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Lake Center Christian competitive across fall sports

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

HARTVILLE  The fall sports season has been weird, constantly evolving and challenging for local high schools in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Lake Center Christian School, but some of the headaches that have made life difficult for athletic directors weren’t an issue at LCC for one simple reason.

Unlike their four fellow Portage Trail Conference members, the Tigers don’t have a football team. Football, due to both the number of athletes and the size of crowds at games, posed a wealth of logistical challenges for state officials, school districts and teams as they tried to plan out a season that ultimately saw the playoffs expanded to include every school and started the postseason in the middle of the regular season.

At LCC, not have to deal with those issues and being able to focus on the seven comparably smaller sports the school offers relieved at least some of the stress.

“I’ve mentioned at times to AD buddies of mine that in a way, we’re thankful that football wasn’t a thing for us, because it would have made it that much more difficult dealing with everything,” LCC athletic director Shane Byler said. “On the whole, all sports considered, we’re super excited that our kids and coaches had an opportunity to play again.”

Byler noted that at a small school such as LCC, athletes often play multiple sports and many of the school’s athletes had their spring sports seasons canceled by the pandemic. There were a few minor instances of the pandemic disrupting fall sports games later in the season, but overall, all seven LCC fall sports teams were able to have a mostly complete season.

All of the pandemic-related drama took place against the backdrop of an ongoing shift within the Portage Trail Conference, which has undergone massive changes in LCCS’ five years as a member. This past offseason, the conference’s large-school Metro Division broke away from the PTC and reformed as the new Metro Athletic Conference. Additionally, County Division member Crestwood left the conference prior to the current season, leaving LCC, Mogadore, Garrettsville Garfield, Southeast and Rootstown as the only remaining members.

However, Garrettsville is playing its last season in the PTC after being one of the league’s founding members as part of the former Portage County League. The G-Men will depart the PTC after this season, with St. Thomas Aquinas and Warren John F. Kennedy set to join the league.

According to Byler, the five current PTC members have been able to not only maintain communication during the pandemic, but do an even better job of staying connected - albeit digitally.

“We used to meet on a monthly basis and iron things out, but with COVID, we’ve moved to weekly meetings on Zoom, so we’re meeting on a more regular basis,” Byler said. “It’s actually been fairly easy with only five schools in the PTC. We’re excited, that even though Garfield will be leaving and taking us down to four, St. Thomas and Warren JFK will be joining and taking us back to six member schools.”

That shifting landscape seems fitting given the way the current school year and sports schedule continues to shift and change during the pandemic. LCC offers an online learning option for students who choose to do so, but has held in-person classes since the start of the school year. It’s been a time of change to be sure, with the fall sports season yielding quite a few standout moments for the Tigers:

Boys soccer

The boys soccer team finished 4-10-2 and had its season end in a 10-2 tournament loss to Western Reserve Academy. However, the Tigers finished with a 4-3-2 league record. Senior goalkeeper Jaden Ickes posted several strong outings, including seven games where he and the defense allowed one or fewer goals. Patrick Miller delivered one of the offensive highlights of the season with a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Garrettsville Garfield on Oct. 9.

Girls soccer

With a 3-12-2 record and 0-9 league mark, it was a tough fall for the Tigers, whose highlight came in late September when they recorded an 8-0 win over Valley Christian. Medicine Wojton recorded a hat trick and Kaydri Sommers and Glynis McBride both scored two goals in the win, while goalkeeper Emma Stalter recorded her first shutout of the season. Wojton also recorded her team’s lone goal in a 5-1 sectional semifinal loss to Smithville that ended the campaign for LCC.

Volleyball

An 11-11 overall record and 6-6 league mark made the volleyball team one of the more successful fall sports squads for LCC. The Tigers recorded several memorable wins, including a five-set Senior Night win over Garrettsville Garfield in which Jessica Ickes led the way with 23 kills and 17 assists. Senior Macy Kline marked the night with 15 assists and Nicole Miller chipped in with 11 digs In the victory. A three-game winning streak spanning September and October marked the longest such stretch of the season and included a three-set win over neighborhood rival Springfield.

Boys cross country

Top-four finishers at the Portage Trail Conference Super Duals, PTC championship meet, Frola Frolic Invitational and Sandy Valley Invitational marked a solid fall on the course for the boys cross country team. Christopher Kline led the way at the PTC championships, placing 10th overall with a time of 19:18. All five LCC runners finished within 88 seconds of one another at the meet. Jacob Wyder recorded top times for the Tigers at other meets, including a 19:19 time that was good for ninth at the Frola Frolic.

Girls cross country

Like boys cross country, the girls team placed third at the Frola Frolic Invitational hosted by Springfield. Haley Hulse topped the Tigers, placing 12th overall in 22:53. A triumph over Norwayne and Central Christian in a three-team regular season meet was another high point for LCC, with Katherine Luton running second for the team behind Hulse and posting a time of 23:55. At the PTC championships, the Tigers placed fourth before ending with an eighth-place result at the sectional meet as Elsie Haught had the best time for the team, running a 23:06.

Boys golf

Boys golf notched several big wins, with triumphs over Southeast and Garrettsville Garfield and a second-place result in a quad match against Massillon, Dalton and St. Thomas Aquinas topping the list. The Tigers capped off their solid season with a fifth-place finish at the sectional tournament, with Nathan Capeta and Thomas Full advancing to the district tournament as individuals. With a team score of 335, LCC missed out on advancing to districts as a team by just seven shots, with the top four teams moving on.

Girls golf

It was a tough season on the links for the girls golf team, which ended its season placing fourth at the PTC championship meet and 13th at the sectional tournament. Leah Starcher and Taylor Goodspeed tied for team-best scoring honors at the PTC meet with scores of 109 for 18 holes. The duo once again paced LCC in sectional play, with Starcher firing another round of 109 and Goodspeed tallying a round of 112. The best overall outing for the team came in a 222-186 loss to Firestone in which Faith Varga shot a season-best score of 51 for nine holes.