Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Just like many of his fellow Sea Gulls, Salisbury University men’s soccer midfielder Dolph Hegewisch had big plans for the 2018 season. In his first two seasons, the Crofton, Md., native aided in the initial stages of SU head coach Alex Hargrove’s tenure at the helm of the program.
After being named to the All-CAC Second Team as a freshman and then helping his team get to the CAC semifinals last season, prospects were rising for him and his teammates headed into the new year. However, Hegewisch would have to adjust to a different role to stay on goal in the fall of 2018.
Before the season even started, it came to an end for the former DeMatha Catholic (Md.) midfielder. During SU’s annual spring game, Hegewisch went down with a season-ending injury.
“It was hard. It was probably the most challenging thing to happen in my athletic career,” Hegewisch said. “I didn’t really know what to say. I just kept my team informed the entire time through it all. They were there to back me up the whole way.”
Over his first two seasons as a Sea Gull, Hegewisch was an integral part in the Salisbury midfield, tallying 35 appearances including 30 starts. That time on the pitch equated to nine goals and four assists over those two seasons.
For Hegewisch though, he was eager to stay involved with his teammates and the coaching staff despite the setback. Even though he could not join the team on the field, he quickly found a new role to impact the squad on and off the field.
Through the first few weeks of the season, fans will still find Hegewisch standing alongside his comrades at practice and on the sidelines at matches. There was a role that Hargrove saw fit for one of his star midfielders.
“He’s going to be a manager in the true sense,” Hargrove said. “He’s going to be helping us with some work in the office, breaking down film and travel logistics. Certainly, he’s going to have the responsibility of probably keeping an eye on some of our first-year players academically as he’s a guy that’s been a leader in the classroom.”
“It’s a chance for him to take a season to grow in the mental side of the game and from a leadership perspective. We’re looking to challenge him in some of those ways.”
Hegewisch celebrates a game-winning goal vs. Catholic with teammate and SU center back Alex Eiben. Sept. 27, 2017.
Both head coach and player see it as a great opportunity to grow within the game of soccer. The time away from the field will now benefit the program in many ways, including when Hegewisch is ready to return next season.
The SU attacking midfielder attributes the learning opportunity to his relationship with his collegiate head coach. Already, Hegewisch is seeing benefits to viewing the team’s progress from a coaching perspective.
“Coach [Hargrove] and I’s relationship is pretty good. I cherish it a lot,” Hegewisch said. “We talk about a lot of things, and I’m learning the aspect of the game that I don’t get to see when I’m out on the field. Hopefully that makes me a better player when I come back next year.”
When Hegewisch eventually is able to return to the field next season, he may be coming back to a much more talented and seasoned squad that he will also help develop this season on the sidelines.
Core of the Squad
Without Hegewisch in the line-up, the Sea Gulls still possess a very potent central midfield in the 2018 season. The main three starting players in their typical formation each have already served valuable minutes in the maroon and gold.
Now with 25 starts in 40 appearances, SU junior midfielder Ryan Spadin returns as Hegewisch’s former partner in crime in the attacking midfield. After seeing only one start during his freshman campaign, Spadin saw 19 starts in 2017. All of his appearances have accumulated seven goals and three assists, including one vs. Bridgewater (Va.) this season.
“Dolph and I, we did kind of know each other [on the field],” Spadin said. “We knew when one was going up, so we’re just kind of all trying to learn each other now in what works best and what will work best the rest of the season.”
“It’s basically [about] learning the other midfielders’ preferences, kind of like where they’ll go on the field, what their movements are.”
SU midfielder Beau Johnson (No. 7), left back Alton Walker (No. 15), center back Trent Hofmeister (No. 28), forward Cameron Ament and forward Kevin Eriksen celebrate a goal vs. Neumann University. Sept. 4.
Spadin says that his success last season allowed him to become more comfortable and to find a greater confidence in his position. Now, as an upperclassman, he sees an opportunity to become more of a leader for the newer players to the squad.
Filling Hegewisch’s starting spot alongside Spadin is a familiar veteran Sea Gull, senior midfielder Robbie Budd. Budd spent most of his collegiate career in a more defensive-minded role, but he says that he has spent most of his high school and club career in the direct opposite mindset.
Budd believes success will come with Spadin due to the two players’ relationship away from collegiate soccer.
“I play with Spadin year-round,” Budd said. “Spadin and I are both locals. In the summer or the winter, we’re always playing with [different teams] so it’s easy to work with him and gel with him.”
The senior midfielder has already proven to be dangerous as part of the attacking sector of the team, scoring once alongside an assist off of four shots on goal.
Sliding into the defensive midfield spot is a player that grew across his freshman campaign, sophomore midfielder Beau Johnson. Budd sees the high work ethic of Johnson, calling the Washington, D.C., native a “workhorse.”
After 19 appearances and seven starts in 2017, Johnson says that he has found improved communication and patience around the ball. He is excited to see what the squad can do this season.
“There are a lot of young guys from last year. We were one of the youngest teams in the conference,” Johnson said. “Now that we have a lot more experience under our belts, I think we’ll be doing a lot better this season.”
“It’s been pretty much the same thing minus Dolph this year, so chemistry-wise I think it’s good, but of course it could always get better. I think it’s going to get better as the season goes on.”
Other than Budd, Spadin and Johnson, sophomore Peter Gutoskey, freshman John Ford and freshman Ryan Knaggs have found opportunities off the bench. Hargrove notes that Gutoskey is someone that the team will look at to fill some of the creative qualities of Hegewisch.
Neumann University sophomore forward Nick Testa keeps the ball from SU senior midfielder Robbie Budd. Sept. 4.
While Hegewisch’s minutes are replaced on the field, he continues to impact on the sidelines, consistently staying in contact with his teammates as they come on and off the field.
“I’m talking to them all,” Hegewisch said. “Honestly, I’m just trying to hear more about what they’re seeing out on the field and take their input on what they see. Then, whatever they have to say about it, I’ll give them little tips about what I think. We all are learning each and every day from each other. It’s a good experience.”
After a season-opening loss to Hobart, the Sea Gulls rallied off three consecutive clean sheets within a four-match winning streak, moving to a 4-1 record as non-conference play continues. With 10 goals across that winning stretch, the midfield continues to provide dangerous opportunities for the wingers and forwards ahead of them.
Hegewisch says that he sees the current midfield as one of the best in the CAC. The all-conference midfielder is still very much a part of the 2018 squad, just in a new way which he hopes will aid the team even further.
“They’re taking me through it all,” Hegewisch said. “They’ve been there through the rough stuff, so hopefully they’ll be there next year when I’m back out there doing what I do.”
By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: SU men’s soccer midfielder Dolph Hegewisch keeps the ball from two St. Mary’s (Md.) players. Oct. 4, 2017. (Emma Reider images).