Sunday, October 2, 2022

Independence gears up for another run

Graduation hit the Independence boys’ soccer team hard but the Blue Devils are gearing up for another run at the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title and even more postseason success.

The Blue Devils do return four starters and several others who should make an immediate contribution.

“Graduating seven starters will be tough on us, often a death sentence for Division III teams, but we have a solid freshman class who will work to speed up and get ready for varsity play,” said seventh-year head coach Ryan MacRaild. “We can be competitive in the CVC again and make a run at our district.”

MacRaild will rely on his veteran upperclassmen to rise to the challenge this season and to provide the leadership for the younger players who will see their first varsity action.

That group includes senior defender Josh Belitz, junior forward Aidan Coljohn and junior midfielders Casey McGhee and Emmett Stralka.

“Josh really came into his own last season on defense and will now take control of the backline. His confidence, speed and experience make him a great fit in the back,” MacRaild said. “Aidan had a great season last year and he has gotten bigger and faster and worked on a few moves that will help us on the attack. His experience last season will be big for us. Casey is next in line for our central mid role. Every year, we look to this position to control both sides of the ball. His experience as a two-year starter, as well as his club and travel experience, make him a great candidate to run the show. Emmett has moved from the backline to midfield. His speed and ability to get to the goal will come in handy this season.”

Junior Braden Flynn will step in to defend the net this season. Flynn, who is pushing 6-feet, 5-inches, has an incredible wingspan and brings a lot of potential to the position.

“Braden is transitioning from defense to keeper,” MacRaild said. “With a little training and some in-game experience, Braden promises to be a solid keeper for us in the next two seasons.”

MacRaild also has high expectations for seniors Ryan Bernstein and John Eisenmann and newcomers Joey Jirmasek, Khalil McDonald and Matt Wisniewski.

“It will be a promising few years for Independence soccer,’ MacRaild said. “We need to play as a team, but ultimately work hard every day to improve and create chances for each other to succeed.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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