PORTSMOUTH — Fueled by the return of reigning Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year Kevin de Lange, the senior leadership of Bryce Romanello, Chris Jones and Jacob Perry and the addition of Joao Toledo and Thomas de Graauw, the Shawnee State men’s soccer program enjoyed a season marked full of improvements — as the Bears matched their school record with a 9-9-1 mark in 2019.
In addition to matching its best overall record in a single season in program history, Shawnee State will return each of the top-five scorers from said program (de Lange, Toledo, de Graauw, Mitchell Patchett and Bruno Rovares), while getting a healthy Mark de Graaf back for the full year in 2020.
The Bears also add a talented class that already includes goalkeeper Bas Markus, three talented defensemen in Sjoered Reefman, Thierry van de Bergh and Trevon Akello, and local product Mason Fannin.
de Lange setting up all-time great career
Throughout the course of the program, there have been amazing talents to come through, including guys such as Jeff Suter, Thomas Carbonari, Joseph Webster and Gonzalo Perez-Beck.
However, Kevin de Lange’s accomplishments may top them all by the time his career is over.
An academic stalwart as evidenced by his 3.98 GPA and 2019 NAIA CoSIDA Academic All-American accolades, de Lange not only led Shawnee State in goals (16), assists (nine) and points (41), but led the team in shots (78), shots on goal (38), game-winning goals (five) and penalty kicks made.
He was one of only two players to play and start in all 19 games for the Bears in 2019.
His biggest goal arguably came against Cincinnati Christian, when de Lange helped rally SSU from a 3-2 deficit to a 4-3 overtime victory following a goal in the 91st minute of action.
de Lange, who will have two seasons to play as an upcoming junior, finished just seven tallies shy of Suter’s single-season record of 48 points back in 1992, posted the third-most goals in a single season and tied Chad Johnston for second all-time in assists in a single season with his output in 2019.
de Lange will enter the 2020 campaign tied for third all-time in goals (30) and fourth in both assists (15) and points (75) in a career.
Toledo, de Graauw impress
throughout first year
Beside de Lange on the frontline, Joao Toledo and Thomas de Graauw are plenty impressive in their own right.
Both players, in their first year with the Bears, joined de Lange in aiding a unit that ultimately made a 12-goal jump (33 to 45) from 2018.
Toledo, a Piracicaba, Brazil native, also played and started in each of Shawnee State’s 19 contests.
He collected five goals and added in eight assists to finish second on the team in the latter category and third in the former by using his crafty footwork to create seams in the defense.
de Graauw, meanwhile, used his powerful leg to post a nine-goal, six-assist campaign that allowed the native of The Netherlands to finish second on the unit in goals and third in assists.
Both players combined for 42 points during the course of the season.
Keeping up with Jones
Speaking of exemplary student-athletes, the work that Chris Jones put in — both on and off of the field of play — proved to be truly special for Shawnee State.
In addition to Jones obtaining a 3.75 GPA in the classroom, the senior proved to be a critical piece, as a senior captain, to a backline that surrendered 17 less goals (59 in 2018 to 42 in 2019) than the year prior.
Jones appeared in every game during the season.
In addition to his toughness inside the classroom and on the soccer pitch, Jones is well on his way to a strong career as a medical professional.
The men’s soccer program’s nominee to the Mid-South Conference’s Champions of Character Team, Jones will continue his scientific research pursuits in the Biomedical Research Technologies program, which is a joint effort between the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Blevins, Romanello, Perry
repping Scioto County strongly
Known for their firey competiveness and their will to win, Shawnee State’s Alek Blevins, Jacob Perry and Bryce Romanello stepped up in big ways to help assist on the defensive end.
A stout frontline player who had scored 16 goals prior to his senior season, Romanello unselfishly moved to the backline to help better the team, with Blevins making a similar sacrifice.
The same could be said for Perry, who like Romanello and Blevins, posted a strong high school career in the area.
Their success at Shawnee State after attending South Webster (Blevins), Minford (Perry) and Valley (Romanello) speaks volumes to the talent that has been developed in the Southern Ohio Conference from not only a soccer standpoint, but in general.
Perry, in particular, battled through injury to make a major contribution in the defensive midfield, and obtained his first career goal against Bluffton in early September.
While Perry and Romanello graduate, Blevins will still have a year left to play for the Bears and will be counted on as a leader around the pitch.
Trapp leaves on high note
After being involved in the program’s inception and then coming back to the program in 2003, Mark Trapp called it a career at Shawnee State — and moved to the Pacific Northwest after a rewarding coaching career at Clay and Shawnee State.
He was honored following Shawnee State’s final non-conference game of the year in the thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over Cincinnati Christian.
Trapp, who now resides in La Paz, Ore., coached three all-conference goalkeepers within the last decade at Shawnee State — and headed up the international recruiting for the Bears, which has resulted in the landing of talented players such as de Lange, Toledo and Webster among others.
Prior to the spread of COVID-19, he served as the goalkeeping coach for Bend FC Timbers in Bend, Ore. — and will continue in that capacity as the circumstances resulting from the coronavirus change.
Talent quite promising for 2020 and beyond
As a result of returning its top five scorers, Shawnee State will return 43 goals and 30 assists off of last year’s unit of the 45 goals and 35 assists that it produced.
In addition to de Lange, Toledo and de Graauw, Mitchell Patchett plays a high IQ game while Bruno Rovares is one of the team’s best free kickers.
In addition to SSU’s top-five scorers, additional contributors such as de Graaf, Ryan Smith, Jack Sharmon-Dodd, Victor Aguilera, Michael Rose, Nathan Ewing, Eli Maurer and Carlos Solmolinos Bravo are all expected to be back and will add a great deal to the talent with their talent and overall playing experience.
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