There are a number of quality soccer players for Dan Opponeer, the new coach at Christian/Lutheran.
“There’s really no difference from the No. 5 player to No. 15,” he said. “It’s nice to have that many quality players. It’s not always a luxury you have at small schools.”
Yes, Big East Conference defensive player of the year Aaron TenPas and second-team all-BEC midfielder Devin Madson graduated.
But three players are back after receiving honorable mention from the team that took fourth place in the league with an 8-2-1 record (10-5-5 overall) last year.
They are Lutheran senior forward Zach Schmitz, Christian junior forward Sam Hendriske and Eagles’ sophomore defender Michael Modahl.
Opponeer, who also coached soccer at Christian in 2009 and ‘10, says that group brings leadership to the field.
“They all played quite a bit of minutes last year,” he said. “All three will be central to everything we do. I think they will work well with a lot of our young guys. We have a number of young players getting time on varsity this year. But we also need the leadership from those guys that played a lot of minutes last year.
“We’re also a deep team. We could play up to 16-18 guys regularly. We had 40 kids come out between JV and varsity, so it’s nice to have lots of different options.”
New coach Emily Lambrecht has some big plans for the Crusaders.
She says she is working on rebuilding the entire program after the team was 2-7 in the Big East (11th place) last year.
I hope to be at least 6-3, if possible, this season,” Lambrecht said. “But my biggest goal right now, I would love to bring the girls to state. I know it’s a lofty goal, bu that is where our heads are at right now.”
Lambrecht, a Gillett graduate who was an assistant coach at Lutheran last season, says she is all about dedication and heart.
“I expect a lot from my girls, but with that, they get a lot back with me,” she said. “My program philosophy is one team, one goal. That goes from anywhere from JV2 to the varsity team.”
Six players return from a year ago, but the only two who made all-conference (Katelyn Witte and Emma Egbert) graduated.
“I have a lot of hard workers, dedicated girls who are ready to hit the court running and do what they need to do to get to our goals,” Lambrecht said.
LUTHERAN CROSS COUNTRY
The girls will be led by seniors and the boys can count on juniors this season, as each team will try to improve on a fourth-place showing in the Big East Conference championship meet in 2018.
Junior Jonah Jurss returns as Lutheran’s top runner after he finished in ninth place at the league meet.
Four others, all juniors, also ran at the BEC race last year: Matt Witte (28th), Dominic Willadsen (33rd), Hans Gruben (36th) and Joseph Schultz (40th).
Aidan Shank ended 13th, but he graduated, and sophomore Casey Verhagen finished 15th, but he is playing football this year.
“There’s four guys there that work really hard,” coach Jeff Jurss said. “They’d like to do some great things.”
The four girls that return are seniors, led by Carly Schreurs, who was 10th at conference. Emma Schmideler was 19th, Mary Hendrikse took 39th, and Emma Otten came in 55th.
“Emma and Carly have potential,” Jurss said. “They work hard. They ran during the summer and I look for some good things from them.”
The team had one girl make all-conference last year and she returns in senior setter Elie Steenwyk, who received honorable mention for the Eagles (1-8 in the Big East).