When the Waterloo boys soccer team celebrated its Class 2A super-sectional victory Tuesday, it was a moment coach Chad Holden had envisioned three years ago.
In the fall of 2012, just one player from the previous season returned to the Bulldogs’ roster. Holden knew a successful future meant he he had to go young.
“We put the freshmen out there on varsity and told them, ‘Look, you’re going to take your lumps, and we’ll be right there taking the lumps with you,’” Holden recalled. “But we knew the group had potential and the plan always was to coach them up through their senior season and to take them to state.
“Here we are.”
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No player embodies that initial potential and steady growth like midfielder Kane Osterhage, the BND Athlete of the Week.
I try not to be selfish and I actually would rather somebody else score. I feel like an assist is harder and that scoring is the easy part. A good pass has to be accurate in some cases and that spot can be harder to hit than a goal.
Kane Osterhage, Waterloo senior midfielder
Since winning five games as freshmen, Osterhage and his classmates progressed to 11 wins as sophomores, 18 as juniors and to a record of 23-3-1 this year. They’ll be at Hoffman Estates High School on Friday for a Class 2A state semifinal game against Mundelein Carmel.
Osterhage, too, has progressed.
He scored one goal as a freshman, but had nine goals as a sophomore and 17 as a junior. So far his senior year he has 30 goals, which is the third-most in the St. Louis region and the best in the metro-east.
“He wasn’t very big as a freshman, but we recognized a lot of potential in him and put him out there with the other guys,” Holden said. “To watch him game-to-game and year-to-year, he’s just gotten consistently better.”
Consistency has defined Osterhage’s game in 2015. He’s had his multi-goal games — like the hat trick he scored against Marquette in last week’s sectional-final victory — but he’s found the goal at least once in 19 of the Bulldogs’ 26 games.
He did not score in any of the team’s three losses.
“We can count on him scoring a goal just about every game,” Holden said. “Our defense has been great all year. In fact, our offense really starts with our defense because they control the game. If Kane scores, it gives us a really good chance to win.”
But Holden is fast to point out that Osterhage is more than just a goal scorer.
“Most people think he has all his success up top, but he’s actually a midfielder. He likes to start from the middle and if he gets to where he has one man to beat, the defender doesn’t really have a chance,” Holden said. “But it’s not just the scoring — Kane is really a complete player. He’s got great speed, but he also reads the game very well and he’s not afraid to dish the ball off, either. He leads the team in assists. “
In fact, Osterhage says he takes more more pride in his 18 assists — the fifth-most in the St. Louis area and second most in the metro-east — than his goals.
He likes to start from the middle and if he gets to where he has one man to beat, the defender doesn't really have a chance.
Chad Holden, Waterloo head soccer coach
“I try not to be selfish and I actually would rather somebody else score,” he said. “I feel like an assist is harder and that scoring is the easy part. A good pass has to be accurate in some cases and that spot can be harder to hit than a goal.”
And the Bulldogs are not just a one-man team, Osterhage says.
His goals start with a defense that has shut out opponents 15 times this season. Junior Ben Huels also has 27 goals, senior Clay Metz has 16 and 12 other Bulldogs have found the back of the net. Senior Ethan Lewis is second on the team with 10 assists.
“It’s been a really great year and we’re all excited about the weekend and going to state,” Osterhage said. “We’ve all been playing together for a while and it would be nice to finish up on top.”