While many thought it would be a down season for Wheeling Park, Patriots coach Mario Julian knew this team was as good as any he had had.
Despite losing eight starters, one of the players coming back was senior Errin Baynes.
Being a captain for the Patriots is a big responsibility as the leader of one of the premier programs in West Virginia and the OVAC and Baynes' leadership was one of the driving forces behind Wheeling Park's continued success.
Members of the 23rd annual All-Valley Boys’ Soccer Team, front row, from left, are Andrew Duska (Steubenville Catholic), Connor Sherman (St. Clairsville), Bryce Bonnette (St. Clairsville), Lucas Dankovchik (Weir), Mike Zandron (Wheeling Park), and Mike Mauck (Wheeling Park). Back row are Tayari Lavender (Steubenville), Dylan Romine (Tyler Consolidated), Skylar Kinnard (Tyler Consolidated), Josh Barney (Weir), Cameron Allen (Wheeling Park), and Errin Baynes (Wheeling Park). Not pictured are Leo Herrmann (Steubenville Catholic), Harold Malone (Steubenville) and Jamal Ebanks (Linsly).
That made Baynes an easy choice to be the captain of The Intelligencer's 23rd annual All-Valley Soccer Team.
''It's a great honor to be selected as captain of the All-Valley team,'' Baynes said. ''I worked really hard this season so it is nice to be recognized for such an honor.''
While Baynes is best known for being a two-time state champion in the high jump (as well as being a pretty good basketball player), he's been pretty successful at soccer, too.
2011: Errin Baynes, Wheeling Park
2010: Josh Henderson, Wheeling Park
2009: Chad Ford, Weir; Josh Henderson, Wheeling Park
2008: Zach Aderholt, Wheeling Park
2007: Nader Sawtarie, Linsly
2006: Vinny Crumrine, Wheeling Park
2005: Issam Sawtarie, Linsly
2004: Jason Adams, Linsly
2003: Jason Adams, Linsly; Chad Evans, Wheeling Park; Stephen Reihner, Linsly; Kyle Regan, Wheeling Park
2002: Joey Burkland, Wheeling Park; Jake Mozney, Linsly
2001: Chris Crews, Wheeling Park; Jacob Schwertfeger, Brooke
2000: Alex Byrum, Linsly; Seth Harpold, Weir; Jon Hunt, St. Clairsville
1999: Cory Kalisz, Wheeling Park; Brant Moorhead, Weir
1998: Tim Fialkowski, Linsly; Ben Miller, Wheeling Park
1997: Matt Anastasi, Weirton Madonna; Tim Fialkowski, Linsly; Brian Schehl, Wheeling Park
1996: Jesse Harvey, Brooke; Chris Reinard, Weir
1995: Chad Adams, Linsly; T.J. Hannig, Linsly; Marcus Overheu, Indian Creek
1994: Chad Adams, Linsly
1993: Jamie Adams, Linsly
1992: Jamie Adams, Linsly
1991: Kenny Zinsky, Wheeling Park
1990: T.J. Recinella, Steub. Central; Kenny Zinsky, Wheeling Park
1989: Doug Sharpe, Wheeling Park; Kenny Zinsky, Wheeling Park
The only returning member of last season's All-Valley team, Baynes scored 16 goals with eight assists as a midfielder. His presence alone on set plays, with the opposition giving so much attention to him, opened up many of Park's other players. When opponents realized they couldn't just focus on Baynes, he was almost unguardable with 1-on-1 coverage.
Baynes moved with the ball arguably better than anyone in the valley, his eyes always looking down field for the open man.
Behind Baynes, Wheeling Park won its fourth straight OVAC championship, became nationally ranked after a perfect regular season, and advanced to the W.Va. State Soccer Tournament for the third time in his four seasons.
''I thought I led by example,'' Baynes said. ''I wasn't overly verbal, but I was real well-liked and the whole team looked up to me. I feel the way I played on the field brought everyone else's game up, too.''
Baynes was selected a first-team selection by the OVAC and named the Division 5A Player of the Year. He earned a first-team nod from the W.Va. High School Soccer Coaches Association and selected as its Midfielder of the Year.
'' I had a great season with the boys and I will remember this season forever,'' he said.
Cameron Allen, Wheeling Park
Despite just one season as a starter, Allen manned the pipes as well as anyone in the valley. Because of a solid team in front of him, the Patriots senior wasn't tested too much but came up big when he had to. With 14 shutouts, Allen used his lengthy frame to get to just about any ball. He gave up just 16 goals and allowed just one during the Patriots' OVAC title run and was perfect through the sectional and regional tournaments. He was a first-team selection by the OVAC and the coaches, as well as the Goalkeeper of the Year.
Josh Barney, Weir
With a young group, Barney was relied upon heavily to stand up and keep Weir's successful tradition going. He was more than up to the task. Barney showed his worth when it mattered the most as he was between the pipes for two playoff shootout victories, a sectional title triumph against Wheeling Central and a Class AA/A semifinal victory against Berkeley Springs. Barney is a four-year letterwinner and recorded nine shutouts with 170 saves and a .944 goals against average. He was a first-team selection by the OVAC and the coaches.
St. Clairsville is one of the up-and-coming teams in the OVAC and it all starts with defense. Bonnette, one of two Red Devils defenders on the All-Valley team, is the perfect definition of a lockdown defender. A team captain, four-year letterwinner and three-year starter for Coach Gary Watt, not a single goal or assist came against Bonnette all season. Only four shots were taken from his side of the field. Bonnette had one goal with eight assists and was second team All-Eastern District.
The heart of the Red Riders defense was Dankovchik, a four-year letterwinner for Coach Joe Pepe, who was often assigned the best player on the opposing team's offense. The senior has great speed and foot skills as the leader of the Weir defense. With 120 steals, two assists and a goal, Dankovchik was a team captain and named a first-teamer by the coaches and the OVAC.
The senior netminder posted three shutouts with a 1.82 goals against average while making nearly nine saves per game. The Crusaders were in a major rebuilding mode having lost nine starters, returning just Duska and one other player. It was that inexperience that made Duska's performance so outstanding, almost single-handily keeping Steubenville Catholic in games and leading it to an OVAC Division III title. He was the winning goalkeeper in a memorable 11-round shootout victory against St. Clairsville in the OVAC quarters. Duska was named to the OVAC first team.
Ebanks be-came the perfect weapon for Coach Eric Fries and the Linsly Cadets. His mixture of size (6-foot-2) and speed made him a scoring threat whenever he touched the ball. The junior forward showed plenty of athleticism and, much like Baynes, defenses had to change the way they played to match his skill set. According to Fries, Ebanks' best attribute was his finishing ability and his composure in front of the goal. From the Cayman Islands, Ebanks scored 13 goals with three assists and was named first-team All-OVAC and was a second-team selection by the coaches.
The fourth goalie on the All-Valley team, Kinnard leaves Tyler Consolidated as one of the top players to grace a Silver Knights uniform. His eight shutouts this season was a school record to go along with the career shutout record he holds. He also has more victories than any keeper in the school's nine-year history. Kinnard had a 1.00 goals against average with a .792 save percentage. His strong leg on goal kicks and punts led to instant offense. He even scored a goal while getting a chance to play offense. Kinnard was a first-team selection by the coaches and the OVAC.
Herrmann burst onto the scene this season, a season after his brother, Peter, was named to the All-Valley squad. One of the youngest members of the All-Valley team, the sophomore forward scored 31 goals to lead the Crusaders in scoring and also added eight assists, giving coach Steve Kopcha a key ingredient to build around for the future. Herrmann was also named to the OVAC first team.
When playing Steubenville, most coaches knew the best way to win was to stop Lavender. It was easier said than done. With 22 goals and six assists, Lavender used his speed to create separation and get into open space despite constantly being under double and triple teams. Lavender was able to change a game in an instant and Coach Greg Bowers referred to him as ''one of the best players I have ever had.'' Lavender was named to the OVAC first team and was the Division 4A Player of the Year.
Malone was one of the more versatile players in the valley, able to play offense or defense at a high level. Malone played mostly center midfield, but was used some on defense to help out an inexperienced group. The senior accounted for 12 goals and 15 assists and was the perfect complement to Lavender as Big Red advanced to the OVAC Cup Finals for a third straight season. Malone was selected to the OVAC first team.
Moving up from the second team, Mauck took his game to another level this season as the Patriots' top offensive threat. Mauck tied for the team lead in goals with 20 and added 20 assists. Mauck was always near the ball and had one of the best-looking shots around. His tenacity led to many Wheeling Park scoring chances and things only got better from there. Mauck was a first-team OVAC and coaches selection.
Scott Wall is quietly building a solid program at Tyler Consolidated that might be just about ready to break through. With pieces like Romine at his disposal, you have to like his chances. Just a sophomore, Romine led the Silver Knights with 14 goals and two assists despite being a defender, accounting for 41 percent of the team's offense. Romine is able to strike the ball with power and accuracy from any distance. Romine was named first team All-OVAC.
The leader of the St. Clairsville defense, Sherman joins his backfield mate Bonnette on the All-Valley Team. Sherman had four goals and four assists, but it was his play in front of his own net that made him so successful. Sherman controlled the middle of the field with his aggressive and dominating play and earned a lot of respect from many of the coaches in the Ohio Valley as St. Clairsville advanced to the district finals for the first time since 1999. A team captain and three-year starter, Sherman was also an All-Eastern District, and All-OVAC nominee.
Zandron was as steady a sweeper you will find and took his game game to a high level. As the lone returning starter on Coach Mario Julian's defense, Zandron made life easier for Allen and brought up the play of the defenders around him. He was the main guy on direct kicks, giving the Patriots yet another offensive weapon. Zandron was a first-team selection by the coaches.