If you know anything about boys’ high school soccer, Blacksburg High School has dominated the 3A ranks for a long, long time; but this year, Christiansburg is hoping to chip away at that dynasty.
Also, look for much-improved Auburn team to make a run at Radford in the Three Rivers District.
Shelley Blumenthal has been the head coach at Blacksburg for 25 years and boasts a record of 475 victories, 39 losses and 20 ties. Last season, the Bruins compiled 20 wins, two losses and one tie.
One of those losses came in the state 3A finals, losing on a corner kick in the final seconds.
Blumenthal also lost one his heaviest senior laden rosters in his coaching history—10 to be exact, including: Carmeron Bissell, Nathan Tegarden, Eli VanGlider and Wes Ebel. That group provided a majority of the team’s scoring bunch last season.
But just like he does every year, Blumenthal reloads and is expected to seek another state and regional championship.
“We anticipate a balanced team to improve as the season moves on with a nice mix of some key veterans with several young players. We will need to improve significantly defending restarts (corner kicks, free kicks and long throw-ins). We hope to develop some depth as well to best prepare for opportunities in the regular season, and hopefully, post-season play,” he said.
Blumenthal expects both Hidden Valley and Cave Spring to be much improved in conference play this year.
“Hidden Valley returns a strong team including 10 starters (of 11) and the loss of only two seniors on the entire team. They were playing their best soccer later in the season in 2016, have outstanding players at goalkeeper, the central midfield, and forward. Their back line is experienced as well and they opened the season yesterday with a 4-0 victory over William Byrd,” he said.
Cave Spring should also be talented, athletic and very well coached, according to the longtime Blacksburg coach. “They are disciplined and committed to strong defending and being dangerous on restarts.”
Christiansburg Coach Michael Oliver is in his fifth season at the school and compiled a 13-6 record last season and finished runner-up in the conference behind Blacksburg. Twice last season, the Blue Demons took Blacksburg to the wire before losing.
But Oliver also has to rebuild or reload after losing 11 seniors with four moving on to play in college.
Possibly the biggest lost is Jordan Boone, a first team all-state forward, who set several school scoring records as a senior.
He will also have to replace David Eddleton, who along with Boone are both playing collegiately this year at Christopher Newport University. Eddleton was a second team all-state midfielder last season.
There will also be the task of replacing goalkeeper Alex Sullivan, who is now at Roanoke College.
Forward Ian Wnorowski and Defender Landon Bell, both seniors will fill that void along with sophomore duo of Nathan Boone and Ian Blanton.
“I expect to compete for a conference title and make a run in the postseason. Our team is young, but experienced. We are full of role players who are ready to step up and make a significant impact,” he said.
Oliver knows Blacksburg will again be the team to beat along with Cave Spring.
Radford finished 11-7 last season and Coach Greg Wade is in his 19th year at the school. He has compiled a 290-67-9 mark and tries to assemble a team that lost nine players from last season. But he returns a team loaded with experience especially on the defensive side of the field.
Tim Reuwer is a four-year starter on defense that also has William Mitchell, Cameron Owens and Chet Kleppin back in the midfield.
“We hope to be successful in the conference and region to get back into states,” Wade said.
But there is a much-improved Auburn team waiting in the shadows.
Kris Teaford will be in his first year as Auburn’s head coach, but is excited about the team’s possibilities. Last season, Auburn was 12-5.
They did lose Jacob Monday, Will Brockman and Brandon Quesenberry, all region performers, but the cupboard is not empty.
Logan and Mark Phillips lead an attack that is chomping at the bit for the season to get underway. Logan was second team all-region and first team all-conference last season as a center midfielder. Meanwhile Mark was second team all-conference and returns at his center back position.
Richie Romo will also help Auburn from the offensive side of the field after being named second team all-conference last season.
“One of the most important goals or expectations we have as a team/program is that we work hard and compete every day so that we grow as a team and players continue to develop and grow on an individual basis as well. This program has experienced some recent success with regards to results and we want to continue that success along with improving how we play the game each and every day,” Teaford said.
The Auburn coach knows Radford will again be tops in the conference.
“Our conference offers a lot of good competition throughout the season. Radford is a team that traditionally performs well in the conference and so obviously one of our goals is to be able to compete with them throughout the season. However our conference offers many other chances for great games. We absolutely won’t look past anyone and will try compete night in and night out on a consistent basis,” Teaford said.