By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Cruiser boys varsity soccer team made their mark on history in winning the 2019 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division championship.
The Cruisers finished 5-0 in OCC play and 13-2-1 overall. They now move on to tournament play.
“We are so proud of our boys soccer team,” said Groveport Madison Athletic Director Steve Petros. “Coach Gleason has done a tremendous job of working our guys hard and they have gotten better every week of the season. You can’t ask more from a program than continuous improvement. This is also a great milestone for our kids who came before. In particular those kids who stuck with us and played when the program was unfunded about six years ago. Those families and unpaid coaches kept the program alive and gave us the stability to reach the next level. All Cruisers should be proud of this program.”
Cruiser boys varsity soccer head coach Tyler Gleason said the team has many strengths.
“We are physically very gifted,” said Gleason. “A lot of size and speed on this team, but there is also a lot of skill of technical ability. Our midfield has been tremendous this season and is really the rallying point for our team.”
He said the team also has great attacking play and players.
“Our front six players can hang with just about any team in central Ohio,” said Gleason. “Our backline has been our ‘weak spot,’ but not because our guys back there aren’t good. Most of them are very green and new to their roles and positions so we’ve been growing. Its hard to convert attacking players into defenders, but some of these guys are very selfless. They have started to turn it on. If they continue to improve and gel, I would be scared as an opposing team to play us, especially considering that behind our backline is a goalkeeper who is very capable of keeping us in games by himself.”
Senior captain Austin Snyder is a proven scorer for the team.
“Austin has currently scored 58 career goals, 22 of those coming thus far this season,” said Gleason. “His perfect combination of skill, lightning quickness, speed, strength and determination make him a force in high school soccer. His first step is so quick that its difficult for defenders to mark him by themselves. He also is strong, has great balance and has a low center of gravity, so he’s hard to push off of the ball and he does not go down easily. He has a great ability to shoot and sees the field well. All of these things make him a tremendous high school soccer player and will make him an outstanding college player.”
Snyder pulls double duty as the placekicker for the Cruiser varsity football team.
“It’s a lot of work for Austin to play both soccer and football,” said Gleason. “We played a Thursday night game against Whitehall in soccer, in which Austin led us in a come from behind victory, scoring three goals in about eight minutes. Towards the end of the game he had made multiple 60 plus yard sprinting runs and was physically gassed. The next night the football team beat Pickerington Central and there was a lengthy lightning delay which meant the game did not end until 10:15 p.m. I cannot imagine he got home and in bed until at least midnight. The next morning we faced Pickerington North in a 10 a.m. kickoff. You can imagine how hard that could’ve been. It’s physically taxing to constantly be on your feet and working your body. Whether it is soccer or football, he’s always got something he’s working on. But he’s a tough guy.”
Gleason said the boys soccer team has many standout players
“Obviously, Austin Snyder has been a huge part of our success,” said Gleason. “L.J. Minah (junior) has also been instrumental for us. He starts at the center forward position and his technical ability and quickness make him a nightmare for center backs. Recently, Edward Olusemo (junior) has really turned it on. He is physically strong and skilled. He is a powerful player for us and, as his confidence grows, so does our team.”
In the midfield, Gleason said Melvin Escamilla (senior, captain) is an anchor at the defensive mid position.
“He starts our attacks and is tremendous at cutting at passes and organizing our midfield defensively,” said Gleason. “In front of him is a perfect combination of size and skill in Jeffrey Asamoah (junior, captain), who wins balls out of the air, distributes well and can shoot from anywhere. David Pascua (sophomore) is a tremendous talent. He is slippery with the ball, plays quick and always makes great choices with the ball. Those three in the middle, with Austin and Edward, and L.J. up top, make us a formidable, attacking team.”
In the back, Gleason said Foday Camara (junior) is a force for at center back. Austin Gautier (senior) and Chandler Jones (junior) have both contributed significant minutes for in the back.
“On the outsides, Caleb Dailey is a bright spot,” said Gleason. “He was a forward, turned outside back. He selflessly accepted his role as a defender for the better of the team and has improved at his position every step of the way. Sophomore Ali Alanfagi shifted from an attacking player into an outside defender and helped transform this team. In goal Eddie Monroy is instrumental in keeping the team in games and making big saves in big moments.”
Gleason said a highlight for the season was the win against New Albany.
“That team has owned this division for the past four years,” said Gleason. “Not only had they not lost an OCC game in four years, but they hadn’t surrendered more than two goals in any OCC game. That is our bright-spot thus far for the season, but we are looking to change that in the Central District tournament.”
The soccer program’s future is bright.
“As you can see from our key players, there are a lot of juniors,” said Gleason. “Replacing Austin, Melvin, Eddie, Austin Gautier and Caleb, as well as the contributors on the bench like Jake Benline, Cesar Tobon, Austin Evans, Eusebio Mangolona, will be tough, but we have a lot of experience returning next year and we expect to compete for another OCC title.”