Jonathan Kostoff scouted the Kenston girls soccer team twice this past fall, first during a 1-1 draw against Mayfield and then a 2-1 loss against Chagrin Falls.
The second-year head coach for the Beachwood varsity girls at the time, Kostoff was preparing for a possible Division II district semifinal match against the Lady Bombers, who were putting together their most potent offensive season in program history.
The Kenston girls, who finished 14-3-1 with a repeat Western Reserve Conference banner at 6-0-1 in the league, finished their 2019 campaign with 85 goals. Their previous single-season program record was 59 goals.
So, it was rare that Kostoff only saw one goal scored by Kenston in each of the two games he scouted.
But Kostoff will be seeing a lot more of the Lady Bombers’ offense in 2020, as Kenston athletic director Reid Guarnieri announced the hiring of Kostoff to take over the varsity girls coaching job last week, citing confidence in Kostoff’s communication structure, awareness of the area girls soccer landscape, commitment to growing the program from the bottom up and an eagerness to learn and become a better coach.
Kostoff fills the void left by Kathleen Vass, who led the Lady Bombers to a 47-31-6 record with three trips to the district semifinals during her five seasons at the helm.
After spending two years head coaching the Beachwood girls program, Kostoff said his attraction to the position at Kenston was threefold, including the Lady Bombers’ strong youth system, talent that is off the charts at the high school level and practice times that meet his schedule demands as a professional outside the teaching realm.
Kostoff has a communications degree from the University of Dayton.
“Kenston Futbol Club just seemed like a really good fit with a great youth system that feeds into middle school and feeds into high school,” Kostoff said. “Basically, there’s just an active community at Kenston that is hungry for more and more soccer. So, that was No. 1.”
In addition to his previous role at Beachwood, Kostoff also coached in various youth systems, including fourth- and fifth-grade girls at Orange, as well as third- and fourth-grade boys at Revere.
He also refereed soccer for five years and coached the middle school boys team at Beachwood, before taking on the varsity girls role in 2018.
“You learn so much from coaching different ages that you can kind of apply what you learn about coaching girls at the youngest of ages and the highest of ages at the high school level,” Kostoff said. “There’s just so much to learn, and you kind of see the game in so many different ways. And I think that’s helped me.
“High school boys is really the only group I’ve never had the opportunity to coach.”
Kostoff has also coached at the club level, including with Team Challenger Futbol Club and Cleveland Everest Futbol Club.
While Kostoff hasn’t coached high school boys soccer, he grew up in Revere’s system and was a senior when the Minutemen went 20-3 in the fall of 2010, finishing Division II state runners-up with a 3-2 loss against Dayton Carroll at Crew Stadium in Columbus.
The Revere boys have been to the state championship game five times since 2010, including a title victory in 2013 and four runner-up finishes.
“The run that we had as a small school in Richfield, Ohio, you know, I think we had 12 seniors on that team, and we played together for 10 years before that,” Kostoff said. “And these were kids I grew up playing soccer with.
“So, I just loved my high school experience so much that I wanted to get back into it, not just the winning, but the camaraderie of being with the friends you grew up playing soccer with, that you grew up going to school with. I just love that about high school soccer, especially in the public ranks.”
When Kostoff took over the varsity girls helm at Beachwood, the Lady Bison were coming off a five-win campaign from 2017.
In 2018, Kostoff led the Beachwood girls to a 15-4 record that ended with a Division III district semifinal loss, 3-0, against eventual state runner-up Kirtland. He had a pair of freshmen, Romi Roth, 29 goals, and Sydney Sarver, 23 goals, who were first-team all-Greater Cleveland. Also, Roth was the first Lady Bison to be named all-Ohioan.
And in 2019, Kostoff led the Beachwood girls to a 9-4-4 campaign that ended with a Division II district quarterfinal loss against Aurora, 3-0. The triumphant Lady Greenmen went on to upset Kenston, 2-1, in the district semis.
“This team that’s coming off 14 wins this past season, a No. 1 seed (in the district) and back-to-back conference championships is super exciting for a first-year coach,” Kostoff said of taking over Kenston. “I think the sky’s the limit for this team. And to be so young and have experience playing in playoff games, winning conference championships, I think the world of how much we’re bringing back and just the future of Kenston girls soccer.”
Kenston graduates five seniors, notably speedy forward Elyse Myles, who tallied 23 goals and seven assists in 2019, and emergency goalkeeper Julia Piazza, who had 35 saves.
But the 2020 Lady Bombers will welcome the return of Natalie Adante, who collected 102 saves as a first-team all-WRC goalkeeper her sophomore season in 2018, before she was sidelined by an ACL injury in 2019.
In addition, Kenston will return nine current sophomores and freshmen who have starting experience, all of whom have scored goals, most notably second-team all-Ohioan Skylar Cornell, who tallied 26 goals and eight assists as a sophomore this past fall.
“I just think they’re going to be a fantastic team and they already play the style that I like to play – up-tempo, fast, scoring goals, just electric offensively, and an idea and a formation that says, ‘We’re here to score goals,’” Kostoff said. “We’re just going to play 80 minutes of a brand of soccer that’s going to make more and more people come out to games and think even higher of Kenston soccer.
“And, for me, this group is not just 2020. It’s ’21, it’s ’22, it’s ’23, and know that there’s a lot of talent at the middle school and coming up in the ranks. We’re talking about building a program that is sustainable for a decade to come, and that’s what we’re looking for.”