Central’s hard work leads to Steve Kopcha grabbing Coach of the Year award

CROWNING CHAMPIONS — The Steubenville Catholic Central boys soccer team celebrates winning an OVAC title agaisnt Linsly on Sept. 30. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

STEUBENVILLE — Individual awards are nice, but team accomplishments are better. Sometimes, team accomplishments tend to lead to individual awards.

That was the case this season for the Steubenville Catholic Central boys soccer team. For the team’s performance, head coach Steve Kopcha was named as the Ohio Division III Eastern District Coach of the Year.

“I do certainly appreciate it and recognize it as being a very high honor,” Kopcha said. “It is a reflection of how great of a season the team had as well as how the boys played this season. It is more of a congratulations to them on how well they played this season.”

The Crusaders finished at 13-5 that included an Ohio Division III Eastern District sectional title, the team’s third straight OVAC Class 1A/3A Tournament championship as well as their third straight Class 1A/3A regular season title.

“I think our success this season was a combination of a large senior class that provided leadership and experience as well as a large freshmen class that contributed along with the sophomores and juniors we had returning,” Kopcha said. “It was a complete team effort. We had contributions from different players and different classes the entire season. The seniors provided good leadership, and the individual players on the entire team provided great contributions throughout the season.”

The Crusaders entered the sectional tournament as the No. 3 seed, and Catholic Central defeated No. 5 seed Coshocton, 5-0, at home on the Tony Recinella Soccer Field to advance to the district semifinals against top-seeded Tuscarawas Valley. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, the Trojans knocked the Crusaders out of the playoffs for the second straight season as Tusky Valley came away with a hard fought 4-3 victory at Minerva.

“It is always hard,” Kopcha said. “Most teams’ season end without winning a state championship, meaning their final game is a loss. Tusky was the No. 1 seed in the district, and it deserved to be. We were able to get a first round victory over Coshocton. We gave everything we had against Tusky. It was a one-goal game.

“I was pleased with the effort we gave, and I was pleased with the effort we gave the entire season. We gave a great effort every time we stepped onto the field. That is definitely something I take great pride in.”

In the OVAC Tournament, top-seeded Catholic Central defeated No. 4 seed Caldwell, 5-0, at home in the semifinals before defeating Linsly, 4-1, in the tournament final at Red Devil Stadium down at St. Clairsville. The Crusaders have beaten the Cadets in the finals in each of the past three seasons.

“We want to represent the school within the OVAC, and we want to win an OVAC championship,” Kopcha said. “We want to represent the OVAC at the district level as well as the state level. That is what we strive for every year. The competition in the OVAC is great. Linsly is a very talented team. They have been for many years. It was nice to see new teams make the tournament in Caldwell and Wheeling Central. Wheeling Central had not made the tournament for a few seasons. The tournament is a challenge, and our kids were rewarded this season by winning an OVAC championship.”

The Crusaders are losing a good group of seniors, but the cupboard will not be bare for Catholic Central next year.

“You always hate to see the seniors leave,” Kopcha said. “These seniors are a very decorated class, and they are worthy of all of the honors they have received.

“I hate to see the seniors leave, but we did get contributions from the juniors and the sophomores, and the freshmen came in and they were able to get use to the program. They were able to develop, and we are looking forward to them continuing to develop in the next three years.”

It is too early to know how many freshmen will be coming into the program next season.

“It is tough to say,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as large of a group. I think we may get four to six freshmen to come in. It is tough to tell at that age. They have to make the decision on if they want to play high school soccer. They are a part of a lot of other activities. Some years, you don’t get the numbers you expect, but there are also surprises as well. If we are able to get in the 4-6 range next year, that will be good.”

Catholic Central had another successful season in 2017, and the Crusaders are looking to continue to be success in 2018 and beyond.

“This was a successful and rewarding season,” Kopcha said. “As a result of that, the players were able to receive all of the honors they received, and that led to me receiving this honor. This honor is a reflection of the the kids and the program, and it is a testament to how well of a season we had this year.”