Need a cap? Eli Fragnoli probably has one or two to spare. In fact, if the Highland forward keeps scoring at this pace, he might need a new closet.
As the Hornets round the halfway point and look forward to games this week against Aurora, Copley and Olmsted Falls, Fragnoli has logged four hat tricks in nine games.
“The guy is Superman for us right now,” Highland coach Denny Ciornei said. “He has a great core around him that loves to feed him and see the team succeed. It’s not just the individual.”
That team concept starts with Fragnoli at the top and has paid dividends. Fragnoli has hat tricks against Brunswick (7-3-1), Archbishop Hoban (7-1-2), St. Vincent-St. Mary (2-7-2) and Firestone (6-3-1).
Only Medina, which is ranked third in the Division I state coaches poll, has held Fragnoli off the scoring sheet.
What’s more, in the eight games Fragnoli has scored, only Revere, which is No. 5 in the D-II coaches poll, has held him to a single point.
“If I give Eli a good through ball, I know he’s going to score,” center midfielder Andras Fabian said. “There have been moments where I’ve passed it to him and I’m like, ‘I don’t even have to look at what he’s doing because it’s going to be a goal regardless.’
“You’re going to get it every night from him whether you play the worst team in the division or the best team in the division. If you put him in a situation, he’s going to capitalize.”
The transformation of Fragnoli has been incredible under first-year coach Ciornei.
Last season, Fragnoli scored five goals and had three assists. In the two previous seasons, he had a combined three goals and six assists.
Switching places with Fabian from center midfielder to forward has produced dividends, as Fragnoli enters the week atop the Medina County leaders with 16 goals and six assists (38 points).
“It comes with the philosophy of letting someone play with their strength,” Ciornei said. “Whatever their best attributes are, you accelerate the game around that. I try to take whatever the kid has naturally, add a little bit of IQ and add something that’s never been seen before so no one can sustain him.
“Any time you have a track star with unbelievable foot skills, you can’t contain him. We have to create space for him. We’ve created passing lanes for him so that once it’s one-on-one, you can’t stop him.”
Ciornei’s game plan isn’t about playing the ball up to Fragnoli from the back.
Instead, it’s to get it to him moving with his body facing the goal.
“(Ciornei) has a more of an attacking mindset,” Fragnoli said. “Previously, we were more of a defensive team. This year, we’re attacking more and sacrificing a clean sheet for that. The change in formation with only four in the middle complements my attacking ability because with two forwards I only have to focus on one side of the field.”
Once the ball is at Fragnoli’s feet, it’s academic.
He has multiple goals in five games and is the catalyst for a team that has only been shut out once (Medina).
“The game of soccer is all about imagination,” Ciornei said. “Everything changes so fast. You can have a philosophy and structure of how you play, but ultimately when you get that ball at your foot, you have to recognize what they’re doing.
“It’s giving him the green light to think there is no right or wrong. If there is no right or wrong, he has no problem taking a chance from 90 yards away. That’s where that confidence comes from.”
Fragnoli has caught the eyes of Alleghany College, the University of Rochester, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyan College.
The idea of playing at the next level is as much an incentive as leading Highland.
“That is the motivating factor,” Fragnoli said. “The University of Rochester, that’s in New York, so they’re not really hearing about me. Now, if I keep with it and there’s articles with my name in them, that’s an easy way for them to see what I’m doing.”