When Andy Hodzic was called upon to take over the Hillsdale High School boys’ soccer team four years ago, he found a talented but undisciplined team.
“Before I came here, every game there was at least one red card and players were fighting,” Hodzic recalled. “But once we got them settled down, they started playing better and winning games.”
The Knights went 1-9 in Peninsula Athletic League Ocean play last year as Hillsdale lost nearly two dozen players to eligibility issues forcing Hodzic to put a uniform on anyone willing to step out onto the pitch.
“Basically whoever wanted to play got to play,” Hodzic said. “But we only had one yellow card all season.”
For the second time since returning to coaching, Hodzic is building up another Knights’ team and having much more fun at it too. And not just because his Knights are very much in the mix for the PAL Ocean title this year either.
“This year we have great students and good players,” Hodzic said. “We’re young and still rebuilding. It’s been fun as a teacher and a coach. Less so in the results, but we’re getting there.”
Entering Wednesday’s games, the Knights stood at 5-2-1 this season in Ocean Division, right behind San Mateo (6-2-0) and Half Moon Bay (5-1-2) despite only having two seniors in the starting lineup, five seniors on the entire team and being one of the smaller teams in the league.
“This group has a lot of skills,” Hodzic said. “And while we are smaller compared to some of the other teams, we use our speed and passing to counter our lack of height. We’re not very big, but we’re strong and aggressive.”
That speed comes in the form of Guillermo Garcia, who has scored 14 goals in league play this year, including two hat tricks. The only Ocean Division team Garcia has not scored against is South San Francisco.
“He’ll probably score against them the next time we play them,” Hodzic said. “He’s a natural scorer.”
Quarterbacking the Knights’ attack is midfielder Andres Lau, a junior and three-year varsity starter.
“He’s a skilled player and plays the position very well,” Hodzic said.
While the Knights are in the mix this year, Hodzic is already looking ahead and feels he has a team that will be successful in the long term and will likely move up to the Bay Division after next season.
“We have nine starters returning,” Holdzic said. “I’m really looking forward to watching this team grow.”
But Hodzic feels his team has a legitimate shot to finish in the top two of Ocean and make it to the postseason.
“Everything will go down to the last week,” Hodzic said. “We may have the easiest schedule of the four teams with a chance to finish in the top two.”