Throughout his time as a student-athlete at the high school and collegiate level, Bryce Romanello has always been regarded as a high-level student-athlete. His work as a football, soccer, and basketball standout at Valley High School in Lucasville, along with his time at Shawnee State as a three-year starter on the frontline for the Bears’ offensive attack, certainly proves that in spades.
However, Romanello’s individual successes aren’t pressing to him, because all the senior wants to do from an athletic standpoint, in his final go-around as a Shawnee State University men’s soccer hand, is to win.
Make no mistake about it — Romanello’s a top-flight competitor who has already desired winning. A trip to the Division VI State Semifinals as a member of the Valley football program as a junior, along with a perfect 10-0 regular season the year prior as a sophomore, all while starting as a tight end while kicking for the football program, proves that.
However, with his final year in a Shawnee State uniform quickly approaching, the urgency to make his senior campaign the best’s he’s had is understandable.
With 18 returnees back on this year’s version of the Bears, including 12 who started at least five games and seven who started in at least 10 games or more (Romanello included), and a strong recruiting class that includes the talents of Rock Hill’s Victor Aguilera and Eli Maurer among additional talented hands, the expectations are certainly high as the Bears, who made a five-win jump in their overall record, look to make further progressions from their 7-12 overall campaign in 2018 to this coming year.
For Romanello, the ability to be a senior leader on the unit, along with Chris Jones, Aaron Keyser, and Hunter Miles, means a great deal.
“It means a lot to me,” Romanello said. “This program has a lot of improving to do from previous years, and with the load of talent coming in, along with the amount that we have returning, I believe that we can do a total 180 and get ourselves on the other side of .500.”
With excellent athleticism already in the cards, it didn’t take long for Romanello to make an impact in multiple disciplines. As a freshman in 2012, the talented soccer hand accumulated Second-Team All-Southeast District honors at the Division III level, then followed that up with First-Team All-SOC and First-Team All-Southeast District honors in each of the next pair of seasons as he grew to a 6-2, 198-pound terror — who, by the way, was playing two fall sports at the same time.
By the time his junior year ended, Romanello had already posted 62 goals and 20 assists, including a 34-goal, seven-assist campaign in 2014. He had also developed into a three-way threat on the football field as the relentless conditioning and work ethic that Romanello had led to him obtaining over 500 yards receiving as a tight end and 10 touchdowns offensively while adding in 15 sacks defensively, and, in addition to that, his soccer skills served quite well from a special teams standpoint, where Romanello served as Valley’s surefire kicking hand en route to the Division VI State Semifinal berth in football in the same year, which is, to date, the Indians’ best playoff showing in school history in the sport.
While an MCL tear abbreviated his senior campaign, Romanello’s abilities and pure athleticism made a lasting impact on coaches and media personnel throughout the region. The senior ultimately obtained First-Team All-Southeast District honors as a tight end in football and as a forward on the soccer pitch once again, then recovered from the significant injury en route to earning All-Southeast District Special Mention honors in basketball, as well.
That persistence as a high school athlete, along with the coaches that he learned from, including Darren Crabtree, Jeremy Duncan, Scott Rolfe, and his travel soccer coaches with First Capital FC — Zach Breth and Sean Bray — proved to be instrumental throughout the ups and downs, as did his teammates.
“Playing at Valley was great,” Romanello said. “Everyone was so close knit, and they instilled a great sense of work ethic that I was able to carry over to the collegiate level. The coaches at Valley were like family to me, and are a big reason why I have made it this far.”
During his freshman season, Romanello busted out of the gates in a strong manner by scoring eight goals, and over the course of his career, has improved his all-around game en route to accumulating 16 goals and four assists heading into his final season as a Bear. The leadership of Ron Goodson — who starred at nearby Minford as a soccer athlete and paved the way for others to do the same by doing so — along with Mark Trapp, who has served as a longtime assistant to Goodson, have been critical in Romanello’s development since the day that the senior stepped on the Shawnee Turf in the Fall of 2016.
“It’s been a blast,” Romanello said. “They have become role models in my life, and I am grateful to have played for them over the last three years. I am looking forward to seeing what we can do as a team this season with them continuing to lead us.”
The potential for success, as far as the Shawnee State men’s soccer program is concerned, is there. Kevin de Lange, a relentless finisher, posted an outstanding 14-goal, six-assist campaign en route to earning Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year honors, while Kade Tomlinson is back after making 132 saves in his inaugural season in the goal. Combine that with the return of players like Jones, Keyser, Miles, Alek Blevins, Shane Zimmerman, Michael Rose, Mitchell Patchett, and Jonah Hensley among others, and what one has is a deep rotation of players at every position on the field.
“Last season was a step in the right direction, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that seven wins isn’t enough,” Romanello said. “We started well and fell off midway through with some tough losses, but began to find a groove toward the end with some position changes. I think the freshman class last year, with Kevin, Kade, and Michael, among others, performed really well, and with another year under their belt, I see big success coming our way.”
As strong as Romanello’s feelings are about playing on the pitch, he’s also developed friendships with his teammates off of the soccer field as well. Alek Blevins and Shane Zimmerman, who are from nearby South Webster, as well as Jacob Perry, who played at Minford, are among the teammates from Scioto County who Romanello has grown to be tight with after competing against one another at rival high schools for four years.
“If you would have told me that I would be close friends with guys like Shane, Alek, or (Jacob) Perry, I would’ve told you that you were crazy, but it’s been an awesome experience. Some of the guys have become as close as brothers to me.”
From an academic perspective, Romanello has goals that he wants to accomplish going forward in that perspective. The Exercise Science major, who is seeking acceptance into the PTA program, wants to become a All-Academic MSC honoree and, upon finishing school, pursue a career in coaching while obtaining a full-time position in his field of study.
“Academically, I’ve worked really hard, and disciplined myself to study and finish the work that needs to be finished,” Romanello said. “I think that stems from giving 100 percent effort at training.”
Those expectations, however, aren’t surprising, because Bryce Romanello has always expected a great deal from himself and the teams that he’s been a part of — especially as the 2019 season approaches.
“I really hope to finish at the top of the Mid-South,” Romanello said, “and win our first-ever MSC Tournament game.”