Waterloo High School senior Ben Huels, the Belleville News-Democrat’s Player of the Year in boys soccer, signed with Saint Louis University on Wednesday.
Huels, a forward, had 30 goals and 12 assists last season as the Bulldogs finished 18-4-3. Huels had 31 goals and nine assists as a junior when Waterloo won the Class 2A state championship.
“I’m excited to get to SLU,” Huels said. “It will definitely be a new environment, going in there freshman year. But the coach (Mike McGinty) said he likes my IQ and athleticism. He’s not really sure what position he’s going to play me at yet. I’m just going to go in, work as hard as I can and try to prove a point. We’ll see what he does with me.”
Huels selected the Billikens over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Missouri State. Previously, Division II Indianapolis and Rockhurst were in the mix.
“Ben is a scorer,” McGinty said. “He is calm in the box and good at combining in tight spaces. We think he has a great upside and could feature in a number of positions for us because of his soccer IQ, athleticism and skill set.”
Huels finished his career at Waterloo with 61 goals and 21 assists despite playing just two seasons. He played club soccer with St. Louis Scott Gallagher in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy as a freshman and sophomore.
Huels has not declared a major, but he is interested in business marketing and finance.
The Billikens made an offer after seeing Huels plays in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase in December in Sarasota, Fla.
“They saw me originally when I was 16. I didn’t know about that,” Huels said. “They had me on their radar forever, and then I played high school and kind of went out of their (focus). Then they saw me again in December. That’s how it worked.”
SLU also signed defender Reed Hawkins, a senior at Granite City. Hawkins never played for the Warriors. He also has been playing with St. Louis Scott Gallagher.
“He is a reliable defender who is comfortable on either side of the field,” McGinty said of Hawkins. “He is tough, tenacious and a great leader. He has the mentality and attitude that we are looking for in a SLU player.”
Huels has played club soccer with Hawkins.
“Great defender,” Huels said. “A leader. A great guy to have on the team. Good personality. I think he’s looking to play at left back or right back.”
The Billikens were 7-8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season.
Collinsville goalie Brett Niedzwiecki signed with McKendree University on Wednesday, while Waterloo’s Ryan Stites signed with Truman State.
Niedzwiecki, an all-state selection, recorded eight shutouts, 97 saves and a 1.15 goals-against average. The Kahoks finished 12-8-2, falling 1-0 to Peoria Notre Dame in a sectional semifinal.
Stites had 10 goals and four assists for the Bulldogs.