Kenton Ridge grad leads ONU soccer program to new heights

Ridenour’s nears school scoring mark, close to failing.

SPRINGFIELD — Brent Ridenour has owned the career goals record at Ohio Northern University long enough. He has always encouraged his players to go after it, and senior Christian Huelsman entered this weekend three goals short of tying Ridenour’s record of 56, which has stood since 1994.

While it’s fun to talk about records, the 1991 Kenton Ridge High School graduate Ridenour is all about the team’s goals. The Polar Bears took a nine-game winning streak into Saturday’s Ohio Athletic Conference tournament championship game against John Carroll.

Now in his 14th season, Ridenour has turned his program into a OAC power, something it wasn’t during his days as a player at the school. The team has won five regular-season championships, including this year, and was seeking its fourth tournament championship in the last six years Saturday.

“We’ve had a bunch of conference titles, and 2006 was the year we really broke out,” said Ridenour, who also owned Kenton Ridge’s all-time scoring record of 65 goals until Mohammed Salhieh broke it in 2009. “I was the men’s tennis coach for five seasons, and starting in 2005, they gave tennis to a football coach. That allowed me to focus on soccer 365 days a year. Ever since then, we’ve had a lot of success.”

The Polar Bears reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in 2008 when this year’s seniors were freshmen, finishing 20-6-1. In the last two years, they’ve lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Going into Saturday’s game, Ohio Northern was 17-2-2, 8-0-1 in the OAC and ranked ninth in NCAA Division III.

“We have 10 starters back from last year’s team,” Ridenour said. “We had a little bit of a bull’s eye on us this year. We had a lot of experience coming back. Our seniors had been conference champions their first three years and been to the NCAA tournament every year. They were expecting big things. I was trying to keep the expectations down.

After a 7-0 start, Ohio Northern tied Wittenberg 1-1 and then lost to Transylvania 3-0 on Sept. 17 and to then No. 4 Ohio Wesleyan 3-1 on Sept. 21.

“We started off real strong and were ranked as high as third,” Ridenour said. “We got a little ahead of ourselves and lost a couple that brought us back to reality. That refocused our guys.”

The Polar Bears were seeking the OAC’s automatic NCAA tournament berth Saturday. A national championship is the team’s goal.

“We feel we’ve pretty much done everything else,” Ridenour said. “When I first took over, we were just hoping to get in the conference tournament. Fourteen years later, making the conference tournament for us is expected. A conference championship is expected. An NCAA bid is almost expected. Our guys just look so far beyond that.”

Football: Purdue senior Logan Link (West Liberty-Salem) started at strong safety and had seven tackles on Oct. 29 in a 36-14 loss to Michigan.

• Freshman Zeke Eier (Tecumseh) appeared in one game at running back for the University of the Cumberlands before a leg injury ended his season. The team was 5-3 going into Saturday’s game against Faulkner.

Women’s cross country: Ohio Northern junior Alison Steinbrunner (Tecumseh) repeated as OAC cross country champion on Oct. 29, winning the race in 22 minutes, 19 seconds. She finished 21 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. Her team also won the title for the second straight year.

• Shawnee State junior Kasey Hosier placed 34th overall in 19 minutes, 9 seconds, and her team placed third out of 33 teams at the Great Lakes Challenge on Oct. 23.

Volleyball: Sophomore Morgan Pridemore (Greenon) has started 18 matches for Mount Vernon Nazarene. She averages 2.0 digs per game.

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