July 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Men’s soccer: Justin Nolan finds new program

Justin Nolan had it all going exactly as planned.

The 2010 Highland graduate had just finished his junior season as the starting goalkeeper at Ashland University and was on track to graduate in December with a degree in information systems and computer systems.

Then that plan took an unexpected detour.

On May 29, school officials at Ashland informed the team that it was discontinuing the men’s soccer program for financial reasons, leaving Nolan and the rest of his teammates to quickly formulate a Plan B.

“It was a huge shock,” Nolan said. “Soon after it happened, I was disappointed and I had to look at the options, but I wasn’t optimistic I would play.”

Luckily for Nolan, who earned second-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors last season, the man who originally recruited him had some room on his roster.

John Hall coached at Ashland for nine years before taking over Walsh’s program two years ago. He had recruited the 6-foot, 165-pound goalie to Ashland after Nolan earned All-Ohio honors and helped the Hornets to their first Suburban League championship as a senior.

“I spoke to him a couple of times after he left and we became good friends,” Nolan said. “After it happened, he gave me a call and said, ‘I have three jerseys here if you want them.’”

The 22-year-old still wanted to graduate in December, like he originally planned, and needed to make sure the courses he needed to complete both of his degrees were available at the North Canton school.

“It came down to the fact that I wanted to graduate early,” he said. “After getting help from the registration office and some of my professors at Ashland, we worked it out. I took some classes this summer, too.

“I knew the Walsh campus really well after working at Timken last summer and knowing (Hall) and some of the players helped.”

Nolan won seven games in goal last season and posted three shutouts in helping Ashland to an 8-8-2 record.

He joins a Cavaliers program that struggled through a 3-13, 3-10 season in the GLIAC South Division and used two keepers last fall. One, Frank Sanabria, will be returning for his junior season.

The roster also includes Nolan’s former Highland teammate Brandon Frederick and former county standout Gareth Evison of Medina.

“I actually know a lot of them having played against them in club,” Nolan said. “Knowing them, I knew I could go there and play with the talent that they lose, but obviously anything can happen.

“No one had any idea this was going to happen. We went away for summer break and there was no inclination. It left a lot of us scrambling to find another school.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.