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Comets Hope to Raise the Bar Again in 2020

After last year’s 2019 District Championship, you would think Solon Comets Boys Soccer Head Coach Ryan Greenhill would be feeling a lot of pressure going into this season. The team’s 13-6-1 performance last season was his best season to date after taking over in 2016 when the team finished with a 4-8-4 record. Greenhill’s teams have always improved from the year before and he expects this year’s Varsity squad to do the same despite being nearly a month behind after the delayed start to the season.

“This is the most depth we’ve ever had and easily the best overall team skills,” Greenhill said. “Our goal is always to improve from the year before and with a team of all upperclassmen, we have the maturity, experience and talent to be competitive every game and to go deep in the state playoffs.”

Often when you try to gauge how strong a team will be, you look at the Senior class and there is a lot to like about this group. The Comets have 11 Seniors and all of them can start and many are capable of playing several positions. Add nine Juniors to the mix and Greenhill has a strong bench to complement his starting 11 players with no real drop in talent or skill. This is the type of team that knows how to win close games and will be competitive from the opening whistle.  

While defense wins championships, it’s the offense that defines the team. Greenhill is most excited about the speed and size upfront for the Comets. No one is taller than Senior Striker Eric Nouafo, who at 6’4”, towers above his teammates and opposing defenders. Nouafo has always been a scorer and led the team in goals his Sophomore season. Flanking Nouafo on the wings are Seniors Jake Moss and four-year letterman and Co-Captain Andrew Messmer. Moss and Messmer can hit the back of the net from inside the box or with laser shots from the corners. Senior Nick Satary has a cannon for a foot and can start or come in to support any of the other forwards along with Junior David Headen, who Greenhill believes could have a breakout season.  A key to success this season will be how quickly this group of forwards gels together.

Just as important as scoring goals, is controlling the pace of the game and spreading the field in the midfield. Winning is much easier if a team controls the ball in the center of the field and Greenhill is excited by the strength and talent there this year. Perhaps no one player is more important in the midfield than Senior and four-year letterman Noah Jahnke. As attacking midfielder, Jahnke will command the Comet’s attack and Greenhill expects him to score a lot this season. Holding midfielders beside Jahnke are two talented Juniors Erik Messmer and Brandon Silverstein. Both Messmer and Silverstein make up the backbone of the offense, while being the first point of defense. Juniors Alex Rosen, Jayden Sussman and Tyler Pollock provide support in the midfield and are an exciting combination of style and strength. All three will be coming off the bench to assist a lot this season.

Unlike in previous seasons when the Comets’ defense had more questions than answers, this year the Comets arguably have the most depth and experience in defense of any team they’ll play. The defense is anchored by Senior Goalkeeper and four-year letterman and Co-Captain Zach Baldwin who has become known for his acrobatic saves and blocks in the goal. The Comets give nothing up when Junior Goalkeeper Ethan Smith takes over in goal with his height and booming distributions. Center backs Senior Ben Moss and Junior Aaron Kaiser are strong and steady in the middle and Senior Josh Goodman and Junior Mark Groff are each very physical and solid as starters or ready to fill in the middle as needed. Returning to the wings on defense is Senior Ryan Funderburg with his lightning speed and powerful throw ins. Funderburg is joined by Seniors Kelan Zielinski and Xander Morales. Zielinski is an offensive threat even from the back and Greenhill will use him with the forwards too. Morales is best described as a tough, hard-nosed defender who is very physical.

This season marks the first time in four years the Comets’ line up is without All-State Forward Billy Furlong and last year’s leading scorer Midfielder Ethan Berkovitz. Together, Furlong and Berkovitz accounted for more than half the goals scored last season. While that’s a big hole to fill, Greenhill believes this year’s scoring won’t come from just two players, but more likely from five or six.

“We have a very balanced attack and I expect to see goals coming from a lot of players this season,” Greenhill said. “We really can score from any position on the field and this group is very comfortable working together to find the open shot. It all comes back to confidence and chemistry.”

According to Greenhill, the biggest challenge for the Comets this year will be getting started successfully. The Comets haven’t played true competition since March and he knows they will make mistakes early in the season. The team won’t have a slow start either but instead will open with Greater Cleveland Conference (GCC) play.  Solon was able to keep many of the original games on the schedule and even added a few new teams to the calendar too.  It’s going to be an exciting season that is even faster than normal with 14 games played in just over a month.

The team opens up with three Greater Cleveland Conference (GCC) games against Strongsville, Medina and Mentor. Medina won the GCC last year and knocked the Comets out of the state playoffs in the District Semifinal game 4-1. Strongsville and Mentor will be tough this year too. The Comets go West next and play Avon Lake for the first time ever.

The Comets return with five home games against Olmsted Falls, rival-Twinsburg, Brecksville-Broadview Hts., GCC rival Euclid and powerhouse Brunswick. The Comets travel south to Copley for the first time ever before welcoming Westlake at home next.  The Comets finish out the regular season against GCC-opponents Elyria before playing St Edwards for the first time in many years and then finishing up against D2-powerhouse Revere.

 While each team has its own special personality, Coach Greenhill said this year’s team is among his favorites. The core group of Seniors has been playing together for more than 10 years when they started playing soccer for the Solon Soccer Club. Coach Greenhill and Coach Richie Webb have worked with them for five years now and they know each player well.

“It’s been so much fun to watch this group grow and mature together and be successful on the field and in the classroom,” Greenhill said. “This group has great soccer IQ and a real passion for the game. They don’t just talk about it. They live it and it’s hard not to get excited watching them.”

This year's Comets team hopes to take it's place among the best and make some history in the procress.