Zane Trace looking to reach third straight regional tournament


Zane Trace Soccer

In recent history for southeastern Ohio soccer programs, the third time seems to be anything but a charm when attempting to win a third straight district title; however, the Pioneers of Zane Trace look to add its soccer program to this elite list in the upcoming season.  

In recent history for southeastern Ohio soccer programs, the third time seems to be anything but a charm when attempting to win a third straight district title; however, the Pioneers of Zane Trace look to add its soccer program to this elite list in the upcoming season. 

“Other than some really good programs like Alexander, Wheelersburg and Athens, not a lot of teams in our district have won three straight district titles in recent years,” head coach Rudy Roediger said. “Our goal here at Zane Trace is to keep the same level of play that this program has had the past two seasons.  We know we have the target of being district champions the last two years, but our goal is to continue playing at that level.”

The level the first-year coach is referring to is the level that the 2006 D-III state coach of the year, Gary Blumberg established in the 2005 and 2006 seasons – his only two seasons as head coach.  Before Blumberg’s arrival, the Pioneers suffered losing seasons from 2000-2004; however, ZT soccer has now won 35 games in the past two years and Blumberg is confident that he is leaving the program in good hands with Roediger.

“I’ve been keen on involving him in the program for some time,” Blumberg said of Roediger in a recent release in the Zane Trace soccer media guide. “He's grown up through high school soccer in this area. He has been absolutely committed and passionate about his program.”

Roediger, who was a very successful high school and college soccer player in his own right, is very excited about the challenge ahead.  He knows that Zane Trace did graduate some big contributors, but he remains confident in what his Pioneers return for the 2007 campaign.

A big reason for the high expectations comes with the returning of some big pieces in the Pioneer attack.  Although Zane Trace did lose 58-percent of its offense from a year ago, the transition for many newcomers should be helped by the presence of Zane Trace’s all-time leading goal scorer in senior Cory Keister.  Keister, an incredible athlete who also stars at off-guard for the Pioneer basketball team and is an outstanding shortstop on the diamond in the spring, set the career mark at 65 goals in just three years.  The 6-2 senior will lead a group that should contain much bigger roles for sophomore speedster Justin Wells and junior Alex Woltz. Freshmen Tyler VanBuskirck and Kody Payne will look to contribute as the season moves along.

Zane Trace’s biggest hole to fill will come in the middle of the field.  Four-year starter and back-to-back district POY Michael Jaruwannakorn is now off to Marshall University. He controlled the midfield and scored 42 goals (fourth most in school history). Roediger says Zane Trace will need to turn to a variety of talents to replace the Division I talent.

Seniors Travis Smith and Evan Cox will be the leading candidates to serve as the link between attack and defense. Roediger feels his senior pair provides a good physical presence and a good sense of leadership.  The Pioneers will also look to senior Nathan VanBuskirck and sophomore Wyatt Smith to sure up the wings of their lineup.

The part of the Pioneers hit the hardest by graduation comes on the defensive end of the field.  Kazz Hall and Rusty Ortman are both off to play college soccer at Shawnee State University, where they join teammate Jordan Buck.  Senior Ryan Jaruwannakorn and sophomore Logan Shepherd are leading candidates to secure the center of the back line.  Senior Jeremiah Payne along with sophomore Jordan Jenkins will look to secure the right and left backs respectively.  This new defensive group should get plenty of help in covering up their mistakes from senior goalkeeper Matt Miller.  The 6-4 senior has started the last 40 games in goal for the Pioneers, and in that time he has recorded 35 wins,16 shutouts and as allowed just a hair over a single goal per contest.

Even though Zane Trace High School is a member of the Scioto Valley Conference, the league does not have the required five schools to make it an official league sport; therefore, the Pioneers are an independent.  This is a status that does not necessarily bother Roediger.

“Not being a part of a league has never really been that big of deal to many of the area teams,” Roediger said. “Schools like Zane Trace, Unioto, Piketon and Alexander have always unofficially been a part of the southeast Ohio independent league.  These schools have always played one another and these match-ups have always produced some league-type rivalries.” 

“Overall the sport of soccer has grown in so many ways over the past decade. Parents and kids are being far more educated about the game now, and kids are getting the chance to play at the college level as well.  It used to be local soccer players had to learn a lot of things kids do not need to learn by themselves.  It is really exciting and rewarding to see how far the sport has come.”

The other characteristic the Zane Trace program continues to have that all great programs have is a tough schedule.  The Pioneers face seven teams who played in their district tournament last year and three of those went on to win their district championship and advance to the Sweet 16.

“Our schedule will once again prepare us well for postseason play, and it will allow us to be right in the mix come tournament time.” Roediger said “Zane Trace has been cemented as one of the premier teams in the southeast district the last two years. We will be younger than many expect, but we still have a number of players remaining from the 2005 squad who saw the beginning of a new era here at Zane Trace.”

The Pioneers will look to continue their era of success under Roediger when they host Worthington Christian on August 23.  Worthington Christian is responsible for ending Zane Trace’s season in each of the last two regional tournaments, and the Warriors won the D-III state title last season.

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