GREEN Two years, two trophies.
It wasn’t easy, but the Green Bulldogs kept their perfect mark intact when it comes to topping the Federal League boys soccer standings.
One year after debuting with an undefeated regular season and a run to the regional tournament, Green fought its way back from a mid-season loss to Jackson to claim a share of the title, capping a 10-3-3 regular season and posting a 5-1 league mark. For veteran head coach Jason Nelson and his players, the championship was a fitting cap to the regular season.
“It was very rewarding for a group of young men that started the season off a little bit by our standards, to get one hand on the league trophy for the second straight year,” Nelson said.
Senior captain Kyle Genetin echoed his coach’s sentiments and said he and his teammates made sure to enjoy the moment after defeating GlenOak to wrap up the league season.
“It was a really unforgettable moment as a team because our goal was to win the Federal League and go on to win the district title,” Genetin said. “After the game, everyone was taking pictures and enjoying the moment, but now we want to focus on the tournament.”
Getting back to first place was anything but a certainty after a 2-1 home loss to Jackson on Sept. 20. The team was “shell shocked for a bit,” according to Genetin, even though Jackson has been one of the better teams in the area in recent years. Having the Polar Bears come onto their home turf and walk away with a win was a hard sight to accept, but it was one of several early bumps in the road for the Bulldogs.
A 4-1 loss to CVCA in their opener, a 2-1 loss to Walsh and a tie with Berea-Midpark put the Bulldogs at 1-2-1 through four games, doubling the loss total for a team that didn’t taste defeat until the regional final last season. That strong campaign painted a large target on Green and according to Nelson, dealing with that new reality took time.
“Every team we played against pretty much was one we had beaten last year,” Nelson said. “We came in under the radar last year and this year, those teams were really fired up and had that motivation to beat us.”
That resistance hit Green hard, especially with a lot of players who were young in terms of their experience on the varsity level starting in key positions around the field.
Nelson cited Genetin, fellow senior Kurt Moeller and juniors Nicholas McCausland and Damjan Djosanovic with helping steady the Bulldogs and get the season back on track.
“It starts with our captain, Kyle Genetin, whose foundation as a quality soccer player is his effort, hard work and determination to be the hardest-working player on the field,” Nelson said. “Then, Kurt Moeller at the back helping us from a defensive role this year and and on offense, I call them our maestros in the midfield, Nick McCausland and Damjan Djosanovic, with Nick scoring goals and Damjan really creating chances.”
What has served the Bulldogs well is learning how to deal with being a target and get their focus on the elements that made them successful last season. Genetin believes the overall level of competition is about the same from Green’s old home in the Suburban League to its new league, though Nelson said so far Federal League teams have shown a proclivity for playing more defensive-minded soccer and keeping the score closer.
As for the goal of another district title, the pursuit begins Saturday night against the winner of the Dover-Austintown Fitch opening round game. There is also the possibility of a rematch with Jackson should both schools win their first two tournament games. Green would likely have to go through either Lake or GlenOak to get to that contest and those two schools were tied for the league lead going into the final game of the season, with GlenOak losing to Green and Lake losing to Jackson to hand the title to the Bulldogs and Polar Bears.
“I think it comes down to big players play well in big games and we need our studs to step up for us,” Nelson said.
So far this season, Green’s top weapons have done exactly that. Now, it’s up to them to continue it when it matters most.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB