Crosses and kicks: ACC weekly soccer notes

NCSU Sports Information, GoPack.com
NCSU Sports Information, GoPack.com
NCSU Sports Information, GoPack.com

Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. – When you’re listening to a broadcast of an N.C. State men’s soccer game, you might wonder if you accidentally tuned into a German national team match.

Six members of the Wolfpack are from Germany, and all six have been in the starting lineup at various times.

The midfield has included Julius Duchscherer, Maximilian Luftl and Jan-Luca Ahillen, with Simon Blotko and Adrian Gahabka on defense and Lukas Zarges at forward.

Fourth-year N.C. State head coach Kelly Findley likes the attitude and experience level of the German players.

Duchscherer and Blotko cracked the starting lineup as freshmen a year ago, so Findley brought in another freshman in Ahillen, plus three transfers.

Zarges transferred from UNC Greensboro and is a senior.

Luftl and Gahabka are juniors and were teammates at SV Schalding-Heining, a Bavarian club.

“For me they’re very pragmatic, very disciplined, tactical players, and I think that’s my approach,” Findley said.

“Those guys come in with a good soccer education from their youth programs. Most of them have been playing with men for one to two years. So they fit in with my personality and my style, what I’m looking for, hardworking and disciplined.”

Duchscherer, a sophomore from Weilburg, is a good example of the kind of player Findley has sought.

“I played fourth league in Germany, and I would say there are many more experienced players (there),” Duchscherer explained.

“Many older players. I played with men who are 30 years and older and had already kids. And when I came here, I realized how young the team was, and I was one of the oldest. My last club in Germany I was the youngest.”

Because of his experience, Duchscherer was named a captain for the Wolfpack this fall.

“I’m not a leader who speaks out and is loud on the field,” he said.

“The coach told me I’m more of a leader who leads by example, and that’s what I do. I try to be professional in every aspect of my life and to give my experience from Germany to the younger guys on the team and try to help them on and off the pitch.”

Duchscherer has seen his playing role change, too.

With five goals and two assists a year ago, he was the top scorer back this fall.

However, he has become more of a playmaker this season with the Wolfpack going to a 3-5-2 formation that encourages more wide play.

Blotko, from Dusseldorf, is a two-year starter for the Pack as an outside back.

He said more German players are turning to the U.S. for college soccer.

“I think now it’s a very big and common thing in Germany,” he said.

“After finishing high school, players decide where they want to go. And often the players who cannot go pro in Germany try to find other ways to combine school and soccer on a very high level. And I think at the moment, here (in the U.S.) college soccer is the best opportunity for a player in Germany.”

“The German players go back home with something else that will separate them, marketability,” Findley said.

“Their English improves tremendously, obviously, and they go back with a U.S. degree. There’s all kinds of bonuses to that.”

Despite their experience, the German players agreed that the transition to the U.S. college game was a challenge.

“The transition is kind of hard,” Blotko said.

“The way the soccer is going on here is different compared with Europe. It’s faster, very faster. The players are younger, so the experience is not that big. So they make more mistakes. It’s a reason turnovers are crazy during the games. And the substitution, of course. So the game is over the 90 minutes, on a high level, very fast, athletic. That’s the main difference.”

Duchscherer sees another difference.

“I never cease appreciating everything here because the facilities, how the coaching staff cares about us, is better than in Germany, in my opinion,” he said.

“In Germany soccer is more like a business. You have to take care of yourself. (Here) we are more like a family, and we do everything together. I think that helps to get closer and build relationships, and I really enjoy that here.”

Not surprisingly for a team that features six new starters in the field, results have been slower to arrive.

The Pack is off to a 2-4 start, 0-2 in the ACC.

Despite outshooting Elon, Syracuse and Virginia Tech over three games by a combined 42-27 margin, the Pack had only three shutout losses to show for its work before breaking through against Liberty on Tuesday for a 3-1 win.

“The big thing is, we’ve just got to get some relationships right,” Findley said.

“We’ve had enough new players put together in some spots, in the new formation, that we just need some time to get a little better at. And that’s the downside of graduating a couple key players, having a couple guys transfer. … We’ve just got to keep getting better at what we do and not look too far ahead. We’ve just got to take one game at a time and keep trying to get better every single day.”

Wolfpack honors

Sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Wootten and freshman defender Kristina Schuster picked up weekly honors after N.C. State’s 1-0 upset of North Carolina last Friday.

Wootten was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week, and Schuster made the TopDrawerSoccer.com national team of the week.

Wootten recorded a season-high eight saves in notching her fourth straight shutout, extending her scoreless streak to 425:04 minutes.

That run included the final 65:04 of the Pack’s 4-2 win over High Point five matches ago.

“Growing up I dreamed about coming to school here and playing for (UNC) Chapel Hill,” said Wootten, a native of San Diego.

“(UNC coach) Anson Dorrance is someone I’ve looked up to and studied religiously. And now to actually be here and play against them, it’s a dream come true, let alone winning. I never could have believed it last year.”

Although Wootten’s run is impressive, it doesn’t even approach the school record for consecutive shutouts.

Barbara Wickstrand turned in 12 in a row in 1984, the program’s first year of existence.

However, it’s the most recorded in one season by an N.C. State goalkeeper since Kim Kern had five solo shutouts in 2011.

And it’s the longest streak of shutouts since 2006, matching four in a row by Megan Connors.

Six victories in a row is also the longest winning streak at State since the 2008 team opened the season 7-0.

The Wolfpack continues ACC play this week, hosting No. 24 Notre Dame (5-1-3, 0-0-1 ACC) on Thursday and Wake Forest (8-1, 0-1) on Sunday, both at 7 p.m.

State probably will still be without leading scorer Jackie Stengel.

The redshirt junior forward missed the UNC game with an injury to her right leg, and her return is uncertain. Stengel sat out the 2014 season when she had ACL surgery on her left knee.

Seeing red

No. 7 Duke (6-2-1, 1-0-0 ACC) knocked Boston College (8-1-1, 0-1-0) from the unbeaten ranks in women’s soccer Saturday night, rallying for a 3-2 victory in a wild seesaw affair that included two penalty kicks and a red card on a goalkeeper in the teams’ ACC opener.

BC goalie Alexis Bryant drew the red card in the 11th minute after Duke’s Kayla McCoy slipped behind the Eagles defense on a through ball.

Bryant came off her line and submarined McCoy, who had tried to play the ball around the goalkeeper.

Because she was the last defender on the play, Bryant was correctly sent off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by foul.

McCoy made the penalty kick after freshman Erin Seppi replaced Bryant in goal.

BC also had to play the final 79 minutes with 10 players, but that didn’t keep the Eagles from scoring twice short-handed.

McKenzie Meehan made a penalty kick in the 25th minute after Lauren Berman was taken down in the penalty area by Duke defender Schuyler DeBree, and Hayley Dowd scored from 20 yards out after a Duke turnover in the 49th.

However, Taylor Racioppi and McCoy found the range in the 56th and 78th minutes as Duke managed to exploit its numerical advantage with crisp passing.

McCoy was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com’s team of the week and shared ACC Offensive Player of the Week with Virginia’s Kristen McNabb after her second career brace.

Twin strike

When the No. 9 UNC men (6-1, 2-0 ACC) beat Pittsburgh last Friday night 1-0, the game-winning goal came on a combo play from 6-foot-5 twin brothers Walker and Tucker Hume.

Walker got his second goal of the season, and Tucker earned his first assist off a setpiece that began when UNC freshman midfielder Cam Lindley chipped a free kick from 20 yards to the left side of the penalty area.

Tucker chested it to the ground and teed it up perfectly for Walker, whose strike from 18 yards found the far corner of the net.

“It was a clever play,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said of the free kick.

“Cam noticed that we could get one off quick. And Tuck and Walker, I guess they’re used to working with each other … There’s a little connection there.”

It marked the first time the brothers have combined on a scoring play at UNC, although in fairness this was only their seventh game playing together in their three years there.

Tucker redshirted in 2014, and Walker missed last season with an injury.

But they’re quickly making up for lost time.

“Just playing together we have a special chemistry,” Walker said.

“We always try to look for each other and get each other in scoring positions. I think he kind of knew when he looked up and saw me that I was able to make a good play, maybe a better play than him. So he found me, and I did the rest.”

About Peter Koutroumpis 1598 Articles
Peter Koutroumpis is an alumnus of the University of Toronto and Bowling Green State University. Living in the Raleigh area, he has been involved and employed in organized sport and competition as a player, official, teacher, coach, administrator, and volunteer. With more than 20 years of experience in sport event management and programming, as Owner and Managing Editor of the Triangle Sports Network, a set of online sports news sites, he provides a variety of perspectives on the amateur and professional sports landscape including the NCAA, NHL, NBA, PGA, and LPGA, and more.