ByEastwood senior midfielder Joey Salinas will continue his soccer career at the University of Findlay.
Salinas, a three-year starter and a four-year letter winner for the Eagles, was named the Northern Buckeye Conference Player of the Year and shared POY honors with Oak Harbor’s Tate Haar on the Alan Miller Jewelers’ All-Press Boys Soccer Team.
Eastwood went 10-7-1, finished second in the NBC and won one game in the Division II sectional tournament before falling to Rossford, the NBC champion, 3-2, in the final. In the two years prior, Eastwood won sectional titles before falling in the district semifinal, both times to Bowling Green, each time by 2-1 scores.
“As a team, it was a little rough at first,” Salinas said. “We had lost some seniors and we had a lot of freshmen coming in. We didn’t have a lot of returning starters. At first, it was a little tough (because) the freshmen hadn’t been used to playing with guys like that. But at the end of the year, we were playing well.”
He credits first-year coach Joe Montag with instilling a new mentality that helped to strengthen the team.
“This year, with a new coach, (Coach Montag) brought a new mentality,” Salinas said. “His quote was ‘All in’. If you’re not going to be 100 percent committed you might as well leave. If you’re going to mess around during practice, you’ll sit. With that kind of mentality, we had a rough start, but it definitely paid off.”
Salinas started the season as a left defender before Montag moved him to left midfielder. It was the first time Salinas had played midfield since he was a freshman, but he made the adjustment smoothly.
“(Coach Montag) was more about playing people where they fit best,” said Salinas. “He wanted people to go where they were best suited. I started the season as a defender and he saw the potential for me to be a midfielder because of the communication and how I got the ball to other people. He moved Steven (Bradley) from midfield to defender and that locked down the left side.”
Salinas was joined by fellow midfielders Erik Withrow, Tim Heinzelman and Logan Baugher with Aldo Gomez and Rudy Cruz serving as backups. Joining Bradley on the defensive side were Ryan Reiter, Trevor Hoffman and Andrew Davidson. Forwards Lucas McCullough and Jacob Montag supplied much of the scoring and Rudy Bowe served as the goalkeeper.
Bradley and McCullough earned first-team NBC honors, Reiter and Bowe were named to the league’s second team and Heinzelmann and Montag were recognized with honorable mention status.
Despite the fact that the Eagles will be losing Salinas, Bradley and Davidson, they have the vast majority of the team returning. On top of that, 10 of the 16 players are underclassmen, a sign that better times could be on the horizon. And the program is in good shape, having finished with at least 10 wins each of the last seven years.
“I think it looks really good for them in future, especially with a bigger freshman class,” Salinas said. “When they get older, they’ll be presented with the same opportunities (and) they’ll do well.”
In addition to soccer, Salinas served as the football team’s place kicker and runs track in the spring. He was part of a the NBC-winning 4x400 meter relay team (with Devin Snowden, Gabe Fredericks and Derek Snowden) last spring, and was a second place finisher in the 300 hurdles and third place finisher in the 110 hurdles.
The 4x400 team was regional champions, qualifying for state, and Salinas also qualified for regionals in the 300 hurdles.
He said track coaches have taught him how to run, and that’s helped him become a better soccer player.
“(The coaches) always teach us to sprint on your toes, and that really helps,” Salinas said. “Incorporating that into soccer, I was able to outrun almost anyone to the ball. It gave me an extra advantage. (The coaches) always emphasized flexibility and I was able to get low and make deeper cuts. Being a 400 runner helped with my endurance.”