Clay finds ‘diamonds’ to build on the next two years

J. Patrick Eaken

For Clay boys soccer to finish 7-9-1 in the league they play in and the injuries they suffered, said a lot. It also says a lot about the program’s future.

“We fared fairly well. It was kind of disappointing because we battled so many injuries and so many Covid issues throughout the year that we have not had to deal with since I’ve been the head coach here,” Clay coach Zachary Soncrant said.

“My top two guys this year, over the last two years they have been in the running for the top two or three for points – both of them missed three quarters of the season between them. The only one who used to beat them out was (2021 graduate) Keeghan Calkins, so they had some stiff competition with that.

“Unfortunately, we had to battle through that. We made a lot of changes during the year to navigate through that tough season. This year we only had 27 on the roster, so we were pulling up guys from JV who ended up making a big contribution to the season,” Soncrant continued.

“We struggled through that, and I think that showed with only winning seven games this year. But still, having seven wins and just nine losses, in the conference we’re in, was huge. When you lose the key pieces that we did, being able to even battle and compete in some of those big games and still winning the games that I feel we should win, the Whitmer and Fremont (Ross) games and some of those, I think when you look at the scope of the season, I’m still pretty happy with what we were able to do.”

As a result of sophomores filling the void, this team may have the experience to compete for the next two years, including next year in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference or when Clay plays its first season in the Northern Lakes League in 2023.

“For us to be in the position we were in with such a young defense, with us graduating a lot from last year, I had to replace the entire back line and the starting goalkeeper. I was really impressed with my two sophomores on the back end this year, Camden Williams and Drake Sekinger,” Soncrant said.

By no means were the Eagles blown out by the best in the TRAC or Toledo area. They fell to Division III state ranked Ottawa Hills, 2-1, and Sylvania Northview, 2-0, for example.

“Even Ottawa Hills — the storyline for them is we kicked ourselves in the foot because we were winning that game and I did not have any of my top scorers in for that game. We had battled all game and we were winning 1-0 with seven minutes to go,” Soncrant said.

“Believe it or not, with their firepower, they got by us two times and they ended up winning that game. It just showed the determination that our guys had even with the injuries that we had, being able to go out there and compete regardless of the situation and things we had to deal with this year.

“I truly think this year would have been way different if we would have stayed healthy. I do think we would have been able to take down one of those big guys this year, maybe St. John’s (3-0 Titans win), Northview, St. Francis (6-0 Knights win) — with some of those guys I really feel like we could have taken them if we stayed healthy.”


Wells doesn’t miss opportunities

The Eagles were led up front by senior forward Zach Wells, who had 14 goals and seven assists and was first team Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press for the second straight year, even though he only played half the season.

“Zach Wells was out for a lot of games this year, and believe it or not, he still ended up with 14 goals. He missed about eight games. When he was in, he was a factor. He is the one that all those guys attract and all the guys in our league know about from the last couple years because he’s been my top goal scorer over the last two seasons and he also led us this year,” Soncrant said.

“He doesn’t miss his opportunities. He ended up playing in the all-district game and he ended up scoring. Even with all those games that he was in, those teams had to play around that kid. He’s a big body, strong kid and he’s got a rocket of a shot.”

Also first team All-Press is senior defender Ben Jones, who despite being a team leader in steals and intercepts, also scored twice.

“Ben Jones played a mixture of everything for us. He played stopper primarily for us throughout the season, and then we had about three center mids go out with injuries, so we had to push him around to different spots,” Soncrant said.

“I don’t know how many times he actually got a break throughout the season. He probably came out once every four games, and that was the only time we were able to get him a break. To do that as a center mid and as a stopper, he really pushed some tempo to our team. The main focus we had him at this year, was countering and using him at transition, because that is where we saw him being the most deadly at.”

Clay has five second team All-Press selections, including four midfielders, seniors Jarod Jehany (five goals, seven assists) and Angelo Cuttaia (three goals, one assist) and sophomores Adam Hansen (four goals, four assists) and Roswaldo Ruiz (three goals). 

“Adam Hansen (also second team All-TRAC) is the guy who has been a staple for us ever since he has been a freshman. He was a starter as a freshman, which says a lot in the conference that we play in for him to be able to do that, especially on the team that we’ve had the last couple years. He’s very good, very disciplined, and for him to be able to do that is quite remarkable. For him to get a couple goals and a couple assists on the year, he’s a center mid for us, but he’s a highly intelligent player,” Soncrant said.

“There is no one smarter than him on the team and going forward he is the diamond that we have to build on. There are not many people that typically ever make first or second team as sophomores. A lot from Findlay, St. John’s, St. Francis, they got those high prolific scorers, and for us to get one so early it’s really exciting for me.”

Then you get to Williams and Sekinger, two sophomores that strengthened the defense.
“We had a very young defense this year, but with that young defense was a sophomore who played right back for us, Camden Williams. He has primarily been a guy who plays midfield and we tried to get him involved in some of the midfield when we can, but he had to match up with some of the best ones on the team, so we kind of shifted him to where the best scorers and best attacks that was coming from the teams that we played,” Soncrant said.
“I remember being in the Northview game when they had a guy named (senior) Tony Saggese who  is a very good player, a senior, and he had a couple years on my sophomore, but these are games where he had to go one-on-one with some of the best players and he was able to really hold those guys down and keep those guys in check for us and he really did his job. He was also a great part of our team and something to build on going forward.
“On the opposite end of him, we have another sophomore, left back who is doing the same thing — he uses his body very well, Drake Sekinger. He also had to match up against some of the toughest ones in the league this year.”



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