Trio of different styles produces special leadership blend for 2015 Irish
Kit Loughran | Wednesday, August 26, 2015
A joke, a positive outlook and an analytical execution are the secrets to the three Irish captains’ success, but it’s their competitive edge that collectively defines their leadership on the field.
Senior midfielders Connor Klekota and Patrick Hodan and graduate student defender Max Lachowecki will lead the Irish in defending their ACC Championship title and begin their quest to add another National Championship to their resumes.
“Connor, Patrick and Max are all very competitive,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “They’ve all grown as players and as people [since their freshman years], and when you’re part of the team you evolve different roles over the years. They weren’t all captains as freshmen, and it’s nice to have seen them grow [into that role].”
While Clark fully approves of his team’s tri-captains, it wasn’t actually him who chose the three.
“We always have the other players choose, and it always works out pretty well,” Clark said. “They always know who the leaders are. You see who evolves throughout the season and [having the players select the captains] seems to have worked pretty well all the way up to now.”
This season is sure to be no different. While all competitive in their playing style, each brings something unique to what it means to be a leader.
“Max is a bit of a joker and a very funny guy, but on the field there’s no one more competitive than Max,” Clark said. “There’s a light-sided part to him, which is nice to have in the locker room.
“He lightens up the locker room and even before a big game you need that. He’s a friendly face who the younger boys could go talk to easily.”
The three-time monogram winner has scored five goals, including two game-winning goals, and tallied four assists for 14 points. Lachowecki was also named to the BIG EAST Conference all-rookie team and Soccer America all-freshman team in 2012.
Klekota plays up Lachowecki’s light-sided style with his positive energy.
“Connor is just a comedian,” Clark said. “He’s also so competitive and comes to play ever single day. He has such a good work ethic.
“He gets excited and after every practice says ‘it’s been a great practice.’ He just has a very positive outlook in life, which is great to have on the field.”
In his 44 career appearances, including 28 starts, the midfielder has posted two goals and seven assists. He played in 20 games in 2014, which led to one goal and a career-high four assists.
But it’s Hodan who balances out these two with his analytical approach to the game.
“Pat is the shier, more studious one, but he does all the right things,” Clark said. “He sums everything up and comes up with a conclusion.
“He’s not afraid to voice his opinion. He may seem quieter, but he’s just as competitive. He loves to get his point across.”
Hodan has no problem getting his point across, as Clark said. He led the Irish last season with nine goals and 21 points in 24 matches, 15 of which were starts. For his career the midfielder has 26 goals and 65 points to his name.
He was selected as the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He was also named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-America first team choice and the Capital One Academic All-America first team.
It’s these distinct accomplishments and individual game-time outlooks that bring the trio’s leadership to life for the rest of their teammates.
“We all have different styles and personalities on and off the field,” Hodan said. “But I think we work well together, and our different styles complement each other. We all mesh well.”
In just three games the Irish have seen the mesh taking effect, Hodan added.
“We really have developed well in just these three games,” he said. “With each game we’ve gotten better and better.”
And when it comes down to it, Clark and Hodan agree that for the captain trio being a leader means developing more than simply on-the-field skills. It’s about always being there for your teammates, Hodan said.
“It’s important that as upperclassmen and captains we go out of our way to make the freshmen feel welcome,” he said. “It’s intimidating being a freshman, and we’ve all been there so we make sure to include the underclassmen in activities outside of soccer and school. We’re always there if they have any questions or need any help.”
Hodan, Klekota and Lechowechi will carry the Irish into their regular season opener against Maryland on Friday at 5 p.m. at the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana. The Irish continue their play at the Classic against Indiana on Sunday at 2 p.m.