Cougars expecting a big year
Central Academy's boys soccer team has high hopes for the upcoming 2014 campaign with a lot of experience returning to the field.
The Cougars finished 2013 with a 17-7-2 overall record that included an undefeated run through the Rocky River Conference and a trip to the third round of the playoffs in their first season as a 2A school.
Central Academy returns nine starters from that squad and has 16 seniors on the 2014 roster.
"We have a lot of expectations for this team," Cougars coach Jay Niessner said. "We had a great year last year. We only lost two starters so we're really looking forward to what we can do on the field this year."
The Cougars toughest task going into the season will be replacing the production of graduated forward Ryan Grigston, a two-time all-state selection.
Grigston dominated the field as a senior for the Cougars in 2013 with 29 goals and 14 assists — both tops on the team by a large margin.
The Cougars also lost Pablo Cortez and Chance Alhstrom, who platooned at midfield last year.
Niessner expects CATA to be more balanced with so many veterans on the roster.
"We have a really talented group of young men that are coming back," Niessner said. "Shane Bishop had eight goals for us last year so we're going to need him to come through and put balls in the back of the net. We're going to move a few of the kids around out of the positions they've been playing and try to get some guys up top. The younger guys had pretty good, consistent scoring. We had a lot with five to seven goals. If those guys can get those to 10 or 11 goals ... I think we're going to be spreading the wealth around. I don't think we'll have one kid that scores 30 goals like Ryan did last year. It will be more evenly dispersed among the teammates."
Bishop and fellow rising senior Austin Robinson should be among the primary scorers. Seniors Lukas Duemmeler, Justin Montgomery and Douglas Lawrence are also established on the offensive end — each finished with six assists in 2013.
Niessner likes the leadership skills of Duemmeler, Montgomery and Peyton Mullwoney.
"We've had three kids that have been in the program that have stepped up to lead," Niessner said. "They are the three guys that have been at most of the workouts. They've been leading on and off the field with the team. They've seen a great group of kids go before them. They've had good role models so they are feeding off of that. We've had some really good preseason workouts. We're looking forward to (today) to start this for real."
Niessner believes this team can replace Grigston's production by committee and improve on last year's success. He wants to repeat as RRC champions and go even deeper in the playoffs.
"I think we have the capability but we have to bring it together," Niessner said. "There are little things here and there we've got to fix. We've got to adjust for the scoring with Ryan gone. I think this group has a chance to be special come the postseason. Conference will be difficult. I think we are probably the favorites going into the year but Monroe and Forest Hills are both going to be tough. After those two, I think the other teams in the conference we should be OK with. I think we have a chance to be something really special this Fall and I'm looking forward to coaching them."
The Cougars open the season at home on Aug. 19 against Piedmont in Walter Bickett Stadium.