BY DAN STICKRADT
Ross Talbott has a dilemma: The Lake Orion girls volleyball coach has far more players than jerseys.
“We have around 30 freshman alone coming out this year,” he said during Wednesday’s afternoon session.
High School sports began in earnest this week around the state of Michigan. Football began Monday, while girls volleyball, boys soccer, girls golf, girls swimming, boys tennis and boys and girls cross country jumped into the fold on Wednesday morning.
Lake Orion has emerged as a state power in the last decade and interest is high at Oakland County’s second largest high school.
“We’ve had really big numbers the past couple of years,” added Talbott. “We should field three good teams again.”
Lake Orion finished as the Class A state runner-up in 2011, but lost in the district finals last season to rival Clarkston last season. The Dragons figure to be a top 20 team again in 2013.
“We still have a lot of talent and some good ones coming up,” added Talbott. “We should remain strong for a few more years.”
The numbers for fall teams seem to be up all over North Oakland County this August. Ditto for Rochester’s boys soccer program.
“We have close to 70 boys this season. That’s the most we’ve had in the seven years I’ve been here,” noted Rochester coach Chris Purgatori. “We had 23 freshmen show up today and we didn’t lose very many kids.”
Rochester, like many area teams, did lose players to the U.S. Academy, a year-round program that prohibits players from playing for their high school team across the country due to overlapping periods. Over a dozen Academy players from this talent-heavy region won’t be suiting up for their high school teams for the second straight season.
One player who is suiting up for Rochester for a fourth year is Spiro Pilakos, a two-time All-State standout and one of the state’s better players who have opted to play high school ball.
“There’s something about coming out and playing for your school,” noted Pilakos, who recently committed to Division I University of Detroit Mercy and also plays club soccer for WAZA. “We only lost one player to the Academy this season and we have most of our team back. We want to bring back the tradition here and hopefully win the district of death this year and make a deep run in the (state) tournament).
Rochester blew a late lead in a district semifinal last season and succumbed to Rochester Adams, 3-2. The Falcons did finish second in the OAA Red Division.
“We have something to prove,” added Pilakos.
At Rochester Hills Christian
For the first time in over two decades, Rochester Hills Christian enters the season as a defending state champion in boys soccer. The Eagles claimed the Michigan Association of Christian Schools Division I state crown in 2012, ending a 20-year drought.
There are eight starters and 12 players back this season, as the senior-heavy Eagles aim to defend their crown.
“We did lose a couple of key starters, and we had a few kids that came off our bench last season that are not returning for various reasons,” noted Jerry Slota. “We won’t be as a deep this year, but we have most of our starters back and we are looking forward to it. We have a lot of seniors, so this might be our last chance for a while (to contend for a state title).”
For the second straight season, Oxford’s boys soccer program welcomed in a large crop of freshman, pushing the total numbers over 50 players that showed up on Day 1.
“We have great numbers,” noted John Thaler, who is entering his 12th season at the helm, longer than any other Oxford boys soccer coach. “I don’t know if we’ll ever have a freshman team because not too many team in the (OAA Blue Division) have freshman teams. But I love it that we have great numbers. We could’ve really deep.”
Oxford is entering its fourth school year as a member of the Oakland Activities Association. The Wildcats have yet to win a league title in soccer since entering the league in 2010, but this year’s group should be one of the leaders in the OAA Blue Division.
“I don’t know if we’re the favorite, but I think we can contend and be one of the best in our league,” added Thaler. “We have a nice group of players this season. No stars, but a solid group of players.”
At Auburn Hills Avondale
It’s a new regime at Avondale, as Doug Steinard takes over the boys soccer program. Steinard, an assistant at Rochester High last season, also took over the Avondale girls program last spring and helped the Yellowjackets claim the OAA White Division league title.
“We have a nice core of players back. We should be competitive in our league,” said Steinard, who also spent the past four years playing for Rochester College. “I am impressed with some of the players.”
Avondale won the Division 2 state title in 2011.The Yellowjackets captured the OAA White Division crown and reached the district finals in 2012 under Dave Muczynski, who left the program abruptly after last season after 20 years.
“It’s a new era here. We’re going to play a little differently, but I think we can be very good,” noted Steinard. “I think we can win our league and hopefully make a run in the tournament.”
Avondale has five holdovers from the state championship team, plus several younger players hoping to make a name for themselves.
“We have one of the best goalies around, at least in the (entire) OAA, and some other good players,” said Steinard. “We have a great group of experienced players to build around.”
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