Offensively, defensively, the Comets step it up a notch

J. Patrick Eaken

At 14-0, Genoa boys soccer is unranked in state polls, but coach Tim Memmer knows better than to think anyone does not know how good the Comets are.

“We’re not under the radar at this point,” Memmer said.

Last year, the Comets won a Northern Buckeye Conference championship on their way to a 14-4-1 season and Division III district semifinal appearance, where they lost to eventual state final four qualifier Ottawa Hills, 6-0. This year, they feel like they are better prepared for when they face the upper echelon teams in the tournament. The Green Bears (8-0-2), ranked second in the state, are in Genoa’s district.

“We have to be able to play against some stronger teams when we get into the tournament and that is part of our focus every day at practice,” said Genoa coach Tim Memmer. “It is always, ‘What do we have to do to be able to play at that level?’”

This year, the Comets have outscored opponents 116-8, but they are always looking ahead to those games. Thursday night the Comets defeated Lake (8-4-1, 5-2-1), 8-0, to clinch a Northern Buckeye Conference championship. Soon, they will be focusing on the Division III tournament.

“We’ve been looking at all of our games like it is Ottawa Hills, so we’re not going into them just coasting through,” said senior forward Aiden Hemmert, a second team All-Ohioan and NBC Player of the Year who leads the Comets again this year with 94 points on 34 goals and 26 assists. 

“We are trying to outperform our opponents as much as we can to get prepared because our schedule is statistically not as strong as others. But we’ve been trying to do our best in these games to help us prepare for that,” Hemmert continued.

It’s not just the offense, it’s the defense that is doing it’s part.

“The other thing that is working really well is the team’s dedication to defending. We’ve only given up eight goals at this point and about five shots a game,” Memmer said. “So, it’s not just the attack, it’s the effect that our team defending is enough that we are able to create a lot of opportunities for us, too.

So, the defense is preparing for the upper echelon teams. Senior defender Ben Ford says when facing those teams, they have to respect their opponents’ space when marking them. He, too, is confident the Comets can fare better.

“Definitely, for sure, I don’t think we’ll have that second reaction to step up to somebody as dangerous as Ottawa Hills players. As a whole we did not lose too many guys from last year, everybody has grown in their position, and I think we have a better shot this year,” Ford said.

“Last year, we let up too many goals with two seniors so this year coming in I made sure that my guys knew what I wanted out of them and what the offense should expect out of us,” Ford continued.

Memmer says this year’s defense has stepped up its game — the reason for allowing just over half a goal per game, with eight shutouts.

“What we lost in experience last year we swapped out with pace and tenacity. The two who swapped in are much faster and there is never a thought of defeat in their head,” Memmer said. “It is always battle and battle and if you get matched up with them you are going to have to beat them four or five times to get by them because they will never stop.”

Ford says tenacity is the best way to play defense.

“With me playing club, I realize what it takes is me beating the other guys to the ball, and also, us being able to play the ball to our forwards, which is the most dangerous part of our game. So, as long as we keep that up no team can stop us,” Ford said.

There was another swap — Tyler Harper, a sophomore who had limited varsity playing time last year with 19 saves, took over the goalkeeper duties, replacing graduated senior Tyler Welsh.

“Tyler Harper got a lot of training last year and some spot time and he’s worked really well over the offseason. He played for a club team this spring and he’s doing well,” Memmer said. “For the most part obviously, what he is doing well at right now is coming out and he is making plays before shots ever happen.”

There are not as many personnnel changes at midfield, but there are adjustments in where and how they play. 

“We’ve done some changes in what we’re doing midfield-wise this year and it has created a very good balance for us,” Memmer said. “That is really where a lot of the real good shutdowns happen. We moved (junior midfielder) Mike Lickert into a holding-mid role, and my goodness, he’s knocked down everybody he has been up against at this point.”

One other element has been key to how good this team can be when they face the upper echelon teams. Like the guys on those teams, these kids do not stop playing soccer, ever.

“Almost the entire team plays year-round. Most of the group play club for the club that I run, so I see them all the time,” Memmer said.


Four-headed monster

Offensively, the Comets are led by a four-headed monster that includes Hemmert, senior forward Ethan Wilson, senior midfielder Evan Hoeft and junior forward Griffin Meyer, who all joined Hemmert as first team All-NBC selections last year. 

Wilson has 25 goals and 21 assists, Meyer has 24 goals and 14 assists, and Hoeft has 13 goals and 17 assists, proving a combined 166 points for the Comets, not including Hemmert.

“We’re really strong offensively and defensively, too. We all carry our weight,” Hemmert said. “We have been playing together for God knows how many years, so we have that chemistry built up pretty well. We’re also selfless. I mean we don’t really care who scores as long as it goes into the back of the net.”

If you defend one attacker one way, the other will find a different path to scoring

“The ability to be able to attack from multiple different avenues — we don’t have just one way we can go. We’re very balanced on that,” Memmer said. “It is all their uniqueness — everyone has a little something different. We can go in the air, we can go around the side, we can get through or dribble in.” 

You look at the numbers of the top four scorers, and it does not include playing entire games, or their numbers might be even doubled.

“When we even look at where we are at this year with the same people last year and where we are at this year, and they are playing about half a game. They have improved so much,” Memmer said. “This team’s dedication throughout the summer and prep time and work rate is just flat out unmatched from anything I’ve ever had before.”






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