Heights High Soccer Wrap-up Girls Rebound, Boys Rebuild
The Heights High soccer teams ended their seasons in eerily familiar heartbreaking fashion this year. The ninth-seeded girls lost 2-1 in first round State Tournament play at fifth-seeded Willoughby South in a penalty kick shootout after 80 minutes of regular time and 30 minutes of overtime could not determine a winner. The boys, seeded 12th, appeared headed for overtime as well, tied 1-1 with the Rebels in their tourney match, but a controversial penalty kick with 47 seconds left in regulation gave Willoughby South the 2-1 win.
The boys' team, rebuilding after their District Final appearance in 2007, finished the season 2-13-2. They were led by senior goalkeeper Steve Buchholz, who was named the Lake Erie League Player of the Year. Seniors Hamza Dodo and Michael Carlisle served with Buchholz as tri-captains of head coach Sean Sullivan’s squad. Sullivan was assisted by coaches Robbie Helfgott, John Tuggey, Justin Yarham and Mike Kenny.
In 2009, the young Tigers will be without any seniors, but should receive on-field leadership from current sophomores Jared Alcorn and Ciaran Cohen. Freshman Jonah Meesig will have big gloves to fill while replacing Buchholz in goal, but he has shown flashes of brilliance this year. Freshmen Jake Stern and Gabe Brown will anchor an exciting attack, while the Wildey twins, Eli and Bennett, will also see significant time.
The Lady Tigers posted a 6-9-2 record, their best in five years. They gave up just nine goals in their final seven games and just five in their last five matches, scoring 49 on the season, a 50% increase from last year. A well-played 2-0 loss at Mentor kept the team from sharing the Lake Erie League title for the first time in at least eight years.
In 2009, the Lady Tigers will lose just four seniors, captains Christina Holland, Jennnessa Gaffney and Emma Chupp, and goalkeeper Aubree Lieberman. Lieberman, a converted forward, took over the goalkeeping chores when the team found itself without a net minder at the start of the season. She ended up as runner-up for Lake Erie League Player of the Year and was named to the All-conference team with Holland and junior Leslie Smith, who was the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals, eight assists and 30 points.
Varsity assistant coach Suzi Siwinski and junior varsity head coach Kyle Gisser, both new to the coaching staff, share much credit for the team’s turnaround.
“We will miss our seniors,” says Siwinski, “especially Aubree. But we return 80% of our goals and we are upgrading our schedule for next year. The squad has a chance to do some very special things in 2009."
Keith Gisser is an award winning sports journalist and former standup comic who also serves as head coach of the Heights High Lady Tiger Soccer team.