Boys Soccer: Centerville facing big ‘challenge’ against second-ranked Mason

Centerville's boys soccer team will play without leading scorer and assist leader Rohan Dhingra (7) in Wednesday's Division I regional semifinal. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

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Centerville's boys soccer team will play without leading scorer and assist leader Rohan Dhingra (7) in Wednesday's Division I regional semifinal. Greg Billing/CONTRIBUTED

Elks, Tipp and Troy Christian all alive in regional finals

CENTERVILLE – Playing Greater Western Ohio Conference teams only during the regular season left Centerville High School boys soccer coach Jeff Monbeck wondering just how good the Elks were.

He finds out Wednesday.

Centervillle, which played in a COVID-influenced GWOC bubble this season, hosts Mason at 7 p.m. in the Division I regional semifinals. It’s a home game of sorts for Centerville. Instead of playing at Alumni Field, the game moves to the football stadium to accommodate a larger crowd and still meet COVID-19 guidelines.

“Without a doubt it will be the biggest test since I’ve been the coach there,” Monbeck said of Mason, ranked No. 2 in the final state poll.

“I would say we’re the underdog here. … We’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge. We’re out of the GWOC bubble and we’re able to play. We want to play the best and Mason is the best. We’re looking forward to the challenge, but it’s going to be one heck of a challenge.”

Ninth-ranked Centerville (16-1-2) last reached the regional semis in 2017 and makes its 28th appearance overall. Centerville beat Loveland 5-0 for the district title last Thursday, while Mason edged Carroll 4-3 in overtime.

The Elks will again be without senior Rohan Dhingra, who led the GWOC in points (55), goals (20) and assists (15) this season. The GWOC player of the year had surgery for a detached retina following Centerville’s sectional win against Troy and is out for the season.

Dhingra’s father, Dayton doctor Dr. Raj Dhingra, passed away in the spring. His Elks' teammates have rallied around him and have dedicated the remainder of the season #ForRohan.

“You can’t replace Rohan. Rohan is a very dynamic dribbler with the ball. He’s very skillful and has a large engine. He can go for 80 minutes without a sub,” Monbeck said. "He’s worked really hard to be the player he is. He’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve seen from year to year and the biggest change from last year to this year in a player. He deserves all the accolades he’s going to receive this year.

“It’s a loss for the team obviously, but not being able to be out there with his teammates is heartbreaking.”

Centerville junior Drew Boettcher (15 goals), senior Nate Gottron (14 goals) and senior Andrew Nangle (10 goals) attempt to pick up the scoring. Boettcher also has 12 assists.

Centerville has outscored opponents 89-13 overall and 18-0 in the postseason. Mason, which played games outside the Greater Miami Conference, holds a 72-15 advantage overall and 10-3 in the postseason.

“We don’t have a lot of experience. But with that being said we have a very good group of kids who enjoy the process of getting better,” Monbeck said. "They get along really well. The team dynamic is very important.

“We had guys step up and play well against Loveland and that will have to happen for us to be successful against Mason.”

Monbeck said about 800 tickets would be available for the regional semifinal at the football stadium. The Elks haven’t played there since 2015.

“I remember playing in these late tournament runs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Monbeck said. “We’re the only Division I boys team in Dayton still playing and practicing. … That’s one of reasons I’m in coaching because I want them to be able to experience what I was able to experience. I keep telling these kids all the time don’t take these moments for granted. It could all be taken away – whether it be COVID or Rohan’s injury – in a moment’s notice. They’re enjoying it.”

In Division II, defending state champion Tippecanoe (20-0) hosts Columbus St. Francis DeSales (10-8-1). The Red Devils have won 32 straight games and have an unbeaten streak of 44 games dating back to a regional semifinal loss to eventual state champ Cin. Summit Country Day in 2018. This is Tipp’s fifth straight regional appearance.

In Division III, Troy Christian (15-2-2) travels to Cin. Mariemont (19-0). Troy Christian won its fourth district title in five seasons with a victory over a Madeira team that ended the regular season with a 1-0 loss to Mariemont.

Botkins (16-3-1) travels to Gahanna Columbus Academy (10-6-2). Botkins, which won its second straight district title, reached the state semis last season. Columbus Academy reached the D-II state semis last season before falling to Tippecanoe.