No one is more surprised by Alter’s return to a boys state soccer final four than veteran Knights coach Bob Ellis. Alter won a Division II state title last season but graduated all but one starter from that team.
“I can’t believe it,” said Ellis, who will lead Alter (17-2-3) into a D-II state semifinal against Columbus St. Francis DeSales (20-0-1) on Wednesday at Springfield High School. “These kids, they have totally surprised me. I never dreamed we could do what we’ve done.”
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Beavercreek (20-0-2) will play Dublin Coffman (18-1-2) in a D-I state semifinal at London also on Wednesday. The winners advance to Saturday’s state finals at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus. No area girls team qualified for the state semifinals. The girls state finals will be held on Friday also at MAPFRE.
This is an Alter/DeSales rematch of last year’s state semifinal that Alter won 2-1 in double-OT on goals by brothers Dominic and Robby Ruffolo. Ty Borton leads the Knights with 20 goals and nine assists. Borton’s goal in double-OT was the difference in last season’s 1-0 defeat of Revere in the state title game.
Dominic Ruffalo, the Knights’ only other returning starter, has 15 goals and eight assists.
Alter defeated Tippecanoe 2-0 in last weekend’s regional final to advance. Tipp beat Alter in the regular season.
Alter and DeSales are among the state’s best D-II programs. DeSales is No. 1 in the state and both are nationally ranked. DeSales has won six state titles, including two straight in 2014-15. Alter has won five state titles.
Alter has three seniors and the bulk of the team is built around underclassmen. Senior Evan Hartman is a captain. Sophomore Bryson Najarian has posted nine shutouts in goal.
“We’re not just happy to be here,” said Ellis, who’s been the Knights coach for 28 seasons. “When you get this close, it would be nice to take another one (state title) home. I guarantee we’re going to give them everything they’ve ever seen.”
Beavercreek also has a veteran coach in its corner in John Guiliano. Beavercreek and Coffman finished 2-3 in the final Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association D-I state poll.
Dominic Calabrese leads the Beavers with 15 goals and nine assists. Jacob Westerkamp has collected 10 goals and a team-high 16 assists. Beavercreek advanced by defeating Cincinnati Anderson 3-2 in a regional final.
Beavercreek has never won a soccer state title, but has qualified for final fours six times since 2008. This is the first final four for Coffman.