By JAMIE BAKER
It wasn’t the start that new Findlay High School boys soccer coach Kevin Shenise probably envisioned as he took the reins at the beginning of last season.
Nearly halfway through their schedule a year ago, the Trojans were just 2-4-1. They finished with a flourish, though, going 7-0-2 over their final nine regular-season contests to end up 11-5-2 overall with a 5-2 record and second-place finish in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
Injuries to a handful of players played into the Trojans’ slow start. Once those players returned, FHS was probably as good as any team in the TRAC, but they had already suffered league losses to Toledo St. John’s and upstart Oregon Clay.
“St. John’s was our third game of the year. That’s a game I wish we could have played at the end of the year. St. John’s was talented and a top-notch team,” Shenise said. “That kind of started the slide, when we got a bunch of guys injured. We didn’t have all of our weapons for that game and I would have liked to have seen us play them at full strength.”
Defense was they key to Findlay’s success on the pitch a year ago. The Trojans allowed less than two goals per game last season.
Many of the players that made up Findlay’s defensive fortress graduated last spring.
“It’s ironic that last year we had an offense to replace, led by a couple of terrific players in Pace Thomas and Taylor Miles from the year before,” Shenise said.
“This year, it’s just the opposite. We lost three or four of our best defenders, we lost a couple of more defenders off the bench and, of course, our goalie.”
First team all-TRAC and all-district defender Brady Shenise graduated after setting three Findlay High school records on the defensive side of the field.
Honorable mention all-TRAC defender Devin Snyder is also off to college as is all-conference goalkeeper Kevin Kuhn, who recorded five shutouts for the Trojans.
While players lost on defense will be difficult to replace, there is something new and different for the program — there are six players competing for playing time at goalkeeper.
“Kevin was a great player and we will have to replace him with someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of varsity experience, if any,” Shenise said of junior Jack Kenny and sophomore Zack Gremling, who are trying to become the team’s starting goalie. “It’s been kind of an open competition heading into the season. We like what we’ve seen from them so far but they just don’t have any varsity experience.”
“We’re fortunate that at our three levels we have six goalies and that’s not the norm for us.”
Shenise is counting on returning senior Nolan Clouse to lead the Trojans on defense.
“Being a senior, Nolan will be the anchor for us on the defense. He’ll have to step up and shoulder the load and get some of these young guys moving in the right direction,” Shenise said.
Junior Logan Johnson also returns with experience at defender.
The good news is many of Findlay’s top offensive players from a year ago return.
Junior forward Carson Dale netted a spot on the all-TRAC first team as a sophomore, leading the Trojans with 14 goals and six assists.
Also back is senior forward Jacob Gangle, a second-team all-TRAC selection, who was slowed by injuries much of last season.
Seniors Graham Hartman and Aidan and Michael Copeland are also back at midfield as is sophomore Andrew Allsop, who Shenise says made an impact for the Trojans last year as a freshman.
“Offensively, we have some talent there and those guys will be a part of that. We have a senior-heavy offense. If those guys can come through and score some goals for us early, that will help ease the pressure on us defensively,” Shenise said.
Shenise learned a lot in his first season as a head coach and he plans on using those lessons to keep the program playing at a high level.
“I learned a lot last year. I wanted to improve our team chemistry and I wanted to make sure the boys were focused and we kept moving forward. We wanted to make sure all 17 or 18 guys on the roster were on the same page and I think we did a pretty good job with that last year,” he said.
“We’re Findlay, we have a lot of soccer tradition so winning the league, that’s always going to be our goal. We have talented kids here that are willing to work so at Findlay we always expect to be in the conversation to win the TRAC.”
Boys Soccer Schedule
Aug. 16 at Bowling Green, 5 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Massillon Jackson, 6 p.m.
Aug. 27 Toledo Whitmer (TRAC), 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 Ashland, 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 at Toledo St. John’s (TRAC), 7
Sept. 5 Perrysburg, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Anthony Wayne, 7
Sept. 10 at Oregon Clay (TRAC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 Toledo Central Catholic (TRAC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Springfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 Toledo St. Francis (TRAC), 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Sylvania Southview, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 at Lima Senior (TRAC), 5 p.m.
Oct. 3 Sylvania Northview, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 Wooster, 1 p.m.
Oct. 8 Fremont Ross (TRAC), 7