As far as coach Don Ridall is concerned, this is exactly where the Manlius-Pebble Hill boys soccer team belongs.
For the last three seasons, the Trojans toiled in the OHSL Liberty division and played in Class B when the Section III playoffs rolled around. There, it could never manage the success it had earlier in the decade, which included back-to-back state championships in 2000 and 2001.
But for the 2010 season, MPH moves back to the OHSL Patriot division and will be in Class C come tournament time. And with a talented group of 11 seniors, including Mike Kardjian, Tim Goldman, Baird Hansen, Ethan Rothschild and Jordan Gentile, the Trojans again carry championship ambitions.
At the start, all has gone well, starting Sept. 3 with a 7-2 romp over Solvay, and continuing in Wednesday afternoon's OHSL Patriot opener, a wind-swept 1-0 victory over Bishop Ludden on the Gaelic Knights' home field in Geddes.
Solvay came first, as the Trojans bolted out to a 5-1 halftime lead, then kept going as Goldman earned a three-goal hat trick.Kardjian, Hansen, Gerrit Church and Alex Urist also scored, with Gentile joining Kardjian and Hansen in the assist column.
Going into the wind in the first half, MPH had to absorb a lot of good Ludden attacks, none better than in the 24th minute. Gentile lost a handle of the ball far out in front of the net, forcing Rothschild to come in and kick it out of danger.
Once they switched ends for the second half, the Trojans made a ferocious push, with waves of attacks that resulted in several close-up shots. Most of them sailed just over the net, with Tyler Greco glancing a shot off the crossbar.
Not until the 57th minute did MPH break through. Getting possession of the ball 25 yards away from the net, right in the middle of the field, junior Jimmy Gavigan rocketed a shot that eluded goalie Kelly Beaudoin and fit inside the top left corner of the net.
Despite going into the wind, Ludden would get a series of free kicks late in regulation, trying to force overtime - but the shots were turned wide as Gentile recorded yet another shutout.
Hours later, the MPH girls soccer team, opening its 2010 campaign, also met Bishop Ludden -- and lost a 2-0 decision to the Gaelic Knights.
Ludden, last year's Class C-2 champions, used goals by Mersadiz Hayes and Emily Wheeler to get in front, then frustrated the Trojans as goalie Meaghan McGrath made nine saves.