Luke Snider was nervous enough entering Sunday’s Winthrop-Queens University men’s soccer preseason match that he forgot to strip off his substitution penny.
“I was pretty nervous when coach told me to go warm up. My legs were shaking,” said Snider, a college freshman who graduated from South Pointe in June and had a big bunch of supporters in the stands.
Snider attended about every other Winthrop home soccer game as a younger kid and admitted “it was weird” to play at Eagle Field. He was one of eight players in the two teams from York County, indicative of the growth of the game locally in recent years.
“You look back 25 years and you wouldn’t have had eight in 10 years,” said Winthrop head coach Rich Posipanko, who has three locals in his ranks. “We’re at a pretty high level, Queens is obviously a very good Division II program, it’s impressive. That’s just eight; there’s a lot more out there now, but yeah, it says a lot for the soccer in this community and the growth of it over the years.”
Rock Hill’s Andrew Raad and Charles Coulson, and Fort Mill’s Jonathan Cutrone all played for Winthrop on Sunday. Queens brought five York County players- South Pointe’s Luke Snider and Josh Reid, Fort Mill’s Mason Strohl, Nation Ford’s Austin Huddy and Northwestern’s Manny Lozano. Only Snider played for Queens because the other four local players wearing Queens’ navy kit are recovering from injuries, according to Queens coach Oliver Carias. Each got a nice cheer from the crowd when they entered the match, and Raad got an extra one when he nodded in Winthrop’s third goal in a 3-1 win over the Division II visitors from Charlotte.
“I grew up playing with all of them, they’re all in my age group,” said Raad, pointing over to the Queens players having a post-match chat nearby. “I think it really shows the growth of soccer in this city and in this area. I think it can only get better, and more and more younger kids will keep playing, and playing at a high level.”
That was a belief echoed by Queens’ coach Carias, who has recruited all five of his York County kids in the last two years.
“There is a lot of talent coming from this area,” he said after Sunday’s match. “We have seen a lot of great players not only in club, but also in high school, so I think that we have great players in this area.”
Raad’s goal wasn’t just the only one scored by a York County player on Sunday, it was the only scored by an American in Winthrop’s final preseason tune-up before Friday’s regular season opener against Wofford.
The typically-international Eagles, who were picked to finish tied for second place in the Big South’s coaches preseason poll, return some key pieces from last season’s side, including Icelandic midfield maestro Magnus Thorsson and Spanish centerback Jordi Lluch. Perhaps the most important returning player, sophomore striker Max Hasenstab, was on full display Sunday. He scored nine goals and added five assists as a rookie, earning all-conference and Big South Freshman of the Year honors.
Hasenstab was in similarly sizzling form Sunday, scoring twice in the first half, both times to give Winthrop the lead. The German striker’s first came about 22 minutes into the contest when he slipped beyond the Queens back line and fired a low shot onto the left post. The ball caromed off the base of the upright and hit the diving keeper Montrell Morgan in the back of the head before rolling into the net.
Winthrop keeper Fabian Broich was equally unlucky on Queens’ equalizer with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Ryan King slipped through the Eagle defense only to be stuffed by Winthrop’s German keeper who went to ground quickly. But Englishman Ryan Ejezie was well positioned to slot the rebound into the gaping net to tie the game 1-1.
Hasenstab put Winthrop back in front with seven minutes left in the half. The Eagles eagerly played the ball over the top of Queens’ high line in the back, seeking out speedy junior college transfer Jordan Stoddart or Hasenstab. The latter controlled a long ball from the left side and bulged the back of the net with a low drive fired under Morgan.
“It was good to see him start to finish goals because he was having a tough time there, but we knew it was gonna come sooner or later,” said Posipanko.
Raad grew Winthrop’s lead to 3-1 in the 55th minute, Patrick Barnes’ corner kick clearing everyone, including Queens’ flailing keeper Morgan, leaving the Rock Hill native with a simple headed tap-in for his first college soccer goal.
“On corner kicks you just go up and kind of hope a ball goes your where, lands on your head,” said Raad. “It was a little fortunate but I’m happy it went in.”