Those thoughts, however small and fleeting, that UH-Hilo men’s soccer coach Paul Regrutto used to keep in the back of his mind can now come to the front.
During a normal August, Regrutto would be in a serious rush. When he did take time in the Vulcans’ athletic offices to stop and look around at his fellow coaches, those of nonfall sports programs, he’d feel a tiny bit envious.
Wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to ease into things coming off summer break.
“If you’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for a long time,” Regrutto said in a phone interview, “sometimes it can be really challenging to try and prepare your team for fall competition with such a short amount of time to get them ready.”
A pandemic wasn’t what he had in mind, but Regrutto has nothing but time on his hands these days. Instead of preparing for the opening of training camp, which would have started Aug. 17, he’s a spring-sport coach – hopefully, and if only for a limited season – after the PacWest postponed fall sports until 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns.
“You kind of always wished that you had the fall to get your team together and train over the winter and get everything dialed in until you had time to compete,” he said. “In some regards, it’s kind of cool that we have time to do different things with our team. We’ve got a good group coming in and they’ll add in, and it gives us an opportunity to get everybody more unified on multiple levels.”
Another bonus from a bad situation, Regrutto said, is simply living on the Big Island.
He told his players he’d respect their decision if any of them wanted to stay home this fall, and beyond, but “all the kids wanted to be here,” Regrutto said.
As it is, 24 players on the 28-man roster are at UHH for the fall semester, and the last time he saw any of them near the vicinity of a soccer ball was before spring break. Regrutto envisions fall workouts, pending the pandemic, looking a lot like a “normal” spring would, with a slew of virus-minded guidelines thrown in.
In 2019, UHH went 5-11, securing a modest-one win improvement for its highest victory total since 2014. The Vuls can spend some of their abundance of time trying to replace the offensive void left by Jorge
The seven seniors, in particular, each have decisions to make regarding their eligibility. Former Hilo High standout Kalei Tolentino-Perry and Henriquegoalkeeper Michael Harre each played in all 16 matches, midfielder Bo Antonissen started in 15, while Hilo High alum River Brown is looking to make his biggest mark since playing in eight matches in 2016.
“The NCAA did make a beneficial ruling for the players,” Regrutto said. “It looks like if we play under seven matches in the spring, then they won’t lose a season of eligibility. We have one senior who is set to graduate after the fall, the rest in the spring. A lot will come down to finances and personal plans of what they want to do.
“Will they try to stick around for what will be a normal fall season in 2021? I don’t know. Those are things we’re dealing with right now.”
On the flip side, there are nine newcomers, five transfers and four freshmen, who can ease their way into the program. The freshmen include Waiakea High alum John Grover, the reigning BIIF Division I player of the year, and goalkeeper Christian Souza of Kapolei, Oahu. Goalkeeper Rusty Crowder of Mililani, Oahu, transferred from Whatcom CC, midfielder Luca Lippert (Northern Michigan) and fullbacks Brady O’Neill (Cal State Dominguez Hills) and Marcus Plataniotis (St. Mary’s, Texas) bring Division II experience, and forward Julian Garcia, formerly signed with UT Rio Grand Valley of Division I.
The year 2020 hasn’t gone like anybody planned, but better to live it on the Big Island, Regrutto said.
“There is no place like (it),” he said. “The culture here, they value people, especially the kupuna, and that is a really special thing to me. Not just because it’s safe, but because the type of people that create the environment.”