ST. MARYS — After the St. Marys boys soccer team scored a few early goals, Thursday night turned into more of a coronation than a contest.
The St. Marys boys soccer team clinched the program’s first Western Buckeye League championship with an 8-0 against Van Wert at Roughrider Field on Thursday.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” St. Marys head coach Dave Ring said. “This is just a fantastic moment for our team.”
The program began in 1996, has come close a handful of times and finally broke through with this 7-0-2 season that left it atop the WBL.
“The last four years we’ve been so close,” St. Marys senior Zack Wilker said. “It just feels good. All your hard work pays off in the end. It’s long and deserved. To win it on senior night, there’s no better feeling.”
“I’ve been here four years and we finished second, second and third. Now we finally pulled through and got first,” senior Luke Lemmerman said.
“It’s huge,” senior Patrizio Martinez said. “After 18 years we can finally say we were the ones who got this for our program.”
St. Marys played to scoreless ties against rivals Celina and Wapakoneta this season, but the Roughriders earned key wins over the league’s traditional powers at home. The Roughriders edged out Shawnee 2-1 on Aug. 29. On Sept. 10 St. Marys beat Elida 4-2. The Riders blanked Bath 3-0 on Sept. 16. The final major obstacle was an Oct. 3 trip to O-G, which the Roughriders cleared easily with a 3-0 win.
“We played the meat of our schedule at the beginning of our season and got through,” St. Marys head coach Dave Ring said. “We got dinged a couple times. Beating Elida, Shawnee and O-G in the same year is a big accomplishment. Playing our rivals on the road was tough.”
“It means everything to us,” senior Zac Nelson, who scored two goals on Thursday, said. “We’ve worked so hard the pat few seasons. It feels great.”
Detrique Mines said the win over Shawnee was a tablesetter for the run to the title.
“Shawnee took it away from us last year and then we came back and beat them the first game this year,” senior Detrique Mines said. “That really set us off.”
Mines was part of a defense and goalkeepers Stuart Yahl and Kaleb Fenwick-Miller that earned its 10th shutout of the season and hasn’t allowed a goal to an opponent since Sept. 14 against Lima Central Catholic. They’ll go for a record 11 shutouts on Saturday at home against Greenville.
“That’s our goal for right now,” defender Luke Lemmerman said. “Last year we had a really good defense and we have almost everybody back except for our goalie. Stuart stepped right in at goalie and has been really good.”
St. Marys earned yet another shutout while the offense exploded for a season-high eight goals on Thursday.
Zach Lemmerman had a hat trick with his three goals and Zac Nelson had two goals for the Roughriders.
“We wanted to make sure there was no doubt,” Ring said.
Zac Nelson got the goal-scoring party going with by picking a ball out of the air and lining it past the Van Wert goalkeeper near the right post for a 1-0 lead at the 31:38 mark.
“We’ve had trouble finishing at times this year, but it all came together tonight,” Nelson said.
Lemmerman scored the first of his three goals at 24:04.
Nelson scored again a couple minutes later at the 21:33 mark for the 3-0 lead.
Nathan Wilker’s header at the 13:06 mark put the Riders up 4-0, a lead St. Marys took to the half.
Lemmerman scored two goals in less than three minutes early in the second half to put the Riders up 6-0. A Van Wert own goal extended the lead and Detrique Mines pushed in the final goal with five seconds left in the match, allowing the Riders a subdued celebration of the WBL crown after the ball was put back into play.
Ring has been at the helm of the St. Marys program for all but two of the seasons and has watched as it went from being run over in the first few years to the top of the WBL 18 seasons later.
His players dumped not one, but three watercoolers of ice water over their head coach’s head after Thursday’s match. They also talked about how much effort and enthusiasm he injects into the program.
“He really gets us up for the game,” senior Micah Johns said. “He says if you’re not ready to play, you’re sitting on the bench. If you want to play here, you have to work hard at it and be focused.”
“He cares so much and gives so much to this program,” Luke Lemmerman said.
Now the Roughrider seniors who brought the first WBL title hope it carries on into the tournament this season and beyond.
“The goal is to win state. It’s going to be hard, but hopefully we can make a run,” Lemmerman said.
“We want to see a lot of the underclassmen succeed and win multiple WBL titles,” Johns said.
The Roughrider Soccer Hall of Fame will induct a pair of players in 2014. John Lee and Andy Zink will be the induction class.