Participation and depth appear to be strengths of the Nordonia High School boys soccer team as the Knights prepare to open the 2016 season.
Last year, Nordonia finished with an overall record of 4-11-1. The Knights then lost in the first round of the postseason tournament to Howland.
Nordonia only lost three players to graduation, although they were tough losses: Brandan Sidoti, Jarritt Louthan, and Michael Hirsch.
The good news is that the Knights have more than enough players to replace those that departed. In fact, there are 10 players in this year's senior class.
That class consists of Carlton Spitz, Cody Dodds, Conner Kaminicki, Evan Morrison, Jack McMichael, Mike Whelpley, Pat Schlund, Sam Chaffee, Trey Crockett and Matt Mendez.
In addition, there are nine members of the junior class. Among those juniors are Alex Piccorillo, Aundre Hildreth, Dustin Yuhas, Edward Madden, Jason Stopar, Josh Palmentera, Kyle Dubnicka, Nate Dudak and Dylan Skinner.
Nordonia's sophomore class includes Caden Karkoska, Colin Thornton, Eric Weaver, Jacob Melensek, Mark Kaczmarek and Shawn Uguccini.
While there are 10 members of the senior class, the Knights also have 10 freshmen on the roster: Andrs Zuluaga, Andrew Jucha, Brendan Jackson, Izac Colman, Jack Herberth, James Olsen, Josh Schneck, Manny Lane, Thomas Colombo and Zack Westbrooks.
Nordonia head coach Jason Stepp is pleased with the number of athletes participating in soccer this year.
"We don't only have 10 seniors, but we also have 10 freshmen learning underneath them," said Stepp. "We're starting to develop a program. As far as weaknesses go, we're still a young group that's learning their positions."
Nordonia competes in the National Conference of the Suburban League, which is sure to present its fair share of challenges to the Knights.
"From top to bottom and left to right, our league is so strong on the pitch," said Stepp. "It's one of the best leagues in the state."
According to Stepp, one of the priorities for the Knights is to exorcise postseason ghosts from years past.
"Not only do we want to win games, but we also want to get out of the first round of the playoffs," he said. "It's something the boys have told me that they've seen for a long time: Nordonia's teams in the past struggle with postseason play."
Stepp is starting his second year as the head coach at Nordonia. Serving as assistant coaches this season will be Greg Schultz, Derek Mercer and Nick Miletti.
Nordonia is scheduled to kick off the 2016 campaign Aug. 19, against Bedford at home. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The Knights will then visit Kenston Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. and Warren Harding Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.