Freshmen goalies step in to fill void

At the conclusion of Friday's 2-0 loss to Oakland University, the men's soccer team did not have an upperclassman on the field.

The loss was not a sign head coach Steve Adlard had abandoned the program's preseason aspiration of advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, it was a reflection of the team's roster.

"We have to grow up quick," Adlard said after the game. "This is clearly a time (when) lots of new players are expected to have lots of responsibilities and that's very difficult."

The heaviest burden has fallen on Andy Kroll and Steven Grow. The freshmen goalkeepers have had to step in and fill the void created by the graduation of four-year starter Adam Ubert and Richie Ilk's decision not to return to the team for his junior season.

Neither goalie is worried about the situation, though. They came into the season expecting to play and did everything they could to prepare for the opportunity.

Kroll, who has received a majority of the playing time, hails from Portage, Mich. but spent a year-and-a-half training in Bradenton, Fla. at the IMG Soccer Academy before arriving in Milwaukee.

The Academy is also the training site for the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team.

"He's one of the most mature people I know," Scott Morgenroth, goalkeeper coach at IMG, said. "Mentally he's not a true freshman. He's … trained in an environment that's as demanding or more demanding than college. That's his biggest selling point."

Adlard was impressed with the training routine, but he had been sold on Kroll since he began working with him a number of years ago as part of the Olympic Development Program.

"Because he'd worked with me he knew about me and he knew what I could teach him," Adlard said.

Adlard knew what he was getting in return: a 6-2 goalie who uses his size well, understands the game, is athletic and technically developed.

No one would mistake Kroll for Grow. Grow is listed as 5 feet 9 inches, and uses his leaping and diving abilities to compensate for his slight stature.

Those skills have carried him far on the field. He recorded 26 shutouts during his career at St. Thomas Aquinas in Lenexa, Kan., the same high school senior forward Chris Lee and sophomore forwards Pat Knoelke and Matt Blouin attended. Grow was named the East Kansas League Goalkeeper of the Year as a senior.

Grow entered the game against Oakland after Kroll left with a separated left shoulder. In 82 minutes of action he made four saves and did not allow a goal.

"Steve did fine. It's unfortunate for someone to have to go into the game under those circumstances. To his credit he did well, he played admirably," Adlard said.

"The two are very competitive people, and by going against each other in practice they make each other better," Ubert, now a graduate and assistant coach, said.