Hastings first-year soccer coach Aaron Champenoy knew what kind of program he was walking into when he took the job in the offseason. But while it didn’t come as a huge surprise to him, the Broncos' success on the pitch did seem a bit ahead of schedule.
Five selections on the Great Plains Athletic Conference first team, an undefeated regular season and the top seed in the NAIA Tournament were just a few of the Broncos' accolades this season.
Daniel Whitehall and Joe White were named GPAC players of the year on offense and defense, respectively. Not to a mention a GPAC coach-of-the-year award for Champenoy.
“When I came in, I knew the kind of program I was inheriting,” Champenoy said. “We were feeling good and knew we looked good on paper, but I wasn’t sure we’d be quite as good as quick as we have been. It’s been great for the players' confidence moving forward.”
The Broncos have exceeded even the loftiest of expectations this season and now have a date in Delray Beach, Florida, with Marymount California in the second round of the NAIA tourney. Hastings moved to 21-0 after defeating Friends 3-1 in the opening round to earn a trip to the Sunshine State.
“I told the guys that if they wanted to get to better weather, all we had to do was win,” Champenoy said. “We’re excited to go play some strong opponents and show how good we are. Every game will have its own set of challenges and we’re looking forward to the competition. We had a difficult nonconference schedule, so we feel prepared.”
Whitehall has been the catalyst for the Broncos all season on his way to back-to-back player-of-the-year awards. The sophomore has 33 goals this season, including eight multigoal games, and eight assists.
While Whitehall has been lighting up the scoring column and collecting awards, his supporting cast has been stellar as well. From the backline to midfielder and captain Marc Tautz, the Broncos have come together as a team built for the postseason.
“It really has been a combination of things this season,” Champenoy said. “The team really took to the new system and had good attributes from the previous system. We stressed that this was going to be a blue-collar program. We were going to work hard and prepare better than other teams.”
The Broncos are now looking forward to making a deep run in the tournament, starting with their second-round match Monday.
“We feel we have as good a chance as anyone and hopefully we’re playing on December 3,” Champenoy added.
Hastings is one of two Nebraska teams remaining in the tournament. Midland (17-3-1) will play Davenport (Michigan) on Tuesday. The Warriors advanced with a 2-0 win against Baker (Kansas) in the first round.