By Garth Shanklin
The Batavia Bulldogs boys’ soccer team lost a few key pieces from a 2015 season that saw them contend for a Southern Buckeye Academic and Athletic Conference title, but that won’t stop the team from making another championship run in 2016.
Head coach Kevin Scheel said the 2015 campaign was a very good season for his team.
“It was great,” Scheel said. “It was our second year being in the bigger division and we knew we’d have heavy competition, but we like that. Hopefully that prepares us to compete for league and in tournaments.”
Batavia had a shot at the league title last year, but two losses to the New Richmond Lions ended that run. The Lions would finish one game ahead of Batavia in the championship standings.
The team lost four players from 2015, including goalkeeper Josh Bauer. Bauer played in the all-star game last year. Mark Knauer was a “tremendous” player, according to Scheel, who added he “never had to worry about him.”
Morgan Walker earned first-team all-conference honors in 2015, and was an “explosive” player, according to Scheel. Adam Roller did a good job servicing the ball and setting up teammates while also scoring a few clutch goals of his own, according to the coach.
After an offseason that consisted of the Batavia Preseason Soccer Tournament and a few scrimmages, Scheel said he felt like the team was able to fill those roles. He specifically mentioned junior goalkeeper Jack Gibson, and added he felt that the team will be balanced in 2016.
“We’ll be balanced on offense and defense,” Scheel said. “We have a full roster for the first time, there are 36 kids in the program. When one guy goes down, we have players ready to step up.”
While some players are expected to step up into larger roles than they’re used to, Scheel pointed at senior Austin King as a player he believes could have a huge year.
“He was a starter for all of last year and part of his sophomore year,” Scheel said. “I look for him to explode onto the scene. He’ll be a key, integral part of the team.”
Alex Hornschmeier, a junior, is another player Scheel tabbed as a breakout candidate.
“He’s very talented, great foot skills,” Scheel said. “He didn’t get much time last year due to numbers and his spot in pecking order, but he’s dominant in attack.”
The Bulldogs have several goals for the season, including restarting a lengthy streak that came to an end last season.
“The lead goal for the team is to get the league championship,” Scheel said. “The streak was at 13, last year snapped it. New Richmond deserved it, they played tremendous this year and I think they’ll be tough this year as well.”
Scheel also said the team looks to make waves in the sectional tournament.
“My concern is to make a statement in the tournament,” Scheel said. “Hopefully we get a sectional championship, get to that district final and see what we can do. That’s my ambition.”
Even before the postseason begins, Scheel said there’s plenty to look forward to in the regular season.
“We’re excited to play again,” Scheel said. “We’ve got our last games against Amelia and Norwood for the time being, and Amelia’s been a huge rivalry for us. We’re looking forward for two more go-rounds with them. On Sept. 29, we’re going to be hosting a breast cancer awareness game. We’ve done this every year but this year there’s a family member in the program that is dealing with that. It’s a bit bigger of a priority for us and it coincides with senior night.”
The Bulldogs opened their regular-season campaign with a 3-3 draw at home against New Richmond. They will host Goshen on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 5 p.m.