solid up front,” Drusback predicted. “They lost a lot of skill players but should be aggressive.”
The Bobcats are expected to enter the game with some confidence after qualifying for state playoffs last year.
“How quickly we develop up front will make the difference,” Drusback said.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Boys soccer looks for NBC ‘three-peat’
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School boys soccer team has won the Northern Buckeye Conference championship the last two seasons in a row, and it is realistic that they could be poised for yet another run at the title.
“Our goal is to get the three-peat,” Head Coach Dave Kidd said.
In his third year as the Rossford coach, he has been blessed with some talent and depth. This season looks to be more of the same.
“It’s realistic to win another title,” Kidd said. “But it will be hard. We have a strong team, though. We have good depth at midfield and our attacking players.”
The Bulldogs have plenty of weapons with 11 returning lettermen and a host of players who should make significant contributions like Justin Groom, Matt Fuerst, Greg Nawrocki, Noah Vidra and Ben Duwve, comprising the upperclassmen.
Some of the sophomores, Dylan Mikonowicz, Brandon Knitz, Nick Spenser and Casey Desmond, will have the opportunity to leave their mark as well.
An area of some question is goal-tending, but so far newcomer Ethan Wagner has been up to the task.
“The league is strong this year,” the coach said. “So we will have to focus on taking it one at a time. We need to minimize our mistakes in the backfield and finish our offensive opportunities.”
Kidd explained the team’s goal is to win home games and try to win, or at least tie, on the road.
That philosophy, he believes, should once again put Rossford in the thick of things.
However, Eastwood, Lake, Genoa, and Woodmore could all pose challenges.
The Bulldogs currently sit at 1-3 on the new season with all four matches being played during a six-day span.
“In many ways, it was one of our toughest stretches of the season, and we already played it,” said Kidd, who believes that their best soccer still remains to be played.
One of their losses was to Eastwood. Prior, the team had won 19 straight regular season league games without a loss.
The Bulldogs hope to start a new streak, and hopefully one that ends with them once more sitting atop the NBC.
Bulldog golfers look to be NBC favorite this season
By Michael Krieger
The 2015 Rossford varsity boys golf team opened its season at the start of August and already a few things are evident. One, the team looks to be the Northern Buckeye Conference favorite to win the championship, and two, they are young and will need some leadership as they progress through the season.
Last year’s team won the program’s first league title since 1985 by winning the NBC mostly on the shoulders of Ryan Niese and Mason Robinson, the players of the year each of the two previous seasons. Both have graduated, and now the team will work to fill those spots.
According to Head Coach Del Clayton, he will miss Niese and Robinson’s leadership the most. “They were outstanding leaders not only for the program but also for the school. They were really good with the young kids on the team. ”Right now, Clayton admits too much of the team’s leadership has to come from him as the coach.
The squad boasts only two seniors, Alex Reitz and David Shaffer, but while these Bulldogs are young, the cupboard isn’t bare. Junior Jackson Murphree brings the most varsity experience, and he and sophomore Casey Desmond should push one another for the top spot.
Both earned second team all-league honors a year ago. Junior Connor Bihn also should be solid coming off an honorable mention season last year.
“Our one and two, maybe three, are as good as anyone,” said Clayton. “We need to find a consistent third and fourth to come around.”
In high school varsity competition, a team plays six players, but the top four scores are used to determine the final team score.
That said, the team is already off to a strong start, winning the Bulldog Invitational and finishing second in another tournament. Both events featured strong competition from the area as well as provided a preview of the competition from the league schools.
So far, the team has yet to lose to any school in the league, but Clayton believes Lake, Woodmore and Genoa could all present challenges for the young Bulldogs.
Although the team is young, the coach said they are actually deeper than previous seasons and will look to players like Ben Verbosky, Drew Pinardo, and Logan Gauthier to contribute throughout the season in their first season on varsity.
“The strength of our team is these kids are sponges. They want to be coached; they want to get better,” he said.
The coach will use that desire to motivate the team. “Our goal is to win the league and to get out of sectionals,” said Clayton, who indicated that they will first and foremost concentrate on winning the four NBC shootouts.
Because they know the NBC competition so well, he feels that they have better control of league matches, which will allow them to “focus on what’s in front of them” more than worrying about what comes later.
For the future of the program, the coach wants to continue to work on building the team’s depth, and for the success of this squad, he knows that they will need to find some leadership. If that happens, the Bulldogs could be on their way to a repeat title.
Girls golfers driving for NBC league title
The Rossford’s girls varsity golf team has finally come of age, and now with two to three years of varsity experience behind them, they should have the talent to contend for a Northern Buckeye Conference title.
Such a distinction would be the first in school history. However, Head Coach Jim Lorenzen feels that if the team continues to show the kind of improvement it has shown the last two years, the girls have “an excellent chance of winning” the league.
“If we improve about four to five strokes as a team each match, we should be in contention,” he said. The goal of trying to improve by shedding strokes during each match is the focus of the team’s philosophy, which is “one stroke better every day.”
The team hopes that living their philosophy pays off. “The girls have practiced over the summer and have worked hard,” Lorenzen added.
Winning the NBC is the team’s main goal and even their non-league schedule will be designed to prepare them to compete in the league. “Many of our non-league opponents are quite good and will better prepare us for playing in the league,” said the coach.
The girls opened at the Sylvania Invitational, an event that featured mostly Northern Lakes League talent and served as their best competition of the season. In addition, the team played at Maumee Bay against Cardinal Stritch on Wednesday and they traveled to compete in the Defiance Invitational. All three matches are good early season measures of the girls’ skill level.
In addition to the team’s goals, the Lady Bulldogs also have high hopes to at least get an individual out of sectionals this year. Junior Alexis Schultz is the likely candidate for this distinction. She should lead the team on the course and hopes to improve on her efforts of last year when she just missed All-League First Team by one stroke.
Schultz will be joined by senior Savannah McIntosh and juniors Emma Kieper and Shaelyn Agocs. All three bring potential and leadership to Rossford.
While the team has a strong core of individuals, there is not a lot of depth. Just six girls will play this year, which is the minimum needed for a varsity squad.
Sophomores Karis Cherko and Amanda Thamavongsa enter their first year of golf. Both, however, have already demonstrated some ability. “Already they seem to understand the game better than most new players and they seem to come in with a strong skill set,” said Lorenzen about his new additions.
“The four returning players have all improved each season. Our lack of depth won’t be an issue if they continue at that pace,” the coach said, adding that he is anxious to see his girls reach their potential and strive for a championship.
RHS girls tennis focuses on basics, improvement
By Michael Krieger
The focus of the 2015 Rossford girls tennis team will not be about wins and losses but rather learning the basics of the game and improving in every match.
“I’m trying to teach them life skills,” said Head Coach George Rios. “Tennis is a game you can play for life, and you will always play in your age bracket.”
He is trying to teach the girls–most of whom are young and inexperienced–to appreciate the game and to advance their skill set the more they play.
Rios, in his first season with the Bulldogs, brings a wealth of coaching experience and a tremendous love of the game to the job. With 23 years of coaching at the varsity level, he has a strong grasp of the fundamentals and of what it takes to be successful at tennis, not just in high school but as the athletes progress through life.
Rios spent five years early in his career coaching the Scott girls team, but most notably he has earned his reputation coaching at Maumee Valley Country Day where he led the boys and girls teams for 10 years as the head coach and then later moved to the assistant position for another eight years. During his tenure at MVCDS, he took the boys to state and had the opportunity to coach some of the most talented players to come out of the area.
The Rossford girls as a team will need to discover an identity first. They lost four-year letter winner and two-time district qualifier Carly Hollerbach to graduation along with a few other seniors. Eight girls make up the program, but only three of them have any significant experience on the court.
Rios will look to seniors Bethany Price and Ally Hope as leaders to his younger players, and so far they have stepped up to the task. Sophomores Anna Price and Ally Kozina also have some varsity experience. Amber Strzesynski, Ivy Bergstrom, Maddie Wauford, and Tabitha Rhue round out the roster.
Basics will be the focus of the team throughout the season. “You can play if you can perform the basics,” said Rios. The girls are working mostly on drills to improve their footwork, gain a consistent first serve, and establish a general understanding of the game.
“First, I want them to learn to play for themselves. They need to be groomed to understand the game,” said the coach. “They are improving already. We have 21 matches and all of them will gain a lot of match experience by the end of the season.”
The goal is to continue to improve through the season, according to Rios and then focus on trying to get the girls to play throughout the winter.
“By next year, they will be much improved, and they can then concentrate on winning matches.”
For now, the girls need to have fun with a game that they can play for life and to learn to play that game at a competitive level. With Rios leading the team, these aspects will be priorities and the future looks promising for this young team.
Girls volleyball team have high hopes this season
“We want to be a team that plays with intensity,” said Head Coach Joe Durco about his 2015 Rossford varsity volleyball team. “We need to bring Rossford back to prominence like in the days when Sue Thomas coached the teams.”
Durco, in his second year at the helm of the program, started rebuilding a sense of pride in Rossford volleyball last year, a process that he only hopes perpetuates into this season. But, as usual, the Northern Buckeye Conference will be a competitive conference in high school volleyball with the presence of perennial powers, Otsego and Eastwood.
The Lady Bulldogs lost six players from last year’s squad to graduation, including key leaders in Karly Durco and Maggie Leahy. The team looks to fill those voids with some young players who gained significant varsity experience last year.
With seven returning letter winners, the Bulldogs look promising. Back are three all-league winners in Alex Birdsell, Regan Clay, and Alayna Kitzler, all of whom are versatile and athletic. They will provide a core for the team that Durco feels puts the squad in the top three in the league.
“Our strength will be our athleticism,” said Durco. “It is what will give us an edge. It will allow us to overcome adversity so that when we are down we can attack and get back into the game.”
Also returning are seniors Heather Schaller and Allison Dunne, who will provide some leadership on and off the court, and juniors Kennedy Durco and Alyssa Edmond are proven setters. New additions from the JV squad–Maxine Birdsell, Addison Murtha, and Margaret Rohrs–should all make significant contributions. Collectively, this lineup could provide a strong nucleus for the team to build for success not just for this season but for upcoming years as well.
The Lady Bulldogs hope to improve upon last year’s third place league finish by being a well-rounded team that plays strong defense and a much faster offense than what they have played in recent years.
“We don’t want to be a stagnant volleyball team. We’re going to be moving and using our abilities 110 percent in every game,” said Durco. “We want to be the best passing team in the NBC,” he added and indicated that the team has spent time in the off-season trying to work on individual nuances of the game in order to improve as a unit.
In order to compete for an NBC title, the team will have to focus heavily on every league contest. Durco said, “In order to keep pace with Otsego and Eastwood, we can’t have any let downs.” The team opens its season August 24 at home against Van Buren.
“I encourage people to come out and watch,” the coach said. “We’re an exciting team. You should see some very good volleyball.” –Michael Krieger