High school sports teams are constantly changing. Seniors leave and freshmen come in to take their place.
Waterloo’s boys soccer team gained something else entirely. The Bulldogs welcomed four capable juniors. Ben Huels, Griffin Lenhardt, Philip Most and Ryan Stites are playing their first year of IHSA soccer in their third year of high school.
IHSA eligibility rules state, “During the time you are participating on a school team in a sport at your high school, you may neither play on a non-school team nor compete in non-school competition as an individual in that same sport or any skill of that sport.”
All four previously played together for a St. Louis Scott Gallagher team. This group decided it was the right time to play high school soccer over their fall select team.
“We kind of chose as a group. It was a good group of seniors and we thought that we could contribute to the team and help them go farther,” Most said.
They have added more depth to an already solid squad.
“Personally, I thought there was already a lot of talent, then we added ourselves into the mix,” Lenhardt said. “We have a chance to do something special.”
The team is outscoring opponents 95-23 this year and has 21 wins overall. It takes an entire team to put up those statistics, but the four juniors certainly can’t be ignored.
The foursome have totaled 38 goals and 20 assists. Huels, a forward, scored 23 of those goals for second most on the team.
Senior forwards Kane Osterhage and Clay Metz have provided offense, too. Osterhage leads the team with 25 goals and 17 assists. Metz has 15 goals and five assists.
But, looking up and down the entire lineup, everyone has contributed something.
“It’s a good group of guys out there,” Most said. “We’re really deep. Like if we lost a forward, we could make up for it with lots of defenders that we have.”
It’s not uncommon that these juniors have played for a select team. Almost anyone that plays high school soccer does — especially on a team as good as Waterloo’s.
What these juniors bring to the table is extra experience.
“It’s really nice. We all know each other’s skill sets and what we can do,” Most said. “This was our first time playing with these guys, so we weren’t 100 percent sure how it would be.”
It also helps that playing for their high school brings a bit more excitement to the games.
“You’re famous around town and its nice to have people come to your games,” Huels said. “You actually know the people that come to your games.”
Stites added to that sentiment: “I think its more fun to play high school because there are definitely more fans there. You know all the fans, too, so you can talk with them after games.”
For now, though, the entire team will be looking toward its depth to make a deep playoff run.
“We felt we really had a pretty solid team coming in and they just made it even more solid,” head coach Chad Holden said. “Now, I think our record proves it. We’ve got some other accomplishments that we’ve made throughout the year, but we hope our season goes a little longer.”