By Kyle Daubs
Zach Stranz isn’t one for losing.
For the majority of his life, he hasn’t been a part of it. He was a starter for some successful 15-win teams in the late 90s under Hank Nino, while his senior year featured an Elite 8 appearance in 2000.
Needless to say, Stranz is aware that last year’s 6-8-2 squad was the first losing season in Charleston since 1993. With eight seniors graduated that scored 48 of the team’s 57 goals last season, there is a danger that the Trojans could go back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991.
The first-year head coach is looking to set a different narrative.
“I’ve been trying to push the winning mentality as much as possible,” Zach Stranz said. “Last time I was around Charleston High School Soccer, I was ending my senior year with a 22-4-1 record and an Elite Eight appearance (2000). I understand we aren’t there yet, but I believe it starts with mindset and proper preparation.”
It’s a legacy transition for the Charleston soccer program after former boys head coach Josh Garrett stepped down after five years. Garrett will remain the girls’ coach, but the younger Stranz fills a void that his father, Paul, held for 14 years, where he compiled a 219-90-26 record, and his teams captured seven IHSA Regional Championships, four IHSA Sectional Championships, and made three Elite 8 appearances.
“My dad is super excited,” said Stranz. “He’s passing down a ton of great knowledge but also letting it be my team. It’s been great so far and I’m very excited for the future and to be lucky enough to have one of the best just a call away. I hope he’ll make the most games this year, definitely the home games.”
Charleston lost three double-digit scorers to graduation, including Blake Garrett (15), Eugene Ohba (12), and Carter Gordon (11). Filling the void will be a slew of sophomores starting with Emilio Pacheta, who is the top returning points setter with seven.
Stranz is pleased with a strong sophomore group that includes Grant Kattenbraker and Jacob Drake. Luke Edwards will be the team’s captain and will be joined by juniors Brandon Jones, Kyle Ross, and Marshall Smith in the rotation.
“I’m excited to see how much impact our freshman class has on our team,” said Stranz. “There are some key players we will rely on as freshmen. Brandon Jones, Kyle Ross, Marshall Smith, and Emilio Pacheta I think will step up on offense after losing several seniors from last year.”
The defense will be headlined by senior captain Luke Edgar, as well as Joe Lindley, Luke Newell, and William Reynolds. Smith, Drake, and Kattenbrake could see time as well. The goalie position will feature a battle between two brothers.
“Our starting goalie, Alex Dow, is returning from last year and has shown some tremendous improvement coming into his junior year,” said Stranz. “His younger brother Drew Dow is our number two keeper. It’s so nice going into the season having tons of confidence in both of your goalies.”
Stranz cited assistant coach Ben Tresslar as “spectacular” and has helped him make the transition seamless. As for the team’s future goals, Stranz is hopeful that the team can improve from their sixth-place finish in the Apollo Conference, where they held a 3-7-4 overall record.
“It’s hard for me to predict the season and the conference outcomes, but I understand Lincoln, Mahomet-Seymour, Mt. Zion, Effingham, and Mattoon are all tough opponents and will most likely be at the top. My goal is to have Charleston mentioned as well. I never had a losing season playing for Charleston and I want to keep it that way. I believe we can do it.”