The members of the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy soccer team aren’t looking past tonight’s Division II state semifinal match against Bay Village Bay. But they are aware that this isn’t only a single game in time, albeit an important one. It’s their best chance at etching their own place in CVCA program history, and a storied one at that.
As fourth-year coach Jon Taylor explains, those in and around CVCA soccer are not operating in single teams separated by years and graduations. It’s as if it’s a fraternity, with soccer the task and lifelong brotherhood the underlying prize. Taylor prefers the term “community.” This 2012 edition is sure to be enshrined, but undetermined is the legacy left in CVCA lore.
“There’s a feeling inside the team and the program that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and bigger than just one year,” Taylor said. “It’s previous years and previous alumni and they honor them with the way they play. So they’re desperate to have more days to play together. They’ll be disappointed when the season ends no matter how it ends.”
Current players on the roster often get text messages from former players offering encouragement or words of wisdom. And unlike most sports programs, it’s the seniors rolling up their sleeves and cleaning up after practice, a routine commonly saved for freshman.
“As a result, the underclassmen have an appreciation for the upperclassmen and the culture grows from one year to the next,” Taylor said. “The reason we call it a community is because the relationships these guys have with each other is really valued by them. Valued so much so that they stay in touch after they go to college.”
The current CVCA players have quite a bit to live up to. The Royals have won three state titles since 2004 (2004 and 2010 in Division III, 2007 in Division II) and appeared in at least the state semifinal every year since 2004 except 2006 and 2011.
Led by senior Zack Bosshard (nine goals, six assists), sophomore Ben Locke, junior Sammy Meszaros (who scored the only goal in the regional final win over University School and has come up big for the Royals in other key situations) and senior defender Tim Horth, who has led a revamped defensive effort, CVCA (14-6) has shown its balanced offensive attack and defense can contend with anyone. But lessons have been learned and hard times endured.
Taylor says that perhaps the most important stretch of the season wasn’t a come-from-behind win against a rival or even the regional title won on Saturday. It was a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season.
“When mistakes are exposed, you can identify those and improve upon them,” he said. “The guys committed to that. We dropped those three games and it was a tough stretch, a tough two weeks for us. Our goal is to schedule teams who test us. Sometimes we come out of those games with a win, sometimes with a loss, but the most important thing is that we learned lessons about ourselves. It exposed us defensively and made us well aware of our defending.”
Frustrated after the string of losses, CVCA began winning one-goal games and then defeated No. 3-ranked Hoban and top-ranked Revere in the district tournament. Those two momentum-swinging wins showed CVCA why “the process” of a season is so important, and they began to understand why there must be struggles before triumph.
“Nobody likes to lose games in the middle of the season, but they understood that they needed to go through that,” Taylor said. “For the guys, winning those two games in a row was the first time they could tangibly see the benefit of the process they were in. It confirmed some things in their mind they wanted to believe.”
That process has brought CVCA to the doorstep of the Ohio Division II state title game to be played at Columbus Crew Stadium on Saturday. CVCA hasn’t played Bay Village Bay this season, and neither team knows much about the other. The last time these two schools met was in the 2005 state semifinal game, with Bay Village Bay coming out on top.
Members from that CVCA team will surely be in attendance Wednesday night, rooting for “the community” once again.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.