New coach to lead Woodridge boys soccer

Toth takes reins of senior-heavy Bulldogs squad

Woodridge senior Nic Tafini battles for the ball with Stow-Munroe Falls' Tristen Mattson during a game last season.

Throughout the last decade, Woodridge boys soccer has looked within its own circle to find its head coaches.

Nate Rausch, Todd Hartong and Andrew Spencer all had ties to the program before taking over. But when Spencer resigned as head coach last year, Woodridge had to reach a bit outside the box.

The man they found to take over the program, however, has decades of experience at the high school level.

Kalman Toth will lead the Bulldogs this fall. A member of the Ohio Soccer Hall of Fame, Toth has been coaching for 40 years, including serving at head girls coach at Nordonia from 2011 to 2014 and head coach at Bedford from 2015 to 18. 

Toth most recently served as an assistant coach in the Nordonia boys soccer program — which now is under the leadership of Woodridge alum Derek Mercer. 

“I assisted at Nordonia the last two years, but I was always keeping my eye out for something,” Toth said. “A friend of mine who lives in the area said Woodridge was looking for a head coach. So, it just turned out just right.”

Toth inherits a veteran Bulldogs squad that went 6-7-2 last year and finished second in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division. Woodridge was eliminated with a 3-1 loss to Revere in the Division II sectional playoffs.   

“I think I’ve got a great group of boys. We’re not very deep per se, but we’ve got some good, young talent,” Toth said. “Our core group has been working their tails off.”  

Toth said he plans to run “a fairly conservative 4-4-2” formation to start the season, as he believes the strength of his team is the defense and midfield.

Toth admits he hasn’t had much opportunity to scout the conference now known as the Metro Athletic Conference. The membersremain the same, as Woodridge faces Coventry, Cloverleaf, Field, Norton, Ravenna, Streetsboro and Springfield in conference play.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Toth said. “I think we can be competitive with anybody. If the ball bounces are way, we can go far. Our nucleus is very solid right now.”

Toth brings former Nordonia assistant coach Ryan Walsh with him as Woodridge’s junior varsity coach, while former Bulldog Alex Powell will serve as volunteer coach his fall. 

With 26 players on his roster, Toth said “there’s a lot building that has to be done.” He notes the inability to scrimmage due to COVID-19 restrictions has put a damper on the Bulldogs’ development.

Woodridge lost six seniors to graduation in defender Mike Ritch, forwards Gary Manning Thiel III, Evan Wagner and Josh Fleming, midfielder Jad ElGhazal and goaltender Ben Rado.

With Rado now playing at Berea College in Kentucky, the Bulldogs have a hole to fill in goal. Toth notes seniors Cole Whitaker and Gavin Sickles both are fighting for the starting role.

Things are much more settled in front of goal. Woodridge’s defense will be anchored senior center back and returning captain Kalo Armoutliev.

“He’s definitely a leader,” Toth said.

Junior Kyle Carey also saw time at center back last season, while senior Jacob Samerdak is pushing for time as well.

Junior Cooper DeFrange looks to get the nod at right back, while sophomore Ian Riccillo also is pushing for time 

A combination of Riccillo, Samerdak and senior Nic Tafini will fill in the left back spot, though Toth notes he would prefer to have Tafini start at left midfield.  

“He is just up and down the field all day for us,” Toth said of Tafini. “He is strong.”

Toth will play a flat-four midfield and has plenty of experience to fill the roles. 

Senior returning starter Darren Vanyo will likely play more of a defensive midfield role, while senior Adam Reaman will be a bit more offensive in his central role.

If Tafini stays at left midfield, junior Dan Batyrbaev will get the starting nod at right midfield. 

“This is our window,” Toth said. “These guys are all very good players.”

While the starting midfield looks set, Toth said junior Aden Lang is “having a great training camp” and could see playing time as a utility man for the Bulldogs. 

After bursting into the lineup as a freshman last season, sophomore Nolan Kuhlke will be given a chance to shine at forward.

“His foot skills are some of the best we’ve got on the team,” Toth said. “He’s got a left and a right, which makes him dangerous. He just there to wreak havoc up top.”

Snakebitten with injuries for much of his high school career, Toth said senior forward Nathan Dunaj is fully fit and has formed a good partnership with Kuhlke.

“Nathan has been a solid leader on the team,” Toth said. “He’s been healthy so far.”

Sophomore Ethan Paratore also could see time up top after having a good camp.

“He’ll be on the field somewhere,” Toth said. “He does have a motor.”

Barring any further schedule disruptions, Woodridge will open the season in MAC play, as it will travel to Coventry Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, or @MLeonard_GAN on Twitter