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Aurora -- Despite losing an outstanding senior class, first year Aurora High boys soccer head coach Jason Bibza has plenty of talent left for the 2016 campaign.
Bibza takes over for Chris Gentille (198-81-39 in 17 years). He was an assistant under Gentille for six years.
A former nine-year head coach for the Greenmen girls soccer team, Bibza has plenty of experience. He also coached high school boys with the Ambassadors Futbol Club for six years.
"This team has worked incredibly hard all summer in the weight room, its fitness and conditioning level is very high and the boys are learning how to truly maximize their effort," explained the coach.
"I think this plays out in their physical effort as well as their commitment to each other, their willingness to learn and change, and in their decisions to sacrifice for each other."
Last year, Aurora went 13-4 and captured the program's 16th straight sectional championship.
Competing in the first year of the Suburban League, Aurora went 5-2 in the American Conference.
"Copley was one of the top teams in the state last year, and is the favorite in the conference," said the coach. "Revere and Medina Highland also are excellent teams that will present a stiff challenge.
"Tallmadge beat us last year, so we'd like to get some revenge," he added. "We look forward to some great competitive battles in the Suburban League."
The graduated versatile Justin Kowalski made first team all-Suburban League and was second in scoring for the team (22 points) and goals (9). He had 4 assists and a team-high 53 corner kicks.
Wing midfielder Michael Carbone was a team, captain along with Kowalski, and Jake Martell made first-team all-league. A multiple-season starter, Martell had 12 points and 6 assists.
Cory Bianco was a workhorse defender who made honorable mention all-SL, and versatile Hunter Jones also made honorable mention.
Anton Krondorfer (10 points) also is missed, along with defender Oliver Hesmondhalgh, Jarret Mazanec, Cole Stephan, Brian Poremba and Matt French.
AURORA'S defense gave up only 11 goals last season -- second lowest in school history.
Senior forward Josh Famageltto returns as one of the most explosive players in the league, while AHS also returns one of the best keepers in senior Joey Brockway.
Famageltto posted 2015 team bests of 34 points and 15 goals, and had 4 assists.
Bibza said seniors Bryce Posner and Joe Hauman are big-time returning starters. A strong center-midfielder, Posner has good experience as does Hauman, a tireless defender who made second team all-league.
Brockway posted 8 shutouts last season and had 47 saves. The league and district were loaded with talented keepers.
Forward Kyle Stokar is another returning senior with starting experience, while other returning starters are junior forward Michael French and sophomore defender Robbie Albrecht.
French netted 14 points a year ago and had 8 assists.
Other returning varsity players are defender Dominick Hesmondhalgh and forward Ryan Dockman (seniors) and center-mid Andrew Sobodosh and defender Cooper Devins (juniors).
According to Bibza, Aurora has a solid cast of newcomers.
Tops are defender Jared Ruehr (senior), defender Avery McMaster and Robby Lamport, center-mids Dan French and Nate Maxwell (juniors), keeper Jacob French and center-mid Cooper Bizjak (sophomores) and center-mid Alex Bibza (freshman).
"I think the kids are putting in the work necessary to play at their highest level possible, and we're quite pleased with the progress we've seen," noted Bizba.
Aurora hosts Chagrin Falls on Aug. 27, opens league play Aug. 30 at Kent Roosevelt and plays at Lake County Perry on Sept. 1. All varsity games start at 7 p.m.
"It's hard to know what results we'll see in terms of wins and losses, but we're bringing our best to the areas we control -- attitude, preparation and effort," said Bibza.
"We're fostering an environment to produce a great season both with victories on the field and also a team that we can all depend on and be proud of. We plan to string some good days together."