Commentary

New coach, same expectations

Updated: May 18, 2009, 2:00 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

New coach? No problem.

Zionsville (Ind.) High School soccer standout Harrison Petts confirmed that he and the rest of the program's top club players will be back in the fall despite an offseason coaching change after last fall's state runner-up finish.

Harrison Petts
Barry Gutierreztbd by editor
"I'm definitely planning on playing," Petts told ESPNRISE.com Thursday evening. "I know all the guys are coming back, and we're real excited for next season."

Bashir Birany, the former coach at Cardinal Ritter High School (Indianapolis), has been named to replace Mike Smith, who stepped down at Zionsville in February and recently accepted the head-coaching position at Harrison (Ind.) High School.

Zionsville went 20-4-1 last season, losing to Memorial (Evansville, Ind.) in the state final on penalty kicks. Zionsville, with 14 projected returning players including most of its starting lineup, is labeled the state favorite in 2009.

Petts, who has committed to Indiana, is coming off a season in which he scored 41 goals, added 26 assists and was named to the ESPNRISE.com first-team All-America squad. A.J. Corrado, a midfielder, is expected to return after a nine-goal, 24-assist season. Zionsville also brings back goalkeepers Max Knorr and Jack Isenbarger, who combined for 14 shutouts.

In other national news:

-- Samir Haj told the Springdale (Ark.) Morning News that he is stepping down as girls' soccer coach at Fayetteville (Ark.) after a successful 11-year run. Haj coached eight Fayetteville teams to the state final, winning four times. This year's Fayetteville team lost to Bentonville in the Class 7A final.

-- Frank Cox High School (Virginia Beach, Va.) clinched the No. 1 seed for the Group AAA Eastern Region tournament with a 4-0 victory over Bayside (Virginia Beach) on Thursday. Cox, 14-1-1, is aiming to become the first Group AAA Eastern Region state champion since Kempsville (Va.) in 1997.

-- Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) seniors Cody Barnett and JoJo Vitale signed national letters of intent for the University of San Francisco, the same school at which their former head coach Victor Arbelaez played. Gorman also is sending John Vaccaro to Mesa State and Nick Eary to Redlands. Having four players signing with four-year schools for soccer is rare for a Nevada school, according to recent Gorman coach Nick Arbelaez, son of Victor.

Sheldon Shealer covers youth soccer for ESPNRISE.com. He can be reached at Sheldon.Shealer@espn.com.