There is genuine excitement surrounding the London High School boys soccer team this season.
“I think we have a talented group of kids, probably as talented a group we’ve had here in London in quite some time,” coach Dan Karl said.
The Red Raiders are also older, wiser and significantly deeper than they have been in the past and that should help as they attempt to make their way through one of the toughest boys soccer leagues in Ohio.
Karl takes over the head coaching reins of a team that went a respectable 8-9 last year (2-5 in Mid-State League Ohio Division). That Red Raiders squad had its season come to an end in the first round of the Division II Central District tournament with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Columbus Mifflin.
The coach is expecting his older players to take more of an active leadership role this season and hopes that will equate to more success on the field.
“I think we have some strong leadership coming from this senior class,” he said. “We have five or six seniors who will lead us on and off the field. We also have a good amount of depth, guys that will come of the bench and contribute.”
Senior Ambrose Rodriguez will assume the goalkeeper duties, while fellow senior Vasiliy Semenishin, second team all-league performer a year ago, has locked up the sweeper position, giving the Raiders a solid pair of veterans in charge of the defensive duties.
In the middle of the field senior Nate Newman, a first-team All-MSL selection last year, is back to trigger the Red Raiders offensive attack.
“That senior leadership is so important,” the coach said. “They set the tone for the entire team. When the younger guys see them working hard and doing things the right way they follow along. They’re vocal leaders, but they also lead by example.”
Making sure everybody is on the same page is vitally important in the MSL Ohio where state powerhouse programs in Columbus Academy, Worthington Christian, Bexley and Grandview are not only fighting for a league crown, but positioning themselves for a run at district and state titles.
Despite the loaded league, Karl is confident in his young men and their ability to play with these squads.
“This is a very difficult league, but I think we have the talent and depth to compete in this league,” he said. “Playing the tough teams we’ll see every week will force us to be at our best every game. Playing the schedule we play will be a benefit to us when we get to the (district) tournament.
“Being in this league forces us to raise our level of play.”
The coach said his team is working on possessing the ball and avoiding turnovers.
“I really think we have the talent and depth to be competitive with the teams in our league,” Karl said.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.