The more things change, the more they stay the same.
At least that’s what the 2012 installment of the Batavia boys’ soccer team is hoping. The Bulldogs are coming off of a 14-1-2 season that saw them dominate the Southern Buckeye Conference – National Division as well as land a conference-high nine players on the end-of-the-season all-conference team.
However, just about half of those all-conference selections will not be returning to this year’s team due to graduation. Among those not returning is SBC-National Player of the Year Tim Knauer. Also absent from this year’s squad will be the reigning Coach of the Year in the SBC, Nick Noel, who moved back home to Indianapolis to coach his alma mater.
The Bulldogs have been placed in the capable hands of former girls’ varsity assistant and boys’ junior varsity head coach Kevin Scheel. Scheel, a club player his entire life and standout at Turpin High School in his playing days, has been coaching since college and began coaching at Batavia when he took the Spanish teaching job four years ago.
Success is nothing new to Batavia having won the National Division crown each of the last nine years and 14 of the last 15.
“We lost a couple key players. Both captains and some key defenders,” Scheel said. “Overall, we’re still returning the core group so our expectations are high.
“We’re going to be competing with a lot of other schools with strong senior classes, so it will be tough. Our core group is pretty young. We only return three seniors. Our junior class is very strong.”
Among that core talent returning are the five All-SBC selections from a year ago, Neil Wilson, Austin Sammons, Chris Bourque, Kyle Schmitgen and Lucas Grant.
“Neil Wilson is going to be our leader along with Chris Bourque, offensively and defensively, (respectively),” Scheel said. “Austin Sammons is having a promising preseason. So is Kyle Schmitgin.”
While Wilson will be looked upon as the senior leader and top scoring threat, he will be flanked by fellow fourth-years Anthony Hembree, a midfielder and Matt Canter, a defender.
The stellar junior class will be looked upon to help Wilson put the ball in the net. Schmitgen was third on the team in goals scored last year with 10 while he also assisted 14 others. Sammons will also be on the attacking end of the pitch looking to make things happen.
Batavia, as well as the rest of the SBC, will welcome Norwood to the mix this season, a team Scheel says the Bulldogs have only faced in preseason play prior to the 2012 season. Otherwise, in conference, the Bulldogs plan one seeing some competition from two other schools.
“Not saying that we’re the favorites, but two schools that we are gunning for are Amelia and New Richmond,” Scheel said. “Amelia is bringing back 11 seniors and have a very solid group. New Richmond was impressive last year as well and they should have a solid quad.”
While the Bulldogs don’t seem to be rebuilding in 2012 so much as they are simply reloading, a fresh crop of players is looking to make a name for themselves and ensure a return trip to the sectional tournament.
Batavia has had their last two seasons snuffed out by Indian Hill in the second round of the sectional tournament.
The Bulldogs will look to buck that trend come October, but until then, they will have to take care of business in the regular season. Batavia will travel to Mariemont on Tuesday, Aug. 21 to kick off their quest for a tenth straight SBC title.