Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
September 10, 2020
Four-goal matches are considered high-scoring affairs in most any level on the pitch, from middle school on up to the pros.
Of course, 10-0 blowouts aren’t unheard of in high school soccer, with varying talent levels among varsity programs, but competitive games quite often feature just one or two goals put away by the winning team.
So, when the Kenston boys renewed a rivalry against West Geauga last Thursday at the Wolverines’ pitch in Chester Township – with the sides colliding for the first time since 2014 – the Bombers’ offense must’ve been clicking to come away with a 4-1 result.
After all, Kenston returned from a 4-9-4 campaign in which it averaged just 1.1 goals per match in 2019. And the 2020 Bombers had just five goals in their first four matches this season.
But second-year head coach Trip Roney, a 1986 Bomber graduate, said four goals against West Geauga wasn’t enough for the amount of opportunities his side created in the 80-minute road battle. Kenston improved to 3-1-1 with the victory.
“I wouldn’t say that we got hot,” Roney said of his attack. “My opinion is that we were a better side than West G. I know they were missing a couple starters, so I don’t mean that in a negative way. But I would have liked to see that goal differential a little bit steeper towards Kenston.
“So, I was a little bit disappointed afterward. But it was good to see that we had primarily a sophomore and a junior scoring our goals. Will Smith is a senior, and he scored one, but we had three assists from sophomores.”
One of West Geauga’s missing pieces was junior forward Joey DilLalla, who was a first-team all-Chagrin Valley Conference and second-team all-Greater Cleveland selection with 14 goals and five assists last season.
Kenston took advantage and opened the scoring when Parker Munday finished off a corner-kick service from fellow sophomore midfielder Carter Flynn with 23:49 to go in the first half.
“I’m very blessed that I have a group of seniors that are providing great leadership and have a lot of experience,” Roney said. “But we just have an amazing sophomore class, and it’s nice that when you can throw three or four sophomores in off the bench or as starters that the level of play actually goes up.”
The Bombers did graduate six starters from 2019, including three midfielders and a keeper, but 2020 sophomore Jonas Grunden has taken the starting reins between the posts with six goals against through five games.
Returning defensemen in front of him are seniors Andrew Watts, Sean Gurd and Kyle Quinlan, while seniors Jack Holodinski and Tommy Delzell have stepped up.
After going with a defensive four-one-four-one formation a year ago, the Bombers are more offensive-minded in 2020 with seniors Will Smith and Tom Roche and junior Joey Holodinski rotating in the two starting forward positions – all three of them were varsity reserves last year.
During last week’s match against West G, the younger Holodinski came off the bench to assist Smith on a 2-0 tally with 5:25 remaining in the first half.
“I’m mixing it up a little bit to get the three of them starts, but (Holodinski) actually made the comment that, ‘Hey, maybe I should come off the bench more often,’” Roney said. “The good news is that Joey is a solid young man, and he stepped up, and he got it done. He had a great game.”
After dishing out that assist for the 2-0 lead at intermission, Holodinski finished off a tally, assisted by Flynn, for a 3-0 Bomber lead in the 54th minute.
West Geauga answered on its lone goal of the night, when senior midfielder and team captain Thade Fedor bounced in a free kick near post from 35 yards out to trim the Wolverines’ deficit, 3-1, with 14 minutes to play.
“I think, for about half of the game, a little bit in the first half and a little bit in the second half, we really managed the ball well, we kept it on the floor, we found feet, we switched the field, we stretched out West G and were able to attack the space behind them,” Roney said.
“But, the other half of the game, we really didn’t do a great job of that,” he said. “We put the ball in the air, and we tried to play a little bit too much one-touch, so we didn’t find feet as effectively. And when you don’t control possession, you don’t control the game. So, it got away from us a bit.”
In the midfield, Kenston returns a pair of technically sound seniors in third-year starter Carter McAbier and second-year starter Cooper Roney – just a couple of Bombers who have played club for many years, coach Roney said.
“I’m blessed to have a group of guys who can move the ball,” the coach said. “The challenge, however, is they have to choose to do so.”
Holodinski polished off the 4-1 victory off an assist from Munday in the flow of transition play with nine minutes remaining to put the Wolverines (1-2) to bed.
With nine shots on target and five corners, in addition to other attacks that didn’t produce a strike on net, coach Roney said his Bombers have had no problem creating opportunities so far this campaign. But opportunities alone don’t win games, he said.
“Honestly, as a coach, I don’t feel we are thriving at all up top,” Roney said. “We’re not scoring nowhere near the number of goals we should have put home. We’ve struggled to finish. We’ve created a lot of great opportunities, but we’re flying the ball high and wide. It’s a major area of needed improvement for us, is we have to finish our chances.
“We do a great job of creating opportunities, but, if you can’t finish, it becomes a struggle. The No. 1 thing for me is just consistency. We’ve shown that we can play well at a high level and we can control possession, but we have to figure out how to do that for 80 minutes.”
The Bombers improved to 4-1-1 during a 1-0 road victory against Western Reserve Conference foe Mayfield (0-4) on Tuesday night. Quinlan provided the lone tally in the 34th minute.
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