Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke has made it official: Brody Huitema’s career with the Blue Devils is over because of concussion syndrome.
The senior forward from Chilliwack, British Columbia, never made it onto the field in an official game this season.
He was injured in an exhibition against Georgetown on Aug. 16 and was never cleared to return to action.
“That was either my third or fourth concussion this year,” said Huitema, who said he had his first one playing soccer at age 14 and estimated that he had four or five before coming to Duke.
The effects of this latest one have lingered, however.
“The guy’s knee landed on the back of my head,” Huitema recalled.
“I’ve had worse concussions than this one, but they usually last one, two, maybe three days. This one was the first one that three weeks or a month later I was still experiencing symptoms. I hadn’t gotten to my baseline a month later even. I’m still struggling in school, trying to focus, without getting headaches.
“After speaking with doctors and going over the amount of concussions that I’ve had, I made the decision as a career move. I felt like it was the right decision for my health long-term.”
Huitema arrived at Duke with much fanfare, a four-star recruit from the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy team, and didn’t disappoint.
At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds he was the target forward the team had been lacking in recent years.
Huitema led Duke in scoring as a freshman with six goals and four assists, earning ACC All-Freshman and third-team All-ACC honors.
He repeated as a third-team pick as a sophomore, notching five goals and five assists, but last year saw his playing time drop off because of injuries.
He started only four matches and played 824 minutes, well off the 1,059 and 1,548 he logged the previous two seasons.
He still managed four goals and one assist.
Duke (3-3-2) has struggled to score goals this season, and undoubtedly a healthy Huitema could have helped the offense.
“He’s the kind of guy we could have used to finish off these chances,” Duke coach John Kerr said.
“He’s great in the air. He’s great on finishes in front of goals. We’re going to miss him for sure.
“But we wish him well. We want his safety first. We want him to take care of himself. He’s got a long life to live, and having a concussion or a couple of concussions this year is devastating to him. I feel really terrible for him, and it’s obviously a big blow for us.”
Huitema is on target to graduate this spring with his degree in sociology, plus a markets and management certificate.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to attend practices and matches, mentoring the young forwards on the team.
“It’s obviously disappointing, coming in this year, senior year, wanting it to be the best one,” he said.
“And having it end not on my terms, I think that’s probably the most frustrating. Obviously careers end, and they have to end at some point, but you’d like to have it on your own terms, so I think that’s probably the most disappointing part of it.”
A rash of recent injuries has sidelined several high-scoring forwards on the three ACC women’s teams in the Triangle. No. 10 Duke has lost sophomore forward Kayla McCoy for the season to a foot injury, and senior midfielder-defender Rebecca Quinn has missed the last two games with a leg injury.
N.C. State has been without redshirt junior forward Jackie Stengel for three games because of a leg injury, and she is likely to miss the remainder of the season.
Freshman forward Zoe Redei of No. 16 North Carolina suffered an unspecified injury last Thursday in a 3-0 win over then-No. 19 Virginia Tech and didn’t play in the tie 1-1 Sunday at No. 13 Clemson.
She did make the trip, however, and remains game-to-game.
McCoy tore her Achilles tendon against Boston College on Sept. 17, ending her season in a game that saw her score two goals and would earn her co-Offensive Player of the Week honors in the ACC.
She had four goals on the season after netting a team-leading eight as a freshman.
Quinn, who helped Canada to the bronze medal in the Rio Olympics in August, has led Duke’s defense as a holding midfielder or center back.
Stengel has missed the last three games for State but still shares the team goal lead with freshman Tziarra King, who got her fifth goal in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Wake Forest.
Redei has three goals and shares the goal-scoring honors at UNC with junior Annie Kingman, who got the goal in the tie with Clemson.
North Carolina forward Nils Bruening came within inches of tying the school record for goals in a game against Boston College on Friday night.
The sophomore from Hamburg, Germany, scored the first four goals of the game in the fourth-ranked Tar Heels’ 5-0 grounding of the then-No. 16 Eagles.
Bruening’s natural double brace fell one goal shy of the school record set by James Reston Jr. in a 9-1 win over N.C. State on Oct. 18, 1962, and matched by Ryan Kneipper against Winthrop on Nov. 22, 2002, a 6-0 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
And, yes, that is the same James Reston who went on to become the famous author and playwright over the last five decades.
Bruening, a 6-foot-3, 175-pounder, had scored one goal prior to Friday’s pyrotechnics.
He didn’t play last year for the Tar Heels because his eligibility was delayed by the NCAA clearinghouse, a common problem for European players transferring to U.S. colleges.
Bruening had started UNC’s first seven matches but was replaced in the starting lineup against BC by redshirt senior Tucker Hume, who had been the Tar Heels’ leading goal scorer with four.
“To me it felt the same,” Bruening said.
“Maybe I was lucky a couple of times, but it felt it was the same way to me, coming off the bench or starting.”
“It wasn’t a punishment,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said.
“It was more to let him take a breath and see if we could take some of the pressure off of him.”
Bruening got 41 minutes of playing time against BC after entering the match in the 26th minute, but he took a team-high seven shots, five of them on goal.
His first two goals came in a six-minute span after he subbed in, and he narrowly missed getting his hat trick in the waning minutes of the first half when his shot from 18 yards on a 2-on-1 with Jelani Pieters went just wide of the right post.
He added two second-half goals and was the recipient of some crisp passes from teammates Alan Winn, Nico Melo, Zach Wright and Jack Skahan, who set him up at close range all night long. Bruening earned ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors and was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com’s national team of the week.
40 seconds to glory
N.C. State’s soccer fortunes for the season might have turned around in a 40-second span Sunday night against Wake Forest, but Wolfpack women’s coach Tim Santoro had some difficulty celebrating the result.
The 2-1 victory came against his good friend, Wake Forest coach Tony da Luz, whose staff Santoro served on for five years before moving to Raleigh four years ago.
“We usually talk two or three times a week, but we couldn’t this week,” Santoro said.
“I’m glad this game was early (in the schedule), so we’ll be able to talk more.”
The Wolfpack was trailing 1-0 on an early penalty kick by Wake’s Sarah Teegarden when the match turned around in the 65th minute.
N.C. State freshman midfielder Paige Griffiths stole the ball from Teegarden, a preseason All-ACC selection, in the Deacons’ half, took a couple of touches and launched a shot from 20 yards into the upper left corner of the net for her first college goal.
Griffiths, a 5-foot-1 dynamo who played for Millbrook High and CASL’s Chelsea Ladies, swapped positions with freshman Ricarda Walkling against Wake and played the attacking midfield role, with Walkling dropping back into the holding midfield position.
The tactical change brought the result Santoro wanted.
“Exactly what you saw on the first goal,” he said.
“Get pressure higher up the field, the same way we did against Carolina. (Griffiths) can turn over those defensive midfielders for those other teams. And she did it again tonight, only this time instead of passing it, she put it in the back of the net.”
“I was able to get in the attack and play a little bit more (offensively), not so much on defense,” said Griffiths, whose steal and assist led to State’s game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory over UNC.
The Wolfpack got the game-winner against Wake when Tziarra NKing, trying to get on the end of a through ball, was fouled by Deacons defender Kendall Fischlein.
King stepped up and drilled the penalty kick, exactly 40 seconds elapsed after Griffiths’ goal.
In the big picture, its second ACC win gives the Wolfpack some credibility.
“It proves that we’re not a fluke, that the Carolina game wasn’t just an aberration, and that we’re a good team,” Santoro said.
“We’re what, 8-3, 2-1 in the conference, and we played Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Carolina. There’s something here that we can build on.”
Fit to be tied
It didn’t come as any surprise when the Duke women’s team tied 0-0 with visiting Louisville last Thursday night.
The teams have played four times, including the last three seasons since Louisville joined the ACC. And each time the result has been a 0-0 tie.
The only wrinkle occurred in 2006 at Knoxville, Tenn.
The Blue Devils and Cardinals, meeting for the first time, were scoreless after what would become their customary 110-minute struggle.
But because they were playing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, one team had to advance, and Duke prevailed in penalty kicks 6-5.
Duke got back on the winning track Sunday with a 4-0 rout of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Imani Dorsey scored twice for the Blue Devils, who enjoyed their best offensive output since a 9-1 season-opening rout of Wofford.
Dorsey’s efforts earned her ACC co-Offensive Player of the Week honors and inclusion on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s national team of the week.