By Joe Ostrica
After wrapping up the 2010 season in strong fashion, winning five of their last six matches and ending their season with a tough district final loss to Westlake, the Avon Lake boys soccer team is looking to build on last year’s 9-9-2 record and the Shoremen’s second trip to the district final in three years. The Shoremen will be led by four-year letter winner and senior captain midfielder Nick Stephenson, who was an All-Greater Cleveland second team selection and a first team All-Southwestern and All-Lorain County selection. Stephenson helped his Cleveland Futbol Club U17 team to the State Cup championship and a trip to the USYSA regionals, where he scored five goals for CFC. Stephenson was the Shoremen’s leading goal scorer last season with 16 goals and six assists.
“Stephenson’s versatility and ability to play both out wide and in the central midfield with fellow captain and senior midfielder Joe Villari will be an asset for us,” Avon Lake head coach Dan Ogilvy said. “Villari is a three-year letter winner and was selected by his teammates as the Anchor Award recipient. The Anchor Award is given to a returning player from a graduating senior who feels this player personifies what the program is all about.”
Villari (one goal, six assists) earned All-Greater Cleveland honorable mention and All-Lorain County second team awards.
“He will dictate the rhythm and tempo of the Shoremen through the midfield,” Ogilvy said.
The 2010 Defender of the Year, senior Ryan Schneider, will move into the midfield.
“Schneider, who earned All-Greater Cleveland honorable mention and All-Lorain County second team, is a consummate teammate who does the dirty work to make everyone around him better,” Ogilvy praised.
Third-year letter winner Alex Strimbu, a junior midfielder, is an All-Greater Cleveland honorable mention, All-SWC second team and All-Lorain County first team player.
“Alex returns as the playmaker for the Shoremen,” Ogilvy said. “Strimbu led the Shoremen in assists last season with 11, and tallied seven goals. He has shown great development, and Avon Lake is looking for him to take it to the next level.”
Ogilvy said he is excited to have junior midfielder Kevin Gjyrezi healthy and back for a complete season in 2011. Gjyrezi (one goal, one assist) competes for the Cleveland Internationals U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The Shoremen will look to Gjyrezi to help guide them through the midfield third and into the attacking third. As the Shoremen get into the attacking third, Avon Lake will look to senior forward Alex Yungvirt to put the ball into the back of the net.
“Yungvirt worked his way back into form late in 2010 with a great playoff run, including two terrific goals against our archrival, Amherst Steele,” Ogilvy said. “Yungvirt will look to build on that experience as well as his four goals and one assist effort in 2010.”
Running alongside Yungvirt will be sophomore forward James Darkow, who will be making the switch from defender into an attacking role. Darkow (one goal, five assists) will look to take opposing defenses one on one and look to set up his teammates.
The Shoremen return six letter winners on defense, and will look to them to set the tone against difficult opponents. Senior goalkeeper Zac Strimbu will be the leader in the back. Senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Bates will back Strimbu up and look to make the Shoremen deeper off the bench.
“Strimbu has worked hard to bounce back from an injury and will have fellow senior defender Nolan Kovach in front of him as a center back,” Ogilvy said. “Kovach has done a nice job in his new role and will look to improve on his All-Lorain County second team performance in 2010.”
Senior defender Jordan Arch, sophomore midfielder/defender Eric Mills, sophomore defender Alex Voloshen and sophomore defender/midfielder Ian Stewart all return as letter winners and contributors to the 2010 district finalist squad.
“Arch, Mills, Stewart and Voloshen have the ability to play multiple positions and will be looked to to raise the program to the next level,” Ogilvy said. “Midfielders Emmet DeSmit, David Kuhar and Luke Siko, forwards Rob Houk and Michael Nock and defenders Michael Twyman and Joseph Zajac are seniors that will be asked to be leaders off the bench and to push everyone to be better every day in training.”