Rossford Record Journal On-line Fall Sports Previews

RHS Bulldog golf team starts strong this season
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford boys varsity golf team is off to a strong start for the 2014 season. Since August 6, the team has played in five tournaments.
During that time, they won both the Cardinal Stritch and Fostoria Invitationals, and finished fourth of 15 teams in the Liberty-Benton Invitational.
They also finished third in the Maumee Invitational that featured 20 of the most competitive teams in the area.
At Cardinal Stritch, senior Ryan Niese shot a 74 and was the medalist for the tournament. Sophomore Jackson Murphree shot a 76 and freshman Casey Desmond contributed an 80. At Maumee, the team was led by Mason Robinson’s 73, Niese’s 76, and Murphree’s 78.
The team’s early success has 19-year head coach Del Clayton encouraged that their pre-season goal of winning the Northern Buckeye Conference is realistic.
“The strength of this team lies with its senior leadership,” said Clayton, speaking about Robinson, who was last year’s NBC Player of the Year and Niese, who was Second Team All-League.
Clayton also commended his team on their effort in the off-season.
“These kids spent a lot of time playing this summer. It’s good to see them get rewarded for their efforts,” he said.
That kind of dedication has the Bulldogs poised to compete for the league title this season.
The NBC looks to be a tight race between Rossford and last year’s champion Lake, but Eastwood and Woodmore are expected to be competitive as well.
Despite his reliance on his seniors, Clayton also will look for contributions from his younger players.
“We have the benefit of back end competition, meaning the players will have to earn that fifth or sixth spot on the varsity. That kind of competition on the team makes a team better,” he added.
In varsity golf, a team is comprised of six players but only the top four scores are used in matches.
Right now, several younger players will be expected to step up–one of whom is Murphree, who was Second Team All-League last year as a freshman.
Joining him are four other sophomores Connor Bihn, Logan Gauthier, Drew Pinardo and Ben Verbosky.
Rounding out the roster are Garrett Mercer, Alex Reitz, David Schaffer, Desmond and Colton Fugate.
The Bulldog golfers play in the first of four NBC shootouts on August 28 at Sugar Creek Golf Course. The match will be hosted by Woodmore.
The team’s early success could indicate a promising season and perhaps the first league golf title for RHS since 1985.


RHS cross country makes strides to build program
By Michael Krieger
“Our main goal this year is to get kids out and to give them some confidence,” said Rossford High School head cross country coach Vern Kiehl about this year’s Bulldog team.
He also wants to emphasize having fun and being a part of a program that could be on the rise.
Kiehl, in his third season with Rossford, has the benefit of youth–only one senior returns.
However, the numbers are on the increase. In previous years, the boys team struggled to post a team score in meets because they didn’t have a full squad.
This year’s team has eight boys, none of which are seniors.
The girls team finished fourth in the Northern Buckeye Conference last year, but after losing the leadership of Jessica Pietrasz and Maddie York to graduation, the team boasts seven runners whose focus will be on trying to improve every race.
“Even if we can improve just a second or two, each race, we’re going to see it as successful rather than just looking at wins and losses,” Kiehl said.
Allyson Tayler is the lone senior on both squads and will provide some leadership and nurturing for younger runners.
Kiehl went on to explain that once Tayler graduates, his hope is there still will be 14 runners in the program, so he sees this season as a positive year for the program in terms of growth.
In addition to Tayler’s leadership, Kayla Kirkman seems to be emerging as the team’s top runner at this point with ninth grader Hannah Kreuz providing some competition as well.
Maddie Potts and Sam Beck return to round out the top five.
The boys team also will lean heavily on its young runners.
The team features three talented freshmen Jake Pietrasz, Ryan Pietrasz and John Bergstrom, who have some promise as long as they can adjust to racing for 3.1 miles in varsity competition.
Bulldog leadership for the boys rests on the efforts of juniors Mat Myers and Harrison Fink, both of whom have bought into the team and have worked hard throughout the summer in preparation for the season.
Even though the youth on the team will provide a good base to build from, Coach Kiehl understands that having numbers in cross-country is a benefit.
In fact, he still welcomes any RHS students to come out for the team even at this stage in the season.
Any student-athlete interested in trying cross-country, should call the coach at 419-266-4755 for further information.
The cross country teams open the season on Saturday, August 23 at Mill Creek Golf Course in Sandusky for the St. Mary’s Panther Run for Fun, a shorter race allowing runners to ease into what may prove to be a challenging and competitive season.


RHS girls golf team shoots for NBC championship
By Michael Krieger
In this season’s first girls golf match, Rossford fell to North Baltimore–a team that figures to be one of the top-rated squads in the area by season’s end, 168-236.
Despite the lopsided loss, 11th-year head coach Jim Lorenzen is upbeat about the girls’ potential for a successful year.
“Playing teams like [North Baltimore] should benefit us,” he said. “The teams in the league will be more equally matched with us.”
Last year’s Lady Bulldogs finished fourth in the Northern Buckeye Conference and seventh in the northern division of the Northwest Ohio Girls Golf League.
But with five returning varsity players, the Lady Bulldogs hope they will compete and even challenge for an unprecedented NBC championship.
“Our girls are young, but they gained a lot of varsity experience because they played as freshmen,” said Lorenzen, who believes a 15 to 20 stroke improvement on the team’s overall scores is not out of the question.
“Chipping and putting will make the difference,” he said, indicating that if the team can take care of its short game, good things might happen.
In varsity golf competition, teams play six players and take the top four scores to determine the scoring for the match.
This year’s Lady Bulldogs team is made up of just six players total.
The girls have no seniors, so they will look to junior Savannah McIntosh for leadership.
Four sophomores Alexis Schultz, CeCe Smith, Emma Kieper and Shaelyn Agocs, round out the top five and all should provide significant contributions.
Also, worth watching will be freshman Hannah Radwanski, who will be pressed into varsity action as well.
Lorenzen acknowledges that having a small team might be a disadvantage because there is not a lot of competition within the team to push the better players.
Still, he believes the girls should stand up to the challenges ahead.
For the first time in his career, he has had more girls on the team practice throughout the off-season on their own.
“Most of the girls have played all summer and took lessons in the winter. They really are interested in getting better,” he said.
That kind of work ethic could pay dividends for the young team.


RHS girls tennis team strives for improvement
By Michael Krieger
The RHS girls tennis season is under way, and after four matches the team finds itself 2-2.
“We’re still shuffling players and trying to focus on each player’s strengths to find the best line up,” said second year coach, Stacy Jurich.
For each match, the team has used a different line up, but Jurich believes it’s necessary to find the right chemistry for the team.
“Because we start during the summer, I haven’t had all 15 players at one practice yet,” Jurich added.
However, change is the focus for this year’s squad as they move forward after losing several seniors to graduation and relying on newcomers assuming significant roles.
With the adjustments she has in mind, Jurich believes the team will see improvement in their game and in the win column.
The teams the Lady Bulldogs face this year also have undergone a downturn in talent and experience.
“The changes on other teams should allow us to be more competitive,” Jurich explained.
The most dynamic returning player this year looks to be senior Carly Hollerbach. She hopes to qualify for state, a realistic goal after qualifying for district last year.
“She is one of the top competitors in the area. She is playing solid tennis right now,” said Jurich about her team leader, who also hopes to garner interest from colleges this season.
If Hollerbach makes it to state, she would be the first Rossford tennis player in history to do so.
Joining Hollerbach are fellow returners Bailee Self, Hannah Gauthier, Aly Hope, Bethany Price and Debra Beilstein. Self and Gauthier could emerge as a strong doubles partnership as they develop more chemistry.
Additionally, senior newcomer Claire Verbosky has proven to be athletic and seems to be picking up the game quickly and will contribute as the season goes forward.
Three freshmen Anna Price, EmmaLee Segura and Ally Kozina also should see significant opportunities to help the team as well.
The Lady Bulldogs do not compete for a league title in tennis but play independently against several of the top programs in the area.


Bulldog football begins Friday night to push toward playoffs
By Michael Krieger
When the Rossford High School football team takes on Bowling Green in its season opener Friday night, the Bulldogs will focus on improving their offensive pace.
“We’re trying to improve our ability to go faster, to really push the pace offensively,” Head Coach Todd Drusback said.
His hope is the quicker- paced offense will keep opposing teams off balance, creating more big plays for the Bulldogs.
And more big plays could yield big dividends for a team looking to improve last year’s 6-4 record and fourth place finish in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
In his fifth season at Rossford’s helm, Drusback believes the next logical step is to contend for the league title and make the playoffs.
“That’s where we need to be,” said Drusback, indicating anything less would be a disappointment for a team that has put in a strong off-season effort.
Fortunately, the coach has plenty of playmakers and leadership to accomplish the goals.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, we have a lot of guys returning with game experience,” he explained.
The Bulldogs will lean heavily on seniors and juniors–all of whom enjoyed significant playing time last season.
However, Drusback hesitated to identify specific players who should lead the Bulldogs.
“We have a lot of leaders–almost too many to mention,” he added.
Still, some strong returners are likely to make an early impact, including quarterback John Allen and running back/free safety Erik Davis.
Senior John Pupik anchors the line at center, helped by fellow lineman Steven Carey.
Junior Travis Szczublewski should make plays defensively along with aggressive tackler Casey Orr, and University of Toledo recruit Nathan Childress.
Senior Cody Igo returns at linebacker and will see time carrying the ball on offense, too.
Junior Chase Baney will play both receiver and defensive back where he will be joined by seniors Andrew Steer and Anthony Carusone. Receivers Andrew Myers and Dylan Nawrocki also pose big play potential.
This list just names a few Bulldogs who could influence games this year.
“Really it’s a collective deal for us,” Drusback said.
While the Bulldogs seem to be blessed with talent and experience going into the season, the schedule presents some challenges.
Standing in Rossford’s way of success are solid conference opponents Lake, Eastwood and perennial powerhouse Genoa.
However, Drusback believes every team on the schedule has improved since last year.
“It should be a very competitive league, but even our out-of-conference opponents have gotten better, too,” the coach said.
Other challenges for the Bulldogs will be staying healthy, even though they have more depth than previous seasons.
Aside from that, the team will try to focus on fundamentals.
“It sounds cliché,” said Drusback, “but we need to take care of the ball, need to create turnovers and we can’t give up the big play. It’s what we try to teach every year.”
In addition to pushing the pace offensively, the Bulldogs intend to be more aggressive on special teams and have worked throughout two-a-day practices to improve this aspect of their game.
“We need to challenge people and take more chances on special teams– to make things happen for us,” Drusback explained.
The Bulldogs open at Bowling Green, a team that Coach Drusback believes has improved.
“They should be more aggressive,” he noted. “They’ve looked good on film.”
The team and the coach are anxious for the season to start, and it begins tomorrow night with kickoff at 7 p.m. The first home contest will be the following week against Port Clinton.
The 2014 Bulldogs should provide plenty of excitement this year as they push for their first playoff appearance since 2002.


RHS volleyball tries to bring back pride
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School varsity volleyball season is under way, and the team and coaching staff have high hopes.
First they want to bring back the pride reminiscent of the winning volleyball teams of the 1980-1990s when then head coach Sue Thomas’ teams regularly finished near the top of the league.
“We want to compete in every game and always do our best,” Coach Joe Durco said. “The ultimate goal is to win the league and have a good tournament run.”
The coaching staff is the biggest change this season for the Lady Bulldogs– Durco and his entire staff are new.
While this is his first varsity post, Durco has plenty of volleyball experience serving three years as coach of Rossford’s eighth-grade team. He also has coached area 16U and 18U club volleyball.
“We hope to show that we are dedicated to the kids and have a caring attitude about them and about the program,” he explained. “We want them to learn skills, but we also want them to have pride in being a Bulldog.”
He would like other teams “to be afraid to play Rossford,” and hopes his players understand what it means to be a volleyball player.
“They are only in high school for a short time; they need to make the most of those opportunities while they can.”
The girls look to improve on their 12-11 record and a fourth place finish in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
With the quality of players coming back, such an improvement is possible.
Of 13 varsity players, six are seniors who will provide considerable leadership. Two seniors, Maggie Lahey and Karly Durco, are in their fourth year of varsity play and should bring experience and talent.
Fellow classmates Danielle Meller, Nicole Beyer, Autumn Rodriguez and Brittany Kralik are all capable as well and should play significant roles.
Key underclassmen to watch are juniors Allison Dunne, Cheyenne Davis and Heather Schaller and sophomores Regan Clay and Alex Birdsell.
Indications that this season could be special came during the summer.
“We had a great summer,” said Durco. “We went to the University of Michigan camp, competed well in the Perrysburg summer league, and won our division in the Black Swamp Tournament.”
Durco admits the biggest challenge will be for the team to accept his system, which he says focuses on being goal-driven and also tradition-driven.
“I want them to appreciate being a part of Rossford,” he added.
Durco remains positive even though the Lady Bulldogs lost in three games to perennial Northern Lakes League power Bowling Green in their home opening contest August 18.
The team returns to action this evening when they travel to Woodmore to take on the Wildcats.


RHS boys soccer goal: to repeat as NBC champs
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School varsity boys soccer team has opened the season at 4-0, picking up where they left off from last year’s league championship and birth in the district championship game.
Coming off the finest soccer season in RHS history, and the first Northern Buckeye Conference title in any sport, the Bulldogs have no intention of letting up.
“We have a very good possibility of winning the NBC,” said second year coach David Kidd, adding that the team’s goal is to return to districts and win.
“I would love to get to regionals,” the coach said.
Last year’s team finished with a 15-4 overall record and 9-1 in the league.
The team has several key players to replace from last year, but with a roster that boasts nine seniors, they shouldn’t have too much rebuilding.
Main scoring threat Hector Aguirre returns and already has proven to be a dominant force on the field. Of the team’s 15 goals this season, Aguirre has scored 11.
He is joined by returning lettermen Evan Austin, Justin Groom, Matt Fuerst, Greg Nawrocki and Terry Desmond.
Senior Justin Klocko also returns as a four-year player. He takes over full time as goalie and should be a steadying presence between the posts.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs met with adversity early on when senior defenseman Spencer Kobylak was lost for the season, injured in a scrimmage against Liberty Center.
While Kobylak will be difficult to replace, two sophomores, Ben Duwve and first year player Noah Vidra, have stepped up to fill his spot.
“We can’t always replace somebody like Spencer, but it presents us with a chance for others to step up,” Coach Kidd said.
Freshmen Casey Desmond and Dylan Mikonowicz could play significant roles as well, and Logan Fairbanks, Kyle Hawk and Keaton Eppink round out the roster providing defensive depth.
Kidd also was quick to add that this year’s team should be entertaining.
“People will see a dynamic, offensive team with considerable scoring.”
He acknowledged that the Bulldogs will need to improve throughout the season on defense.
“We just have to be patient, let it gel and let it come together,” the coach remarked.
The Bulldogs continue their title quest September 4 at 5 p.m. when they travel to Woodmore to face the Wildcats.
They return home on Saturday, September 6 when they entertain Bryan. The game time for that contest will be 11 a.m.


RHS girls soccer improving, learning to compete
By Michael Krieger
The Rossford High School girls soccer team is blessed with strong athletes –a trait the team hopes translates into victories this season.
Wins have been a rarity for the Lady Bulldogs as they are currently mired in a winless streak that dates back longer than two years.
Despite their record, and the fact that they are off to a 0-3 start this season, Head Coach Mike Batdorf has many reasons to be optimistic.
“We’re looking for some wins this year,” the coach said.
He already believes his team is playing with more energy and competitiveness than in previous seasons.
“The team has a good attitude so far. We’ve really only had one bad game. In the other ones, we had chances to win,” Batdorf added.
Back at the helm after a two-year hiatus from coaching, he is excited about the challenges and opportunity the sport poses.
Before his temporary lay-off, Batdorf served as the girls coach for three years. Prior, he had been an assistant coach for the boys team for two years.
The girls return several seniors, many of whom are four-year players.
One of the leaders on the team is senior goalkeeper Kirsten Keller, who is considered one of the strongest goalies in the area.
She is joined by eight other seniors: Emily Thammavongsa, Kaylah Johnson, Teagyn Stolar, Haley Stutts, Kennedy Brouillard, Katie Nawrocki, Jamie Crippen and Jenna Crippen.
With this much experience, it is easy to be hopeful that the girls can turn their fortunes around.
In addition to the senior experience, Rossford will get significant contributions from juniors Alexis Waclawski and Taylor Royal.
The future of the program lies with the potential of the sophomore class.
Five sophomores Natalie Campbell, Jenna Demko, Abigail Haynes, Mackenzie Lang and Jada Brown all gained a lot of experience as freshmen and look to build from that during this season and the next two years to come.
“We’re trying to improve our ball movement,” explained Batdorf. “We’re getting better at moving the ball down the field. We’re looking to pass, but we need to keep working to move as a unit.”
The girls are working on drills to improve their efforts at the transition game and to gain more physical fitness and endurance; a few are going to run with the cross-country team.
“Some of the girls are planning to run the Race for the Cure as a team,” said Batdorf, which he believes is a sincere effort and dedication to improve. That kind of commitment is inspiring.
The Lady Bulldogs put their efforts to the test again today, September 4, at 5 p.m. when they host Woodmore at the Glenwood athletic complex.