GODFREY — When Ryan Hodge turned the calendar from July to August, there was already a date circled in red staring him in the face.
Monday, Aug. 5 has been a red-letter day for the Trailblazers men’s soccer coach for sometime now and with good reason. That’s the first official preseason practice for an L&C team that brings with it considerable expectations and a large recruiting class that features some 15 new players.
Those new Trailblazers will join a solid core led by All-America Reshaun Walkes.
“Reshaun will hopefully pick up where he left off last year,” said Hodge, who’s beginning his second season as the men’s head coach at L&C. “He’ll be a captain and we’ll look for good things from him, obviously.”
Walkes, who hails from Ontario, Canada, scored 10 goals and had 18 assists last season for the Trailblazers.
Also returning will be Kyle Swanner, a defender from Edwardsville, as well as Kaleb Basset, another sophomore defender. Bassett is the son of former L&C standout Roshan Basset and former Alton High/Kansas/Harris-Stowe great Lindsay Kennedy Eversmeyer.
“The defense looks good going in,” Hodge said. “And on paper, it all looks pretty good. But it’s time to hit the field and get ready to show it.
“We’ve got a good blend of experience and new players.”
Hodge also mentioned returning players Victor Strandahl, Hunter Dill, Luke Mellon, goalie Christian Deans and midfielder Zane Rowles.
“It’s a solid group,” Hodge said, “and we’ll see how they mesh with the new players. I think they’ll be fine.”
Those recruits include scoring threats Tony Bodule from Lindbergh High School; Isaac Frederickson from Warrenton, Missouri. Also defender Sam Stutz from Alton and Noah Van Buskirk and Ryan Martins from Granite City.
Other recruits include Chase Roelig from Liberty High in Wentzville; Mason Clyne, a goalie from St. Dominic; Matt Viera, central midfielder from Toronto, Canada; Alex Boorer, a 6-foot-4 back from Australia; Elijah Bartlett-Springer from Toronto; Kofi Awuah from Toronto and Tyrig Gordon from England.
The Trailblazers will train at Glazebrook Park and on the Tim Rooney Stadium field on campus. The players have finished up a five-week training program set up by Hodge.
“We won’t have to put as much time in on fitness if everybody has done the summer fitness training,” Hodge said. “And we’ll be able to tell who did.
“The facilities at Glazebrook are excellent for running,” Hodge said. “And we’ll also use some of the open area near the (L&C) baseball stadium.”
The Trailblazers went 12-3-1 last season and won the regular-season region title. But they lost to Illinois Central College in the Region 24 Tournament championship game.
They’ll open the preseason with the annual alumni game at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Tim Rooney Stadium. They’ll play preseason games at UMSL Aug. 18 and at home vs. McKendree Aug. 20. The season opener is set for 5 p.m. Aug. 23 against Marshalltown followed by a 1 p.m. game Aug. 25 at home against Iowa Lakes.
“Marshalltown made the (national) semifinals last year,” Hodge said, “and we’ll find out early how good we can be.“
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