Star recognition

A good sign that a player is among the state’s elite is when the athlete has the opponents’ full attention, and that couldn’t be more true with this year’s group of first-team Super-Staters. Opposing coaches offer their takes on this year’s top soccer players.


F Anthony Bolanos, Crete, sr.

The résumé: Bolanos is known for being able to weave through the defense to score. He was the all-class leader in goals with 27. His long list of school records includes goals in a season (27), career goals (69) and career assists (29).

The opponent’s view: “Technically, Anthony is very sound and one of the best out there in the state. As an opposing coach, anytime he had the ball on his feet you knew he could make something out of nothing. His ability could change a game in seconds.” — Blair coach Manny Maldonado.

F Duncan McGuire, Creighton Prep, sr.

The résumé: The Creighton recruit scored 19 goals in 21 games.

The opponent’s view: “He is great. He had endless energy against us. Some great players possess a motor, and some stand and idle. That is why I respect his game. His motor is nonstop. Against us, I think he completed maybe 98% of his passes, and the ones he didn't complete I am pretty sure he ran the kid down and took it back from him. He put set pieces on a dime that assisted a couple goals, and his craftiness with and without the ball made him exceptionally difficult to cover.” — Millard South coach Jim Cooney.

F Isaiah Shaddick, Lincoln Southwest, sr.

The résumé: Shaddick had a remarkable season, going from scoring two goals last season to a school-record 20 this year. He also had 11 assists, making him the second-leading scorer in Class A. He had at least one goal in 12 of the 15 matches he played in. He’ll play in college at Concordia.

The opponent’s view: “Isaiah is an explosive player and has great technical and athletic ability. Whenever he touched the ball, you couldn't help but hold your breath.” — Millard North coach Sandro DeAngelis.

MF Abdi Adan, Omaha South, jr.

The résumé: He led Class A in scoring with 21 goals and 13 assists.

The opponent’s view: “As spectacular as he is on the soccer field — his on-ball skills are peerless and breathtaking — there is more to this young man than his dazzling displays with his feet. After an emotional state final, I was deeply moved by the compassion and care he showed his Creighton Prep opponents. It was genuine and impactful and the quality of his character at that moment outshined for me anything he has done.” — Creighton Prep coach Tom Hoover.

MF Matt Anderson, Creighton Prep, sr.

The résumé: While he only scored a few goals, he had a big part in Creighton Prep reaching the state championship match.

The opponent’s view: “Matt Anderson is a force in the middle of the park, and he commanded the midfield for Prep. His stats don’t really show how important he is to that team. He has great aerial presence, winning almost every ball in the air. He has great vision and is able to switch the point of attack and find defensive weaknesses. He has mobility rarely seen for a guy that big.” — Papillion-La Vista South coach Dave Lawrence.

MF Royce Austen, Kearney, sr.

The résumé: Austen had an impressive stat line of 16 goals and 16 assists. His school records include career goals (63) and career assists (35). The three-time all-state player will play at Nebraska Wesleyan.

The opponent’s view: “His ability to score and assist goals on set pieces was impressive. One play that stood out to me this year was his set piece from 50-plus yards. He was able to drive the ball, which allowed his teammate to get a head on the ball and score the winning goal against Lincoln Southwest.” — Lincoln North Star coach Jason Brunott.

MF Luka Nedic, Omaha South, sr.

The résumé: Nedic had some big moments for South during a state championship season, including two goals against Gretna in the state semifinals and an assist in the championship match. He also earned first-team Super-State honors last year while playing for Lincoln North Star.

The opponent’s view: “Luka is a player that if you give him space and time on the ball, he can really make you pay. He reads the game extremely well and can run off defenders' shoulders. If you drop too far off, he stops and plays in front of the backs, and if you step too high he has the pace to get in behind you. The biggest trait that he shows is his selflessness.” — Gretna coach Tyler Ortlieb.

D Michael Ambrose, Creighton Prep, sr.

The résumé: He scored six goals, including two at state. He’ll play NCAA Division I soccer at Gonzaga.

The opponent’s view: “He’s a pretty hard-nosed kid, and I noticed that Prep kind of switched to a three-man back at times when they had him. He’s as solid of a defender as there is in the state, for sure.” — Omaha South coach Joe Maass.

D Ivan Hernandez, Omaha South, jr.

The résumé: Hernandez may have been at his best in the state championship match, when South beat Creighton Prep 2-1 in a shootout. Hernandez was credited with stopping three shots near the goal. Coach Joe Maass is adamant that South doesn’t win the state title without Hernandez playing defense for the Packers.

The opponent’s view: “I sat behind the Omaha South goal for the state championship match, and from my viewpoint, you could see all of the angles and space. Early on, my soccer-playing friend asked who No. 7 was. Ivan was winning headers and shutting down Prep opportunities, even calmly saving potential goals off the line. Ivan was everywhere. In a game with that much talent on the field, it would be easy for the casual fan to not pay attention to a central defender, but not on this night.” — Papillion-La Vista coach Andre Watts.

D Zion Osorio, Lincoln East, sr.

The résumé: He scored nine goals and had one assist for a state tournament team, and had the versatility to play at defender and to move up in the attack. He’ll play at Omaha.

The opponent’s view: “Zion is an incredible talent with terrific versatility. He was very distraught after our match (a shootout loss) with them this year, and I went over and told him to keep his head up because he was clearly one of the best players we faced all year.” — Grand Island coach Jeremy Jensen.

GK Jacob Hardy, Kearney, sr.

The résumé: He set the all-class state record for career shutouts with 45. In his four years as the starter, he helped Kearney to a 68-13 record and win its first state championship in 2018. He was also chosen for the all-state orchestra on the violin, and turned down college soccer offers to study music education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The opponent’s view: “Jacob Hardy possesses all the traits of an effective goalkeeper. He is able to communicate with the defense, make incredible saves and distribute well. The kid has the state record in shutouts for a reason.” — Lincoln High coach Alex Cerny.


Sports reporter

Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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