After losing some of its top athletes to graduation, the HC soccer program will enter this season with a more youthful look. Despite losing first team NAIA All-American seniors Nate Polak, Derek Prinz and Cody Poteat last year, the Broncos are setting their goals high, hoping to at least make it back into the national tournament, hosted this year in Montgomery, Ala.
Broncos’ top-scoring junior forward Jordan Green will be one of four returning seniors for HC this fall. Green, who scored 17 goals and totaled 38 points last year, along with junior midfielders Brian Kudron, Aaron Mulgrue and Hank Robson, is expected to be one of HC’s critical leaders for next season.
“I think the guys who have been around, like Jordan Green and Brian Kudron and Aaron Mulgrue, have a lot of experience,” said Chris Kranjc, Broncos’ head coach. “To go from a national championship to being a national runner-up – they’ve experienced a lot so we’re going to use their experiences to help lead this team going into next year.”
Kranjc said that junior defenseman Jake Essi has stepped into a leadership role for the Broncos as well.
“He’s been very vocal, [a] hard worker. He’s done everything we’ve asked him; he’s played multiple positions this spring,” Kranjc said. “So I think he’s kind of that bridge from the seniors to the juniors to the younger guys, so we’re going to rely on a lot of guys.”
One critical area the Broncos will have to address early in the season is finding a replacement for Poteat, who started at goal for every game for the Broncos last season. Poteat totaled nearly 1500 minutes of play last year and recorded 40 saves on 112 shots faced.
“We have four freshmen coming in; all bring different characteristics,” Kranjc said. “Then Nick Van [Goghard] who joined our team this spring. We don’t know, we’ll know on Sept. 1 on who our starting goalkeeper will be.”
Despite returning some top leaders such as Green, Kudron and Essi, HC will enter this upcoming season with a much younger and less experienced team compared to last season. Fortunately for the Broncos, they were able to gain rare and valuable playing experience nearly a month ago in their scrimmage against Minnesota Stars FC, a Division II professional soccer team.
“For us, it was a huge advantage because you don’t get to play a team of that caliber very often,” Kranjc said. “For a young team, it was a difficult game to play, from a speed aspect [and] from a physical aspect. We didn’t have the ball a lot and so we really had to be organized. We really had to work hard.”
The Broncos held Minnesota to just two goals, but lost 2-1. Jordan Green scored the lone goal for HC in the 53rd minute.
“I think [the scrimmage] bred some confidence in the young guys, thinking ‘yeah, we’re much farther ahead than we thought we would be,’” Kranjc said. “I thought it really challenged us defensively.”
After two months of training, Kranjc said he is very satisfied with the progression of some of HC’s younger players.
“I think with some of the young guys – current freshmen, current sophomores – they’ve developed quite well this spring and so we’re looking to forward to seeing how well they develop over the summer and go from there,” Kranjc said.
In terms of competing for starting roles, Kranjc mentioned junior midfielder Josh Kolbo and sophomore midfielder David Torres as two players who have really stuck out this spring.
“Josh Kolbo is doing quite well,” Kranjc said. “He’s kind of taking on Matt Wadleigh’s role that is really developing into a very significant back, especially on the attacking side. David Torres has really developed nicely, if he can find consistency he’s going to be deadly.”
Along with Kolbo and Torres, Kranjc mentioned sophomore defensemen Shane Davidson and Nick Wells, sophomore forward Jonathon Lara and junior midfielder Aaron Bos as a few other names for Broncos fans to possibly look out for next season.
The Broncos start their season Sept. 9, when they will play the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Mackenzie, Tenn.