More often than not, high school coaches shy away from comparing teams of the past to the one they are currently coaching.
Medina boys soccer coach Simon Spelling might be the exception. Coming off a 2016 season in which the Bees became the first Medina County boys program to reach the state semifinals, The Gazette 2017 Fall Coach of the Year did one better by reaching the Division I state final.
Spelling, who is the first fall coach to win the award in back-to-back years in its 23-year history, embraced the past and told those who would listen that 2017 was going to be better.
“Last year we had balance,” Spelling said. “We had youngsters and oldsters that complemented each other very well, and I think it helped in the way we played. Defensively, we were nice and solid. We took advantage and rode the wave.
“We were very young, and as much as we would like to win every game, that’s not going to happen. All the way through the season, we were playing for the real season, the postseason. You’re not going to blow people out of the water in the regular season. During the course of the games in the regular season, it doesn’t mean that much. As long as we learn from it and become strong as a result, that’s the main thing.”
That might be the biggest advantage the 16-2-5 Bees had.
While some are happy when their team wins league games and conference championships, Medina worried about the second season, when Spelling thought the Bees were going to shine.
“He kind of places the expectations in there before the season even starts,” defender Andrew Horton said. “We go to school, he’s a teacher. He checks up on us every once in a while. He says, ‘Hey, we made it to the state semifinal last year, but the state finals, that’s our goal this year.’ He plants those seeds early.
“He doesn’t let us get content with district championships. He expects bigger and better things from us. We’ve been fortunate to deliver. He sets a high bar.”
District titles have become a staple at Medina, which has reached the district finals seven seasons in a row, won it three years in a row and reached the round of 16 five times in that stretch.
“Having the top guy believe in us it made us push each other even more,” keeper Tyler Glasenapp said. “He started pushing us really hard the entire season, but as the playoffs got closer, he made practices harder and made everything a competition. It’s that saying from LeBron (James), ‘Nothing is given, everything is earned.’ That’s definitely true with him.”
An All-Gazette keeper, Glasenapp shared time with honorable mention All-Gazette keeper Alex Stan.
Spelling mastered the art of a goalie platoon and wasn’t afraid to switch the lineup when he brought up Steve Samuelson and Cole Werthmuller from the junior varsity late in the regular season.
Samuelson scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Copley in the district final. Werthmuller put the final nail in three-time defending state champion St. Ignatius in a 2-0 state semifinal.
“His mentality created the competitiveness we had in practice,” second-team all-state forward Andy Prostor said. “You play in practice like you do in games. If you have that same competitive attitude in practice, you’re going to perform better and better every day. It starts with him.”
Even when the Bees struggled, Spelling’s undying belief in his team pushed them through. While going through the gauntlet of the 16-game schedule Medina puts together can be hard, Spelling found ways motivate.
Before falling 1-0 in double overtime to Beavercreek in the state final, the only other loss the Bees had was to Brunswick in the fifth game of the season.
There was a stretch where Medina struggled, however, and it really defined 2017. Just before the postseason run, the Bees tied 3-of-4 games and 4-of-6.
Undaunted, they beat Brecksville to end the season and rolled off playoff wins against Firestone, Brunswick, Copley, Olmsted Falls, Sylvania Northview and St. Ignatius to reach Columbus.
“He made us believe in ourselves more,” defender Brandon Leckie said. “We kept preaching that we’re a different team. We’re better than that team last year.’”
When 2018 rolls around, Medina might be better than they were in November.
While Spelling has done amazing things, the former Akron All-American and veteran coach isn’t satisfied.
“We need to have improvement on and off the field,” Spelling said. “We need better athletes. We need to be better people and better coaches every year.
“We accept the fact that we haven’t reached the standard we want yet. There’s still work to be done. I don’t want any coach, any parent or any player to think that we’re the bee’s knees because we’re not. We haven’t won anything yet. That’s going to happen over the course of the next two or three years.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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