BOTKINS — The Botkins Trojans boys soccer team has collected four straight Western Ohio Soccer League titles. They enter the season three wins from 150 in program history.
So it’s appropriate that for the first time the boys soccer team will play a handful of games under new lights on the Trojans’ home field.
The future is indeed bright.
Botkins returns 10 starters from last year’s team that finished 13-2-1 overall and won the WOSL at 7-0. The Trojans — 28-2-2 in the league the past four seasons — are once again the favorites.
Three seniors return with Travis Barhorst, Dean Butcher and Andrew Monnin. This is Botkins’ largest senior class in the past three seasons after graduating one senior in both 2018 and 2017. Last season it was All-Ohio second-team selection Cody Meyer.
Low upperclassmen numbers make a difference, especially when the tournament comes around. Botkins experienced that against Miami East. The Vikings, who had about a dozen seniors to the Trojans’ one, ended Botkins’ season 3-2 in overtime.
“Physicality-wise it does make a difference. You mature a lot from 14 to 18. They had a couple guys with beards and my boys didn’t even shave,” Botkins coach Kevin Lynch quipped.
A strong junior class returns, led by leading scorer Zane Paul (23 goals, 1 assist). Nate Schneider (9 goals, 7 assists) and Zach Ware (9 goals, 3 assists) tied for second in goals along with sophomore Xavier Monnin (9 goals, 1 assist).
Juniors Denton Homan, Dalton Lane, Justin Shuga and Conner Smock add depth to the class.
Sophomores Isaac Cisco, Nate Guckes, Adam Hall, Devan Manger and Brendon Thompson saw quality minutes last season. And Lynch anticipates the same for this year’s freshmen, including Brant Netz, Carson Monnier and John Smock.
“I think we’re pretty balanced overall. (The leading scorers) were all sophomores last year so as you get older you relax more in front of the net,” said Lynch, whose team saw 16 different players score goals last season. “I’ll be surprised if Zane is that far ahead of everybody else (in total goals). But he does have a nose for the goal.”
Botkins outscored its opponents 76-11 last season. The most goals Botkins allowed in a game was three with Troy Christian, Franklin-Monroe and Miami East the only teams to score double-digit goals against them.
Overall the Trojans shut out 11 of their 16 opponents. Being another year older should help an already stout defense.
“We were a little undersized last year. We kind of got pushed around physicality-wise,” Lynch said. “A year of growth with the boys, hopefully we won’t get pushed off the ball as much as we did last year. I think we’re ready to go.”
Botkins has posted a record of 147-64-31 since the program started in 2005. In addition to the 150-win milestone, the Trojans also celebrate the opportunity to host a handful of games that start at 7 pm., instead of 5 pm. This season will be a mix of both starting times.
“It’s nice for the kids to have some night games. It will let the community come out and support the team and the kids,” Lynch said. “We play some exciting soccer, I think. Hopefully we’ll get some more people in the stands.”