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Fall Sports Preview: Boys Soccer

Tribune Staff • Aug 21, 2018 at 12:22 AM

With two new coaches taking over local programs and two veteran coaches looking to mold some young players into varsity playmakers, this fall should be full of interesting storylines for the Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Fruitport and Western Michigan Christian boys soccer programs.

For Grand Haven, Nick Tejchma takes the reins of a Buccaneer program that won 15 games last fall and advanced to the regional finals. With a strong mix of experienced playmakers on the roster, the team should be able to hit the ground running in 2018.

Spring Lake head coach Jeremy Thelen has 10 new players entering the playing rotation, so every game will be important for the Lakers early on in the season. If the newcomers on the attack can become established goal scorers, Spring Lake should compete once again for an O-K Blue Conference title.

Dan Hazekamp will lead the Fruitport boys soccer program into a new era. The Trojans will have to find a new identity this fall, after losing the majority of its scoring production from last season's O-K Black Conference Championship squad. The good news for Fruitport is that they will be turning a senior-laden defensive unit that should keep the team in every game.

Western Michigan Christian will be replacing 14 seniors from last year's 20-win squad. With returning playmakers like Brandon Fles and Charlie Alfree on the attack, the Warriors should have no problem battling through the Lakes Eight Conference and finding their rhythm in time for the postseason.

Here's a deeper look into all four of the local boys soccer teams this fall:

GRAND HAVEN

Head Coach: Nick Tejchma

Last Year: 15-3-3 overall, 7-3-3 O-K Red, district champions

KEY PLAYERS: Seniors Mason Mahacek, Jax Mast, Trevor Kalis, Joe Walsh, Timmy Kleyla, Jack DeKlyen and juniors Jaden King and Max Jerovsek.

TEAM OUTLOOK: "We are excited for this season and look forward to continuing the tradition that our soccer program holds at Grand Haven," said Tejchma. "Our goal is to compete at the state level, so reflecting as a team after each game will be essential to our success this season.

"The individual commitment and work ethic that each player brings to make our team function gives us high expectations for this season. This year, we are looking forward to challenging each other on and off the field. As the new coach, I am excited and honored to be in this position and am anticipating the potential we have as a team."

CONFERENCE OUTLOOK: East Kentwood and Caledonia, along with Grand Haven, will likely be the top contenders in the league race, but teams like West Ottawa, Rockford and Hudsonville have proven to be difficult to deal with.

"We see all of our opponents as top contenders in our conference with each game being a different challenge of its own," added Tejchma.

SPRING LAKE

Head Coach: Jeremy Thelen

Last Year: 10-8-1 overall, second in the O-K Blue

KEY PLAYERS: Senior midfielder Tommy Fine, junior midfielder Charlie Parker, junior defenseman Malachi Mulder, senior defensemen Evan Ernst and senior forward Eli Denslow.

TEAM OUTLOOK: "We're going to be incorporating a lot of new talent into our playing rotation this year," said Thelen. "We have seven seniors and 10 new guys. We lacked a true, go-to goal scorer last year, and we need to score more goals this year in order to accomplish our goals. It has to be a team effort, and I think we have the talent to do it.

"We are going to rely on two underclassmen at key positions this year. Freshman Aiden Parker will be in goal for us, and he will continue to grow more and more confidence with each game we compete in. We also have Ben Bush as a sophomore forward. We are looking to him to add some firepower to our attack."

CONFERENCE OUTLOOK: "We will challenge for the conference and district this year," stated Thelen. "I'm excited for this young group of guys. We are going to be defensively sound, which will keep us in every contest. We just have to find a level of consistency with our attack and stay mentally strong whenever we find ourselves down during a game."

FRUITPORT

Head Coach: Dan Hazekamp

Last Year: 13-8 overall, 9-3 O-K Black, conference champions

KEY PLAYERS: Senior keeper Connor Hines, senior midfielder Cameron Schultz, senior defenseman Austin Golden, senior defenseman Logan Tietsma, junior midfielder Kaleb Krueger, junior midfielder Bryce Lanore and sophomore midfielder Cody Mayette.

TEAM OUTLOOK: "As a whole, we return several players from a team that won the O-K Black Conference last year," said Hazekamp. "Prolific goal scorer Zack Shane graduated, leaving a void that will need to be filled by a committee. We have a very tough non-conference schedule with teams like Ludington, Rockford, Spring Lake and Western Michigan Christian and that will push us early on in the season.

"We return a lot of senior leadership in the backend of the field with players like Austin Golden and Logan Tietsma, and senior keeper Connor Hines should keep us in every contest. If we can find some consistent scoring, we should be able to compete with anyone on our schedule."

CONFERENCE OUTLOOK: It should be another slobberknocker of a season in the O-K Black, with heavyweight programs like Mona Shores and Reeths-Puffer remaining strong and teams like Grand Rapids Union and Jenison also in the mix.

"We'll learn a lot about what we are made of early on in the season both physically and mentally through a very difficult non-conference schedule," added Hazekamp. "We expect to compete within the O-K Black and get stronger as the season progresses. The hope is that the non-conference games will help prepare us for life in a very deep and talented league."

WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: David Hulings

Last Year: 20-3 overall, 8-0 Lakes Eight, district champions

KEY PLAYERS: Junior defender Brandon Fles, senior midfielder Hayden Hubers, senior defender Brant Zeerip, senior forward Andrew Rasmussen, senior defender Joe Hain, junior midfielder Charlie Alfree, junior defender Josh Boyink and junior keeper Jamie Goorman.

TEAM OUTLOOK: "I don't ever like the term ‘rebuilding', as I think we tend to reload each year," said Hulings. "But, we are still not sure what we will look like and what the style of play will be. We lost 14 seniors, so we have many holes to fill in our lineup, but the remaining players have similar skill sets. I think the expectations at WMC are always the same, they never decrease. But, that pressure will allow us to motivate and work to achieve our goals this season.

"Brandon Fles might be one of the best players I have ever coached. He was a hidden talent on last year's team and he should have another strong season this fall. Charlie Alfree is another talented player that should play a key role in our success."

CONFERENCE OUTLOOK: The Lakes Eight Conference should be another three-team race between the Warriors, Ludington and Muskegon Catholic Central this fall.

"I would expect Ludington and Muskegon Catholic to be competitive again this season," added Hulings. "We're hoping a difficult non-conference schedule will prepare us for league play, and we will find our stride as a team by that point."

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