Even with a highly regarded incoming class, the USF soccer team will focus on veteran leadership.
The Bulls play Jacksonville tonight at 5 p.m. in their season opener.
Taking on much of the leadership responsibility will be Hunter West, the team’s top scorer last season, and Keeron Benito.
“(The) past couple of years, we’ve had no leadership on this team, so hopefully this year will be a little bit different. This year we can lead by example,” West said.
West could be the best example for new players like Simon Schoendorf from Germany, Christian Jimenez and one of the nation’s top recruits, Rodrigo Hidalgo. The three are expected to round out a young and deep midfield.
“I was very disappointed last year,” West said. “We had key players, and no leaders. Hidalgo is a good leader, as far as being a freshman coming in. He’s a good example for the freshmen coming in because he’s worked hard and will show them what it’s all about.”
West has been the team’s leading scorer for the past two seasons. The midfielder/forward recorded seven goals and three assists in 2003 and has 21 career goals. He has a chance to be only the second USF player to lead the team in scoring for three consecutive years. But winning is all that’s on his mind right now.
“As long as we win I don’t care how many goals I score. As long as I’m helping us win is all that matters.”
West will help mold an incoming freshman class that is ranked No. 3 in the nation by College Soccer News. Adding depth to an already impressive handful of players are freshmen and sophomores from the United States, South Africa, Bermuda, Germany and even a transfer player from Rutgers.
“The entire freshman class is a very good class, and a lot of them will play,” coach George Kiefer said.
Thirteen return from last season, including seven of the starters, led by Benito and West.
Also returning from an impressive freshmen year is goalie Dane Brenner. He started 13 of the team’s 18 games last year, faced more than 200 shots and posted 1.47 goals against average.
“Dane started the majority of last season. But that’s a spot (goalie) where we’ve had good competition in,” said Kiefer. “The freshman Freddy Hall has really had a good preseason, but right now it’s Dane Brenner.”