With eight returning starters and a handful of talented newcomers, Lutheran West’s boys’ soccer team eyes vast improvement from a year ago.
The Longhorns finished 8-9-1 overall last fall.
“The sky is the limit with this year’s group of men,” said 13th year head coach Josh Hubeler, who notched his 100th career victory last season. “We should easily be a double-digit win team. As far as playoffs, the team will have to put in the work to reap the rewards. They definitely have the potential mentally and physically.”
Lutheran West opened the postseason last year with a 2-0 win over Padua then fell to Rocky River in a Division II sectional championship game.
Despite the large group of returning starters, the Longhorns have big cleats to fill at defensive midfielder and outside back.
“We have many players that are competing for those spots, which is exciting to watch,” Hubeler said.
While the Longhorns are busy finding the right fit in those positions, Hubeler has less to worry up top as senior forwards Tyler DeSimpelare and Hugo Lopez both return.
DeSimpelare scored nine goals with three assists on the way to being named honorable mention All-Chagrin Valley Conference and All-Greater Cleveland. Lopez scored 10 goals with two assists. He earned second-team All-CVC and honorable mention All-Greater Cleveland. He also was named the team’s Most Improved player.
“Tyler is our vocal team leader. He picks you up when you are down and pushes you beyond your limit,” Hubeler said. “Hugo made great strides to put himself in the position that he is now. He is the example of what it takes to be a gritty Longhorn.”
Senior Ben Gramsz, junior Ethan Stanaczyk and sophomore Braden Lamb also return to the starting lineup.
Lamb, a first-team All-CVC and second-team All-Greater Cleveland selection, was named the team’s Rookie of the Year after scoring three goals with two assists form his midfield position.
“Braden is the workhouse and play-maker of the team,” Hubeler said. “He has a motor that doesn’t stop and is always full throttle. When you combine his work ethic and his soccer IQ together, Braden has a wonderful future ahead of him.”
Gramsz earned second-team all-league and honorable mention All-Greater Cleveland honors as a junior. He recorded 18 tackles and 22 interceptions last fall.
“Ben was a healthy transfer addition to last year’s team,” Hubeler said. “He provided LW with some needed defense and a lead by example attitude. We look forward to another year with Ben.”
Stanaczyk scored one goal and added five assists, 19 tackles and 12 interceptions on the way to earning honorable mention all-league and All-Greater Cleveland honors.
“Ethan showed humility as he took on a different role than the previous year,” Hubeler said. “He was persuaded to move to a defender as that was what the team needed most. He is a very versatile individual with many years of soccer experience. This makes for a very formidable defensive leader.”
Senior keeper Tevester Billingslea also returns.
He posted 96 saves in 17 games last season.
“Tevester has come a long way since his freshman year,” Hubeler said. “His foot skills, agility, and vocal leadership will command respect from the team and opponents.”
In addition to its solid core of returning players, the Longhorns also are excited about their incoming freshman class.
“Lutheran West has one of its best incoming freshman classes,” Hubeler said. “Quality and quantity are quite prevalent with this group of guys. It will be fun to watch them grow.”
The keys to Lutheran West’s success are similar to those of most teams. That includes staying healthy and putting in the necessary work.
The team already has bonded and Hubeler hopes that his close-knit group can achieve its goals this fall.
“Our team really enjoys each other’s company,” he said. “We spend quality time together off the pitch. When we step on the pitch, we are competitive. This competition drives the team to better one another. At the end of the day, the desire is to be the best team possible with our God-given talents.”