Christian/Lutheran trio lands on first team; Diener named defensive POY
Aidan Diener was one of seven Christian/Lutheran soccer players who made all-conference, and he was also selected as the defensive player of the year.
“It was just humbling to hear because this year has been a blessing, to be honest,” the senior said. “I’ve been working really hard throughout the last four years and to finally win an award like that, it’s a gift from God.”
Diener was joined on the all-Big East first team by senior forward Sam Hendrikse and sophomore midfielder Nathan Richardson.
Sophomore midfielder Caden Solle, junior defender Matt Walz and sophomore goalkeeper Tony Schmitz earned second-team recognition, and sophomore forward Caleb Hendrikse received honorable mention.
Deiner has played center defensive back the last two seasons. Coach Dan Oppeneer says he is a smart player who understands the game as well as anyone on the team and does not make mistakes.
Diener, who ranked third on the squad with seven goals, also became more of a vocal leader this year.
“He just does everything the right way,” Oppeneer said. “If anyone ever did anything questionable on our team, he’d be the last guy I’d expect it from.”
Hendrikse led Christian/Lutheran with 12 goals and 10 assists, and was the focal point of the offense.
“He had a whole bunch of sophomores playing around him and a couple of juniors, but he was our constant,” the coach said. “Everything went through him.”
Hendrikse was also the only unanimous selection.
“So the other teams saw that and planned around him playing against us,” Oppeneer said. “It’s a great honor for him and the fact he was an unanimous selection, it just showed the respect he had amongst the other coaches in the conference.”
Richardson is the only sophomore to land on the first team, and is probably the best overall player with the ball, according to his coach.
“He had to miss our first game against Oostburg, which was a huge blow,” Oppeneer said. “He battled a groin injury through the second half of the year where he had to miss some time, and even some of the games he played in, he clearly wasn’t 100%.”
Christian/Lutheran and Oostburg tied for first place with 6-0-1 records, giving the Eagles (12-1-3) their first conference crown since 2015.
“We’re pleased, but we feel like there was more there,” Oppeneer said. “We lose two (starters), but that means we return 11 starters. I had three or four guys that could have very easily started as well. There’s a lot of really nice players coming back.”
Including five who made all-Big East.
“Tony is just an outstanding player,” Oppeneer said. “Matt was an outside back for us and went from playing mostly JV last year to being a really integral part of our defense as an outside back. And Caden started the year as our backup goalie. He played a few games in goal for us when Tony was out.
“I knew he was a good player on the field, I just didn’t know where to put him. … Then Caleb, Sam’s younger brother. Caleb was second in goals and second in assists. Caleb’s not going to replace Sam next year, but he’s got a different set a skills and is dangerous in different ways. He played just a little bit last year as a freshman.”