“No excuses” isn’t just a motto for UH-Hilo’s men’s soccer team.
It’s been an early morning fact of life the past month during the preseason.
If a Vulcan wants to duck a practice, he can’t rely on a time-tested, old reliable: I’ve got a class, coach.
Not at this hour.
“We get to practice at 5:35 a.m., everyone’s there in the dark,” UHH coach Paul Regrutto said. “We have meetings, we’re stretching in the dark before the sun comes up. As the sun lights up the field, they’re out there.”
And they’ve been spry, Regrutto said, even if what they’ve been working toward – competition – has seemed like a faraway prize.
“They’ve done an awesome job this 4 1/2 weeks in not losing themselves,” he said. “They’ve done a good job of continuing to work and focusing on the process, because I can tell you, without having games, it’s really challenging.”
And so comes the dawn of a new season, Regrutto’s fourth at the helm of the Vulcans, who travel to Oahu to take on Chaminade (1-0) on Thursday and Hawaii Pacific (1-2) on Saturday. UHH looks forward to playing “real” matches, not the glorified scrimmages of the spring, when the Vuls went 1-1-2 against their Oahu rivals
While still accountable to his players, Regrutto takes a more a realistic approach toward the riggers of the PacWest and championship contention than he did in his first two seasons.
UHH, picked to finish 10th in the 11-team conference in the preseason poll, went 4-12 in 2018 and 5-11 in 2019.
Still, the goal is to win.
“We’re a different team now, I think we’re a more organized team in this structure,” Regrutto said. “This structure we’re playing with fits this group, and this is a group we feel like we can recruit consistently. Because you want a team that you can maintain. You don’t want something where every (other) year you’re successful. You want to find a style in which you’re successful year in and year out.”
Regrutto said he feels confident in playing all 20 players he’ll take with him on the season-opening trip, but the Vuls could have a different look for their home matches than they do on the road due to a school rule that bars players who aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19 from traveling.
According to a school spokesperson, of the 230 Vulcans athletes participating in fall sports, eight are unvaccinated – 96.5% are. Vaccinated athletes aren’t required to test for COVID-19 during the fall season unless they show COVID symptoms, the school spokesperson said. Unvaccinated athletes – UHH didn’t release any names – can practice and play in home matches, provided they obtain a negative COVID test once a week and 72 hours before competition.
Regrutto said he took a hands-off approach when it came to talking to his players about getting vaccinated.
“I think that this is the first time in a lot of these kids’ lives that they get to make decision that really affects themselves,” Regrutto said. “I could say, “Hey, you’re doing this, and they would listen’, but I think this is an important decision that you have to let the kids make.
“Of course, you want to provide as much factual information as you can.”
On the eve of the opener, Regrutto said he hadn’t decided on a starting lineup, but one player who is no longer around is former Waiakea standout and BIIF Division I player of the Year John Grover, who proved he belonged with two goals in the spring season. Grover isn’t playing college soccer, the coach said.
Among the players who are vying for playing time:
• Forward, Tom Vorkastner, who scored a goal during the spring as a freshman.
“Young guy who I think has played out of position the majority of his life, but is a dangerous attacker and will be great for us this year,” Regrutto said.
• Senior midfielder Luca Lippert (one goal during the spring).
“Very experienced player with a knack for scoring,” Regrutto said.
• Sophomore David Mayser (one goal during the spring)
• “When he’s really on his game, he’ll make the team go,” Regrutto said.
• Senior Bo Antonissen.
“Major impact guy,” Regrutto said. “Bit of an injury we’re trying to work him through, but he should have a big impact if we can get him healthy.”
• Senior fullback Caesar Hjerten.
“A good leader who understands the game,” Regrutto said.
• Senior goalkeeper Michael Harre, who played all of the minutes in 2019, and freshman goal keeper Christian Souza, who played the bulk of action in the spring, both return.
• The two leading returning scorers from the 2019 team are seniors Henrique Castilho (one goal, two assists) and Kalei Tolentino-Perry (two goals).