Washington’s Hodges named County Soccer Player of the Year

Published 12:14 pm Saturday, December 27, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS TURN ON THE JETS: Junior Kyle Hodges set the Washington single-season scoring record with 40 goals.

TURN ON THE JETS: Junior Kyle Hodges set the Washington single-season scoring record with 40 goals.

Washington forward Kyle Hodges entered the inaugural 7-on-7 summer soccer league in the best shape of his life, dropping a considerable amount of weight in the offseason, rededicating himself to his craft as a soccer player.

He was always athletic, head coach Jim Kozuch said, but the pounds shed unlocked a weapon many associated with the Pam Pack program never saw coming.

“Sophomore year — good player, great skill, but had no endurance,” Kozuch said. “He wasn’t physically ready for varsity yet. He did well and scored some goals for jayvee, but was a 10-minute player. We talked to him at the end of the year and told him this is what you need to do to make it happen. Then he got bigger, faster, stronger and looks like a physical specimen now. Of course we had high expectations for him and he definitely came through.”

Hodges was never the most technically sound player on the pitch, his shot accuracy was questioned on occasion and his shot power was hardly elite. However, in every one of the team’s 26 games this season, the Washington junior was the fastest player on the pitch, an attribute that gave Washington a distinct advantage up front and eventually led to a historic scoring streak.

“He figured it out that he’s a soccer player and needed to dedicate a little more to the game if he wants to be able to take it to the next level,” Kozuch said. “When he put his mind to it, he just decided he was going to be ready. Just seeing his physical ability and seeing how in shape he was, it gave him a lot of confidence. You want to be a little cocky and a little confident and I think he found the right combination between the two.”

Hodges finished with 40 goals, breaking Victor Chavez’s single-season Washington scoring record (38) and finishing third in Class 2-A in goals. It was a season defined by consistency from the striker position. Hodges notched five hat tricks, including four four-goal games, and also picked up six assists, most of which were to his counterpart up front, senior forward Sergio Higuera, who tallied 28 goals.

The duo combined for more than 50 percent of the team’s offensive output and supported a midfield that took months to find its identity. While Kozuch played with his lineup — shifting midfielders to defense and vice versa — the production of Hodges and Higuera provided a valuable constant.

“Obviously, records are meant to be broken,” Kozuch said. “Seeing that someone can do it, you want to do it over and over again. Now, he has another goal for next year — score some more goals and get some more assists. For everyone else, it’s a mark that can be accomplished, so it gives everyone something to strive for.”

Kozuch will lose six seniors to graduation in May, including Higuera, and will look to guys like Hodges, defender Holt McKeithan and Miguel Hernandez to assume more of a role as team leaders. In terms of his junior striker, Kozuch is looking for more than just scoring next season.

“You don’t want to set unrealistic expectations, but I expect him to at least reach his mark (next year) that he got this year. He should at least be able to exceed it. We’re going to have some other players step up next year,” Kozuch said.

“I’d like to see him round out his game a little more and get a bunch of assists. It’s going to be tough because other teams will put their best defender on him every single game. If he rounds out his game, 20 assists and 30 goals would be one of the best accomplishments every by everybody’s standards.”