Evan Hollfelder played the first eight games of his sophomore yeat at Hamburg before being sidelined by surgery. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Hamburg had high expectations this season after making it to the state tournament for just the second time in school history last spring.
After a pair of losses on their annual trip to Virgina, Jerry Severino saw that he needed more depth in the midfield and looked forward to working more with his second line and watch them progress.
“What we wanted to do after the Virginia trip was to develop offensive midfield depth, and that’s what we’ve done,” noted Severino. “Now I can trust Shawn Mills and Shawn Fuererstein and Evan Wright and a couple of the other guys to give Lucas [Shafer] and Matt Borgese and Evan Hollfelder a rest.”
Along with the increased playing time, some players were forced into larger roles when some of their guys got hurt, so naturally they had to get a deeper rotation to continue to compete.
Hollfelder was the first to get hurt. The sophomore midfielder broke his thumb eight games into the season versus Canandaigua. He it required surgery, but the coaching staff was confident that he would be back for the postseason.
“It sucked. Being out always sucks. But I think as a team we grew and got better,” said Hollfelder. “Some players stepped up and I feel overall we’re a better team.”
Hollfelder returned on May 22 in the Class B semifinals versus West Seneca East. He scored five points, helping on five goals in the 12-5 victory. His teammate, Jim Duffy, scored six points on four goals.
“The fact that Evan Hollfelder is back draws a lot of that attention up top. That’s really why Jimmy Duffy was so wide open underneath,” Severino said.
Against Williamsville South in the quarterfinals on May 20, the Bulldogs beat the Billies, 17-2, while Hollfelder stayed out for his eighth and final game.
“I liked everything about our offense today,” said Shafer, who had six points in the first round game. “There were like four guys that never scored goals this season that got goals today. I think that was awesome to get them in. Especially since we were on TV.”
Colin Mills led Hamburg with three goals in the quarterfinals. Brendan Ryan had two goals and an assist. Andrew Rettig added two goals while Connor Small and Mark Miles added one goal each.
Despite the talent that they lost in Hollfelder for about a month, Severino’s plan to improve his second line was helped by Hollfelder’s absence, naturally having to play deeper into his rotation.
“I was forced into it, and that’s when Shawn started playing well, and Evan started playing well, and Collin started playing better,” Severino said.
In fact, not only did Severino get the chance to improve his offensive attack, but he found a two-way player while toying with his formation.
Severino decided to let Ryan play both sides of the field after his performance against Williamsville South.
“And Brendan Ryan’s always been on the defensive side of the ball, but now we see he’s just too lethal,” Severino said after eliminating the Billies. “He’s just an athlete. He’s strong enough, fast enough, and he has basketball instincts.”
“I told him that he is now a two-way midfielder. He will be on offense and defense. He’s just an excellent athlete.”
The Bulldogs went on to capturing the program’s seventh Section VI title in eight seasons. They went on to the Far West Regionals, falling to Victor (Section V) after a competitive regional championship game.
And Hamburg would not have been able to make that run without the improvement of its backup midfielders.
“Evan Hollfelder and Matt Borgese coming back as two of the top six offensive players on the team makes a big difference,” Severino said about the return of a pair of his finest midfielders late in the season.
“Now we got a couple seasoned middies, like Shawn Mills and Evan Wright and a few others, who can come in and spell them and not skip a beat.”