As if starting off the season against what would later become the state’s third-ranked Division I boys’ soccer team wasn’t bad enough …
First-year Clay soccer coach Kris Oberdick has had four players suffer concussions and his only goalie put on the shelf with a sprained MCL. Oberdick, 35, who had never coached soccer before, was hired about two weeks before the season started.
“This is on-the-job training, sink or swim,” Oberdick said. “I’m doing more sinking than swimming right now, but we’re going to try to get that changed in the next couple years.”
The Eagles were 0-14-1 heading into Thursday’s regular season-ending game at Start. Their lone bright spot this season has been a 2-2 tie on Sept. 10 against Fremont Ross, when the Eagles got goals from Mathew Bohland and Corey Greenblat.
Oberdick took over a team that featured nine seniors, but only a couple of those had been with the Clay program all four years. He had primarily coached basketball, with the Ohio Northern University women’s junior varsity team and for a couple years as a Clay boys’ assistant. He currently also coaches Clay’s eighth grade boys team at Fassett Junior High.
“I grew up playing soccer,” Oberdick said. “I went to St. John’s and played freshman and sophomore year, as well as basketball.”
Oberdick said he applied for a position as an assistant soccer coach at Clay a few years ago, but didn’t get it. When the Eagles’ head coaching position opened up prior to this season, athletic director Mike Donnelly went searching for a coach.
“Mike remembered that I applied and said they had a head coaching spot open,” Oberdick recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for a head spot,’ but our jayvee coach was having a child at the time and he didn’t feel comfortable stepping up. I said, ‘be patient with me. I’m going to learn as fast as I can.’ ”
Instead of playing some smaller schools to try to ease into their season, the Eagles opened with a 10-0 loss to Northern Lakes League powerhouse Anthony Wayne. Four games later, Clay had the 2-2 tie with Ross, but things went south from there. Within the next two weeks Oberdick’s squad suffered 10-0 losses to St. John’s Jesuit and Central Catholic.
The Eagles’ highest scoring output this season came in a 5-4 loss at Central Catholic on Oct. 1.
“Midway through our season we dealt with quite a few injuries,” Oberdick said. “The only goalie we had, (senior) Dylan Dusza, went down in the Maumee Valley game with a sprained MCL, so we had goalie by elimination and they did a great job and gave great effort. But, there’s nothing like having your only goalie in there.”
And then there were the concussions suffered by four different players, making continuity with the lineup a big issue.
“It’s a rebuilding season,” Oberdick said. “We’ve got a good group of high-character guys, and I want them to win so bad because they’re such good guys.”
Greenblat, a senior midfielder/fullback and a team captain, recently fractured his thumb. Junior midfielder Gabe Mendoza has also had a health issue and could be done for the season.
“We just can’t seem to catch a break,” Oberdick said.
Dusza, thankfully, returned to action last week and continues to impress his coach.
“He’s a phenomenal goalie,” Oberdick said. “He’s been fantastic for us. We just let too many balls go through to him. With the number of shots being taken (by opponents), some are bound to go through.”
Greenblat, who missed last season with a torn ACL, has been with Clay’s soccer program for all four years, along with midfielder Spencer Parlaky.
“I love Corey’s effort,” Oberdick said. “I get a text from him saying, ‘Hey, coach. I fractured my thumb.’ His next text is, ‘I’m going to play tomorrow.’ He’s a trooper and he gives it his best every time.”
Oberdick also had high praise for Bohland, a sophomore midfielder, and junior midfielders Gabe Mendoza and Seth Slater.
“Mathew Bohland has been another great effort guy,” the coach said. “He leads by example. I’m looking for him to step up in more of a vocal role next year. Gabe is a guy who really gets the ball moving up the field for us. When it gets played at midfield, we always look for someone to pass it wide and Gabe is our guy. He’s probably the best we have at distributing the ball.
“Seth Slater has done anything I’ve asked him to do, with no questions asked. I’ve moved him around the field and he’s been able to play all over. He’s done a fantastic job no matter where I put him.”
Oberdick said he has a plan to help the Eagles improve before the 2014 season. That is, after Clay’s season comes to a likely end on Oct. 17 against – who else? - Anthony Wayne in the first round of the sectional tournament in Sylvania.
“We’ve got quite a few camps in the offseason, and we want to get into club ball and play as much as possible,” Oberdick said. “It’s just a matter of getting out and playing and getting experience against good competition. We’re going to try to get into a Bowling Green tournament and play against the best competition as we can.”