BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Anthony Wayne boys soccer returns 14 letter winners from last year’s team, which finished 12-6-1 overall, including 6-1 in the Northern Lakes League – good enough for second place.
Returning to coach the team is Brian Billings, who has a 96-27-17 record in seven previous seasons, including league championships in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017.
Billings expects his team to be in the mix again this year.
“We expect to compete for the title,” he said. “The NLL is always a tough league. This year should be no different. We have a very experienced and talented group. (They’ll need) mentality and willingness to pay the price to be great.”
The Generals return Division I senior second-team All-Ohio center forward Zach Mowka, who was last year’s MVP and earned the team’s Best Offensive Player Award. He made the NLL and district first teams.
Last year, Mowka had 24 goals and nine assists (57 points) to lead the Generals and put up a team-leading 67 shots.
“Going in, we knew it was going to be a tough year for him because, obviously, of all the success and all the ability he has, but we knew that having lost all the attacking talent we did have (the previous) year, a lot of teams would be keying for him,” Billings said.
“So, it was going to be about how can he involve others, how can he build off the unit as a team? And, then, when his time came, can he make a difference for us? We appreciate the work he did in trying to build up his teammates and get people involved, and obviously being a very important player for us.”
Mowka had two hat tricks last season – in an 8-1 win over Maumee and 5-0 victory against Southview. He also had two goals in five games, including two tournament victories.
After making the all-state team for the past two years, Mowka and several others on the team are considering collegiate soccer options for their futures.
Also returning is second-team NLL selection Griffin Cook, a senior center midfielder, and third-team all-league choices Jake Rivera and Eric Rasmusson.
Rasmusson, a senior center back, was the team’s Best Defensive Player award winner last year and Rivera, who had five goals and five assists on 12 shots, is a senior outside back. Rasmusson also scored once and had six shots.
They are among 17 seniors on the current varsity roster.
“We have a ton of seniors, all of whom need to lead the team,” Billings said. “Zach Mowka will lead the front line with help from others. Mateo Morante, Griffin Cook and Billy Trenka are all returning players who will help run the midfield.”
Cook had one goal and six assists, while Trenka had two goals and one assist last year.
“Eric Rasmusson, Brody Sahloff and Jake Rivera are all returning players who will help organize the defense,” Billings said.
Morante, last year’s Coaches Award winner, and Trenka are senior center midfielders and Sahloff is a senior center back.
Billings says two more seniors, Eric Dress and Alex Schraeger, “are competing for the No. 1 spot” in goal this year. Schraeger played two halves of varsity soccer last year, allowing one goal and getting five saves.
Other seniors expected to contribute are outside back Alex Neumann, center back Ian Adkins, weak-side forward Jagger Haney, center forward Aidan Zimmerman, center midfielder Jacob Sarnes, outside back Owen Diettrich and goalkeeper Thomas Abraham.
Zimmerman was the team’s Five-Star General Award winner on the junior varsity Blue team last year. He scored two goals for the varsity and had seven goals and one assist for the JV. Adkins was the Defensive POY for the Blue team last year.
Juniors expected to contribute include weak-side forward Shammar Lipinski, outside back Lucas Trost, center midfielder Aidan Forde, weak-side forward Jorey Rees and center back Zain Hamid.
Sophomore contributors include weak-side forward Jacob Copley and center midfielder Collin Parker.
The three AW teams, the varsity and junior varsity Blue and White squads, had a combined record of 36-8-5 last year, including scoring 179 goals and giving up 45 for a plus-134 margin.
The JV Blue team finished the season 11-1-3, outscoring opponents 66-7. The White team finished the season 13-1-1, outscoring opponents 54-10, bringing plenty of potential younger players who could join the varsity by season’s end.
The AW varsity will open the season at 7:30 p.m. this Friday at home against Massillon Jackson, which was 10-7 last year. On Tuesday, August 20, the Generals host St. John’s Jesuit (15-1-2).