Brookside’s hopes and dreams of a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division championship can be summed up in one word — defense.
With three seniors anchoring the defensive end of the field and four-year starter Connor Baughman in goal, the Cardinals will have one of the most experienced and toughest defenses in the area.
“This year the defense is looking extremely solid,” Baughman said. “In the preseason we played really well together and we didn’t concede a lot of goals.”
Baughman has been like a wall in front of the goal for Brookside throughout his career. Last year he made 155 saves and had four shutouts in earning all-district, all-county and all-conferences honors.
“I can’t imagine not having Connor back there, he saves a lot of games for us,” senior defender Austin Schill said. “Even if we get beat on defense we know there’s like a 70-30 chance Connor is still gonna make the save. There seems to be nothing he can’t stop.”
Schill, four-year starter Joel Pospisil and converted midfielder Josiah Ortiz are the Cardinals’ starting defenders.
Last year Brookside allowed only 26 goals while going 13-5 and advancing to the Division II district semifinals. Ortiz expects they will be just as good, if not better, this season.
“As a defense we have high expectations for ourselves this year,” Ortiz said.
Our main goal is to win the PAC and as long as we come out and play our game we have a great chance of doing that.”
Brookside coach Tony Rozanc is so confident in his defense he didn’t even have to spend much time on it in the offseason.
“Every year I’ve coached it’s always been build your defense first,” Rozanc said. “This year we’ve really been able to focus on offense more because the defense is set. It’s been a great luxury.”
With vocal veterans like Pospisil, who earned honorable mention all-district honors last season, and Baughman in the center of the field, communication is one of the keys to the Cardinals’ success.
“These guys know what I like to do and I know what they like to do,” Baughman said. “We’re always talking out there on the field. We all complement each other well.”
Rozanc flirted with the idea of moving Pospisil up to midfield, but quickly decided not to mess with a good thing.
“Joel would make a great midfielder but I didn’t want to break up the combination I have back there,” Rozanc said. “We have a group that really knows how to keep the ball out of net.”
Pospisil will be busy this fall. In addition to playing soccer, he also runs cross country and is the kicker on the football team.
The Cardinals graduated top goal scorer Owen Rozanc so goals may be at a premium, especially early in the season, putting even more pressure on the defense.
“A lot of people in the conference don’t expect us to do as well this year because we lost a lot of great seniors,” Schill said. “But this year’s seniors and our underclassmen really stepped up in the offseason so I think we’re going to be just as good as last year, maybe even better.”
The Cardinals will find out early where they stand in the PAC title race when they have back-to-back home games versus Buckeye and Firelands.
“Doing as well as we did last year taught us what it takes to be successful in the future,” Baughman said. “As a group we know how to win.”
Schill echoed Baughman’s sentiments.
“Everyone here believes in themselves,” he said. “No one has any doubt we can get back to where we were last year and go even further.”
Brookside has allowed three or more goals in a game three times in its last 20 games, so it all comes back to the defense, of course.
“I don’t anticipate us having a lot of high-scoring games this year, but our defense is so good we’ll be in every game,” Rozanc said.