*This story was apart of the Hastings Tribune 2015 Fall Sports Preview Issue. It was published on August 27th.
For the Hastings College Men’s Soccer team, their season-ending, upset loss to Bellevue University (Neb.) on November 22 was a wake up call. Despite that loss, Head Coach Chris Kranjc refuses to let that define the 2014 season.
“I don’t necessarily want that loss to have defined our season, even though it was a disappointment to lose that game. I don’t think we played how we typically played,” Kranjc said. “I think we’ve used that game as an awakening tool to say, ‘Ok, we didn’t do what we do and we’ve got to do what we did during the course of this season in order to be successful.”
The Broncos used that wake up call to improve in the offseason and address areas for improvement during spring practice.
“I think we look at it as an awakening tool in order for us to realize that we need to continue to do what we do and continue to work hard. But then look at the big picture of the season and realize what we did really well and what we need to improve on,” Kranjc said. “I think those things were relatively accomplished during the spring.”
Those improvements in the spring, paired with plenty of returning talent and leadership, should have the Broncos eyeing a run in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament. Kranjc cites his team’s competitive nature and hunger as a potential recipe for success.
“I expect us to be good. I expect us to be competitive. After that, I don’t know,” Kranjc said. “Our guys are hungry; they’ve been hungry ever since that game against Bellevue. With as much talent as we have, with the caveat of ‘hungry’ in there, that can make for a petty lethal team.”
The lethality of the 2015 season will largely be determined how well this team can come together and mesh as a group, says Kranjc.
“We have to get this team together, but with that said, we have some very good players coming in that will solidify our depth and provide some competition in some spots,” he said. “I’m excited about some of those kids coming in and even more excited with our returners.”
The returners, led by a strong senior group, will be looked upon to provide leadership on and off the field.
“Leon Brudy is coming back as a captain and off injury and I expect him to be a strong leader for our team. Obviously, having Alex Guyer coming back, he’s going to be a major force form a leadership and performance standpoint,” Kranjc said. “I like all of our seniors and they all bring something from a leadership standpoint.”
Kranjc specifically referenced a few other seniors who impressed during the spring and who he expects to contribute in the fall.
“Andy Perkins had a great spring. He had a very impressive spring and we graded him really highly. Felix Prossl had a great spring and Tim Stoltenberg and Brady Menke have pushed Alex Guyer in goal,” he said. “Chris Gousious was hurt but has been leading really well. I’ve just been really impressed with those guys from the leadership and work ethic.”
The Broncos depth will likely depend on how quickly newcomers can come in and adjust to the speed of play and level of competition. Kranjc highlighted a few players who he believes can not only adjust quickly, but also make an immediate impact on the first team squad. Two of which, are freshman Akeem Ward and Daniel Linstead.
“Akeem Ward is one of the top-100 players in the country out of Shattuck-St. Mary and is apart of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. He can fulfill a number of roles and I expect him to fill into a role for us and do quite well,” Kranjc said. “Daniel Linstead from Australia, I really like what he brings. He could fill into either a center back or right back role.”
Kranjc also has high expectations for experienced transfer players Daniel Whitehall and Adam Knight.
“Daniel Whitehall is coming to us from SIU-Edwardsville (Illi.). He’s a forward who is technical and can finish. We’ve seen and heard a lot of good things about him,” he said. “Adam Knight, a transfer from Indiana Tech, is a winger, who’s fast and can score goals. We’re really excited about some of the guys coming in, not to mention all the guys we already have.”
Kranjc and the Broncos look forward to a brutally tough schedule – a schedule that pits a visiting Bellevue University (Neb.) against Hastings in a rematch of that NAIA Men’s Soccer Championship Opening Round game on October 13.
“My message to our guys that day will be ‘don’t worry about what happened in the past. All we can do is approach the next game with the same energy, enthusiasm and effort that we do every game,” Kranjc said. “All I want our guys to do is to play the best game they can possibly play. If we do that and prepare well, the result will take care of itself.”