RUBYVILLE – For the Clay Panthers soccer program, this fall’s season has the potential to be the culmination of years of hard work under former youth head coach and now varsity head coach Doug Ledingham. After bidding adieu in the sectional round of the last two season’s Division III postseason soccer tournament to inter-conference foe Valley each year, Clay is ready to overturn that fact with success on the pitch.
Senior Bryce Toomire is at the forefront of that movement. A first team All-SOC and a second team All-District selection during his junior campaign, Toomire is likely one of the favorites to contend for SOC I Player of the Year this fall. More importantly for Toomire and his squad, they want to compete for an SOC title, as well as a deep run into the postseason.
“We’re hoping to win sectionals and win the SOC,” Toomire said. “Just to win as much as we can, then once we get into tournaments, we want to win and advance.”
Clay returns a number of key pieces from their team that finished second in the SOC I including fellow All-District selections Reece Whitley, Clay Cottle, and Evan Woods. This group holds a special place in Ledingham’s coaching career, not to mention the players are quite fond of playing under their former youth coach as well.
“This group’s the best,” said Ledingham as he enters his third year as the Panthers head coach. “They play really hard, and they treat me like one of the guys. They’re very special. What you give to them, they give you back double.”
“I used to go to New Boston, but they didn’t have soccer,” Toomire said. “Came here to play U15 under Coach Ledingham and I really liked it and liked the players here. I’ve been playing for him and my friends every step of the way since, it’s been a great ride.”
During his junior season which saw the Panthers finish 9-6-1 with a 4-2 record in the SOC I, Toomire scored 25 goals and 16 assists. Toomire is currently the all-time leader in assists by a Panther with 26 and needs just 18 more goals to become the all-time leading goal scorer by a Clay player (currently has 37 career goals).
For Toomire, the best part of soccer is being able to go and compete with the people he considers closest: his teammates.
“I love playing with the friends that I have here, trying to get wins,” Toomire said. “I know some of the kids from the other schools we play, I like playing against them too.”
Having people you look up to in order to better yourself and better your game is important, no matter the context or sport. For Toomire, that person just so happens to be one of the best soccer players in modern history.
“My favorite player to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo,” Toomire said. “I try to base stuff off of him, but then again, he’s been doing this stuff for his entire life so it’s really hard to. I just try to play the best way that I can which is anyway I can help us get wins.”
With Toomire and his friends and teammates at the forefront of the Clay soccer program as seniors and leaders, he knows it’s on them to make sure that those expectations he holds for himself and those around him come to fruition.
“We’re trying to set the example where we’re here to play and not mess around, but we also want to have fun. Off the field we want to be the best students we can be so that others and the younger kids can follow that. If we do all those things, we should have a great year.”
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