JAMESTOWN — Yellow Springs and Greeneview both had successful runs through the boys soccer state tournament a year ago.
Neither can find a reason they can’t be on their way to repeat performances.
More than a month before either get the chance, the two sides squared off on Tuesday as the latest matchup both faced in their respective difficult early season slates.
Yellow Springs won 3-0 thanks to an early penalty kick netted by Eli Matteson and second half goals from Landon Harris and Sam Miller. The score could indicate the match was one-sided, but the Rams created the majority of scoring chances yet couldn’t convert several golden opportunities including Andrew Hurley’s penalty hitting the crossbar and later a open net scramble for the ball seeing the Rams miss the net from no more than five yards away.
Both teams won district titles in Division III last year. The Rams fell in the regional semifinals to Mariemont, who the Bulldogs went on to defeat in the next round before coming up one win short of playing for a state championship.
The Bulldogs don’t want to forget about last year’s success, but head coach Ben Van Ausdral said his team is learning to forge its own identity after waiting their turn behind a talented group of seniors.
“I think they’re just realizing that this is their time,” he said. “We’re getting better and we’re going to be a very dangerous team when the tournament comes around.”
The 12 seniors which led Yellow Springs to the state semifinals in 2022 had prolific and historic goal scorers in Eli Eyrich and Dylon Mapes. Together they were at the forefront of a group that spent years together to be able to mesh into a single unit.
Van Ausdral said his new group is influxed with youth and has already faced several challenging opponents while still trying to figure out positions on the field for everyone.
Many of those players got a front row seat in learn a successful blueprint to try and replicate, but they’re now figuring out on the fly what it takes.
“These are really good players, but they’re not used to taking a leadership role,” Van Ausdral said. “But we’ve got some guys like Sam Miller, Isaac Grushon and Antonio Chaitain. They know they may not be like the group we just had, a group that comes around a small community like ours only every few years, but you know I think this group is going to surprise people by the tournament.”
Greeneview wants to use last year’s tournament run as a measuring stick of what its wants to at minimum achieve again, according to new head coach Geoff Lewis.
“We’re not getting there quite yet,” Lewis said. “But it’s a work in progress. I’m getting to know them and they’re getting to know me. My system is a little different than what they used to play and once we all get on the same page, we’re going to be alright.”
Hurley returns as the reigning OHC Player of the Year, as does four other all-league selections from last year.
It makes achieving a communication goal Lewis said he laid out for the team easier and was one that was reached quickly to his satisfaction.
“This is a focused group,” Lewis said. “I had a sit down with the seniors right after I took over the team. I had them come up with some of goals and while we’ve already met some, there’s others we’re still working on.”
Greeneview pulled out an upset against the district’s top seed in last year’s tournament run and was not outplayed in its elimination game. The team has finished no more than a game out of first in the league standings several times in recent seasons, but is still seeking its first league title since 2015.
Combining the two gives the Rams plenty of motivation toward things to play for, but the primary goal is crystal clear.
“It’s an almost entirely returning squad and we’ve got some pretty talented freshman that have stepped in and are getting some good varsity time,” Lewis said. “The expectation is to go farther than we did last year.”
The two teams got to face off against one another on Tuesday. They both look like tough tests other teams will have to come up with answers for as the season goes on.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.