To say Bryan Phillips was itching to take over a varsity program wasn't exactly correct, but after eight seasons coaching basketball up to the junior varsity and six seasons as the junior varsity soccer coach at Lakeview, Phillips wouldn't say no to the right varsity job.
Phillips found the right fit, and he didn't even have to leave the Lakeview program. Phillips has taken over the job from Nate Mailach, who stepped down after six years in charge of the Bulldogs because of family obligations.
"I guess I would say yes if it was the right situation," Phillips said. "This is definitely a situation I couldn't pass up with already being a part of the program and what I felt like coach Mailach and myself and (assistant) coach (Perry) Phiel were able to build here the last six years."
Mailach described his successor as being a solid tactical coach, especially during matches, and he said it should be interesting to see how Phillips adapts to coaching a varsity team.
"He's a very good, in-game tactical coach," Mailach said. "He knows his strategies inside and out. He's very good at seeing the plays before they develop. He knows which players to put in the right situations. So, the program's in very good hands."
The program must be in good hands if the Bulldogs are to continue their success of recent years. Lakeview has appeared in three consecutive district finals, winning the first two, and it could be tough to advance that far this year, having lost five multi-year starters to graduation.
Still, with first-team all-state selection and Youngstown District Player of the Year in Matt Pasternak returning, Phillips said the goal remains the same.
"I know the kids' expectations are high, my expectations are high," Phillips said. "We have set the bar pretty high here with three-straight district finals appearances, and we would like to continue that on. I know even though we lost some people, I still feel like there's still enough there to make a run at that again."
COMING HOME: When Howland played Austintown Fitch last season in boys soccer, it could have put Brian Stiles' daughter in a bit of a bind.
Stiles was a member of the Fitch coaching staff, but his daughter goes to Howland schools. Any thoughts of familial loyalty didn't last very long, however.
"She told me last year when she went to the Howland game when I was coaching at Fitch, 'Sorry, Daddy, I love you, but I'm going to cheer for Howland,' " Stiles said. "Now, she can actually cheer for the Tigers and not feel guilty about it."
His daughter can feel that way because Stiles has "come home," taking over the Howland boys soccer team from George Stevens following a two-year stint on the Fitch touchline with the Falcons going 25-6-5 over that time. Prior to his time with the Falcons, Stiles was an assistant coach at Howland for six seasons.
Stiles' is taking over a team that went 11-2-4 last season, but the Tigers lost in the first round of the tournament at home to Stow and graduated 12 players from the squad. This doesn't faze Stiles, though, as he said he knows the system Howland used for years. He just will make a few tweaks to that system, including pushing forward up the wings.
"We're looking to probably push more players forward than maybe we have in the past," Stiles said. "At the same time, I'm very aware of the Howland system and how successful it's been. So, it'll be minor tweaks - we don't want to rock the whole boat."