Go West, young man

When sophomore striker Hunter West went 13 games without scoring a goal (after netting seven in five games), his coach didn’t call it a slump.

So when he scores his first goal of the 2004 season, don’t call it a comeback.

“People say that he went into a slump later in the year (last season), but I would say no to that,” Bulls soccer coach George Kiefer said. “He was still getting a lot of assists, hitting the post, hitting the crossbar.”

West, slump or no slump, ended up as the Bulls’ leading goal-scorer, even though he failed to find the back of the net for the last two months of the season.

The Bulls’ season, and West’s knack for goal-scoring, might have been better served had he not rushed out of his hospital bed when pre-season training began.

“Hunter was injured last season,” Kiefer said. “He had a major surgery two months before the season and came back too quick.”

With practice for this season just around the corner, Kiefer knows a healthy West means more goals on the board and higher numbers in the win column.

One of the brighter spots to surface from a relatively dreary 2003 season, West is being closely monitored by his coach these days.

“I ask him every other day how he’s feeling, and he’s 100 percent now,” Kiefer said. “He’s very confident and mentally prepared to come in this season, and I’m excited to have Hunter back healthy.”

Kiefer’s 2004 recruiting class for the Bulls was ranked third in the nation by College Soccer News, meaning there will be a lot more than just wet towels sitting on the Bulls’ bench.

But Kiefer is keeping everything in its right place on his team, leaning on West and other tenured members of the soccer squad to lead the new recruits by example.

“The tone needs to be set from day one how things are done,” Kiefer said. “Otherwise, you’ll start to get a bunch of freshmen dictating how things happen, and that can become a little bit messy.”

One thing these Bulls certainly don’t need is another mess on their hands.

Last season, the team bowed out of the first round of the Conference USA tournament, which they qualified for with an inspiring run of victories and draws towards the end of the season.

And that was the good news. The bad news was that the squad won only two games during an eight-game span in the heart of the season schedule.

When West scored, the Bulls weren’t winning, and when he was quiet they were.

It was a mess that can only be cleaned up with experience and teamwork.

Those are two things that Hunter West, team captain, is being looked to for.

“I’m counting on leaders like Hunter (one of two team captains) and the rest of the seniors to provide good leadership,” Kiefer said.