Had Chagrin Falls known about Kenston senior goalkeeper David Rosinski, maybe the Tigers would have pushed to host their crosstown rival on Saturday, instead of the season opener on Friday night at C.S. Harris Stadium.
Rosinski, who got on a bus at 5 a.m. the next morning to head to Columbus as the No. 1 runner for the Bombers’ cross-country team, stood on his head between the posts during a 1-1 draw on the pitch.
The Kenston booters, who are still adjusting to first-year head coach Trip Roney’s system, struggled to control possession in the midfield and, in turn, spent the majority of the contest on defense.
“I think Chagrin has a very strong midfield, so they were very athletic, and they have a lot of talent there,” said Roney, a 1986 graduate of Kenston soccer. “I would say we struggled a bit to own and manage the midfield, and, as a result, I think we spent quite a bit of the game defending and did not create a lot of scoring opportunities.
“So, we certainly spent some time reflecting on that, and we’re adapting, as you could imagine. But I thought Chagrin was a strong team, for sure.”
While the host Tigers had better scoring opportunities, their lone goal came in succession on a cross from Ian Zitney to fellow junior midfielder Ellis Clark for a back-post finish and a 1-0 upper hand in the 25th minute.
As a center back in his playing days, coach Roney said defensive units can always find a way to defend better on a sequence that leads to an allowed goal, but there’s no doubt that the score line would have been a lot worse if Rosinski didn’t have a great night keeping.
“He was the player of the game by far,” Roney said. “I mean, Rosinski was fantastic. He made some spectacular saves, and he just had an amazing performance, and I think all the players acknowledged that. We have a very humble group, and I think they’re happy to share praise and accolades for those kids that step up, and that young man had a hell of a game.”
Roney, who has nearly 30 years of coaching experience from the youth through college levels, succeeds Josh Sladick, who led the Bombers to an 8-7-3 campaign, including a 5-1-1 mark in the Western Reserve Conference, during his fifth season at the helm last fall. The Bombers graduated 12 players, including six starters from that campaign.
Through club soccer, Roney worked with half a dozen of the current Kenston juniors until he hung up his coaching duties a few years ago, but the opportunity to coach the high school program at his alma mater is nothing short of an honor, he said.
Roney was one of three founders of the Kenston Futbol Club in 2004, in an effort to generate interest and passion for the game in the community.
“There’s been a lot of change from previous leadership,” he said about taking over the varsity reins. “That’s not always met well, but I’ll tell you that these kids have adapted brilliantly to some of the changes in the regimen and the expectation level and a new culture and a new environment. And they really worked hard to kind of make that their own.”
On defense, junior Andrew Watts, a returning starter, senior Blake Torres and juniors Kyle Quinlan and Sean Gurd got the nod to start on Friday, and senior holding midfielder Luke Haas, a returning starter, also played a key role in bunkering down the fort.
But Roney said Kenston has depth on defense, and, specifically in regards to outside backs, guys who show ability to push up and attack on counters and in transition will determine a lot moving forward.
“Your defense is where you want to have things kind of locked down, and it’s hard to find a lot of kids that can play in those roles defending,” he said. “Most kids grow up wanting to score goals. But we’re just blessed to have six or seven kids that can play effectively in the back line and have depth in those positions, and I think that’s going to help us throughout the year.”
In the midfield, seniors Donny Maynard and Aidan Zak, as well as junior Carter McAbier, return with starting experience, while junior Cooper Roney also got the nod to start in the center against Chagrin Falls. And up top, senior Nolan Bonchek, a transfer from California, was on the pitch for the opening kick.
But Roney said he doesn’t want to get hung up on who starts and who doesn’t, because that can change from game to game, or reserves could end up playing more minutes than starters based on the need of each contest.
“I’m looking for guys who, in the environment we’re going to be in and the competition we’re facing, that are going to help us get the result that we want,” he said. “And, when I say the result, it’s who’s going to help us execute our game plan on the field. That’s what I’m interested in; who fundamentally is bought into the technical piece and the tactical piece and execute that during the game. It’s that simple.”
Kenston’s lone tally came in the 55th minute, when holding midfielder Hass took a free kick from just outside the top of the box, Chagrin junior goalie Ben Tinsley knocked it down, and Maynard hammered home the rebound for the 1-1 equalizer.
“Luke Haas took the shot, and he’s a big boy and has a strong leg. So, I think that kind of broke through the wall,” Roney said. “And (Maynard) just went in and cleaned it up. So, I was excited about that. We had three or four guys who got in behind the wall, and that served to kind of help us create a man-up situation when the ball became loose.”
Nonetheless, it was the Bombers’ fourth 1-1 stalemate against Chagrin Falls in the past five seasons, with the exception of a 3-0 loss last year. Kenston hasn’t defeated the Tigers since a 2-1 result in 2006.
When the Kenston boys walked off the pitch on Friday night, Roney said he could see the dissatisfaction on their faces.
“It’s good to be frustrated when you don’t perform,” he said. “It’s good to realize and recognize why. And then our focus has to be what we’re going to do about it and how we’re going to adapt. So, I was happy to see the level of frustration, as long as we turn that into something positive.
“Second, we can’t afford to be outworked. I can’t say there was a higher level of talent on Chagrin’s team, but I think, in some positions, we got outworked, and that can’t happen.”
Kenston was scheduled to host Strongsville on Wednesday night, before they head back on the road to take on Brecksville-Broadview Heights at 3 p.m. Saturday.