Reloading back line will be crucial to success of young Grafton boys’ team
The defense has never rested for the Grafton High School boys’ soccer team, and this year should be no exception.
One difference for the Black Hawks, though, will be the challenge of reloading their perennially steady back line.
“We lost a big chunk of our defense to graduation, so we have to find new people to step up there,” said Grafton coach Don Arnold, whose team is coming off a 4-3, third-place finish in the North Shore Conference last season.
“We definitely have plenty of talent coming back, but we may have to move some players around to find the right mix.”
The Hawks, who went 8-8-5 overall in 2010, lost eight players to graduation, including standouts such as Michael Salm, Ryan Kearns, Alex Konop, C.J. Koehler and Nick Markworth.
Kearns was a first-team all-conference defender, and Salm received second-team recognition as a midfielder.
A major plus will be the return of sophomore goalkeeper Killian Mielotz, who won the starting job in his first year of varsity ball and is counted on to anchor the defense.
“Killian is young, but he’s already got a lot of experience,” Arnold said.
Among Grafton’s other returning players, junior Willie McElligott received All-NSC honorable mention as a forward. He led the Hawks with 12 goals last year and should again be one of
the league’s top offensive threats.
“Willie has great speed and ball-handling skills, but he could also help us on defense,” Arnold said.
The Hawks are also counting on leadership from veterans such as senior midfielders Kevin Johnson and Kevin Wegner, juniors Jacob Wilde, Jacob Kellett, Alex Lorbecki, Wolfgang
Pilarski, Nic Bocanegra and Alec Rosenberg and sophomores Zach Greenwood and Matt Salm.
McElligott, Wilde, Kellett and Pilarski are among a group of versatile players who can contribute at a variety of positions. Kellett showed promise as a forward before being injured and
could make a major difference if healthy this fall, Arnold said.
Wilde’s strongest position is center midfielder, but he could contribute as a sweeper, Arnold added.
“Early in the season, everything will really be up for grabs,” he said. “We have a lot of talent, but it’s a question of how it will all fit together.”
Germantown is the defending NSC champion and should be strong again, along with runner-up Cedarburg and Nicolet, Arnold said. Although his young team will be an underdog, he believes it could jump into the title chase.
“We will not be a favorite because of the players we lost,” Arnold said. “But when people are looking at us as being in the middle of the pack, that gives us a chance to surprise them.”
After opening practice this week, the Hawks will face their first competition Saturday, Aug. 13, when they travel to Cedarburg for a 4 p.m. scrimmage.
Grafton opens the season for real at home Wednesday, Aug. 17, with a 7 p.m. nonconference match against Catholic Memorial.