The talk at this year's coaches' meeting at states was, how were teams going to defend Ryan Schroen? It was a question that largely went unanswered.
The Clarence defender played so well during his senior season, he not only was named Western New York Player of the Year, he was picked as a first team All-American.
Schroen led Clarence to its third straight trip to the Class AA states played this fall in Middletown. In the pregame coaches meeting, coach Mike Silverstein said he was amused listening to other coaches discuss how to mark Schroen.
When Schroen was a sophomore, the coaches meeting banter was how Clarence would stop all-everything forward Jake Keegan of John Jay.
"He was only a little sophomore at the time and Ryan shut him down, and we won, 2-0," said Silverstein. "He made a name for himself after that game. Two years later, they're talking about how to attack Ryan. I had to smirk."
Schroen went from being on the hunt to being hunted. It was a role he embraced.
He was one of only four defenders named to the 69-player All-American team by NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of American). The last soccer player from Section VI to make All-American was Lew-Port's Matt Tanzini in 1994. The NSCAA is soccer's governing body for coaches, college, high school and youth.
Schroen's reputation as a shutdown defender was well-earned. In his 65 career games, Clarence had 43 shutouts and gave up only 29 goals. He credited his success with setting goals and training hard. Clarence finished 18-2-1, winning its third consecutive Section VI Class AA crown.
The 40th annual All-WNY team was chosen by area coaches. Schroen was the only repeat selection on the 13-member team.
"It all started with making the varsity team [as a sophomore], it happened, and everything fell into place," said Schroen, who will sign with Niagara in February. "It's just I love soccer so much it comes easy to set those goals, and I want to work for them because I like to play."
Schroen is joined on the first team by teammates Derek Maier and Chris Berardi. Maier also competed at states three times. Maier has led the team in scoring the past two years. He has given a verbal commitment to Niagara. Berardi had a 15-goal season and has two Sectional titles to show for his two years as a starter.
> Around the nets
Akron joined Clarence as a state final four team. The Tigers landed three picks on All-WNY: junior defender Nathan Borchert, senior midfielder Jaime Salcedo and senior goalie Sam Torrelli. Akron's 19-2-1 record included a 15-game winning streak. The Tigers have won the Niagara-Orleans League four years in a row and have been to the state semifinals two of the past four years.
Other Section VI champs were: Clarence (Class AA), Sweet Home (A-1), Maryvale (A-2), City Honors (B-2), Maple Grove (C) and North Collins (D).
Clarence finished No. 1 in the WNY Coaches poll.
City Honors won the D'Youville Cup behind Player of the Year Nikolas Albarran, who had 22 goals, giving him 65 in his career.
The WNY Coach of the Year was Tom Staebell of Maryvale. In what was Staebell's 10th season, the Flyers won Class A and finished 17-3-1. Among the season highlights was a trip to England in August to train.
Canisius won its first Monsignor Martin Association title in five years. Senior Chris Walter of Nichols was the league's Offensive Player of the Year while junior Julian Olin of St. Joe's was the Defensive Player of the Year.
The referee of the year was Shane Magaris.
The final New York State polls: Class AA -- Clarence (fourth); Class A -- Sweet Home (fifth), Maryvale (ninth); Class B -- Akron (third), City Honors (12th); Class C -- Maple Grove (fifth), Grover Cleveland (15th), Randolph (19th); Class D -- North Collins (sixth).