In his first eight games with the Notre Dame High boys’ soccer team, Aiden Hoenisch collected five goals and three assists, and that didn’t begin to tell the story of his impact.
After sitting out the required 30 days/10 games once he transferred from Bordentown, the sophomore became eligible on Oct. 1 and the Irish extended a three-game winning streak into 11 straight entering the Oct. 24 Mercer County Tournament championship game against Pennington.
Notre Dame already had talented scorers such as Giuliano Silva, Chris O’Neill and Danny Bensch. But when Hoenisch came on board, they became even more dangerous.
“Oh yeah,” O’Neill said. “We’d be on the wing and me and Danny would end up just being man marked, but Hoenisch just opens it up so that they have to mark us all, and they can’t all mark us at the same time.”
Hoenisch began to heat up in the MCT with three goals and an assist in the first three games. Even before that, however, first-year coach Dan Donigan praised Hoenisch’s on-field efforts after he could only practice through September.
“He’s definitely made an impact just by being out there and working and defending and making runs down the flanks and just creating problems for the opposing defenders,” Donigan said prior to the MCT. “He gives us another weapon in the attack, which relieves pressure from the other guys. We really can attack teams from all over the field. It’s a great luxury as a coach to have that many kids that can hurt you.”
What really impressed Donigan is that Hoenisch was able to gain esteem from the veteran players just by what he did in practice and preseason scrimmages.
“As a young player and a new player it’s hard to transition into a new team and a new school,” the coach said. “He’s taken really well to the players on the team. He’s gained the respect and appreciation from the players very quickly.
“It’s hard to make an impact and an impression without having the ability to play in games. He’s always one of the first ones into training and one of the last ones to leave. He’s an incredibly hard worker, he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s got tremendous pace, tremendous speed. While he was serving his 30 days, guys were anxious for his return because they knew he was gonna give us another dimension to our attack.”
Hoenisch had never sat the bench in his life, so having to watch from the sidelines wasn’t easy for those first 10 games. But he watched, learned, and anticipated the day he would be part of it all.
“It’s definitely tough not being able to be on the field and help the team,” Hoenisch said. “But I knew that my time would come and it was only a matter of time before I would be able to support the kids and be out there.
“I feel I bring extra to the team but I also know that I haven’t reached my full potential yet. I know I’m capable of much more but it’s giving chances to Chris and Danny and Giuliano so I know I’m doing my job. Practicing with them definitely helped with my chemistry with the other guys. The practices really helped building bonds.”
Hoenisch bonded with soccer at an early age, as he began playing in Bordentown rec at age 4 on Friendship fields. The sport was in his blood, as his dad Joe played for Hamilton High West and his mom, the former Kelly Lacour, played for Bordentown.
“My dad wanted to take me out to the soccer fields when I was little and had free time,” Hoenisch said. “He tried to coach me after every game, telling me what I did good and what I did bad. He was always there supporting me.”
Joe was an assistant coach on Hoenisch’s Bordentown travel teams until age 11. From there he moved to the GAK in Hamilton and joined Donigan’s Hibernian PDA group at age 13.
Hoenisch made the Bordentown varsity as a freshman and collected three goals and six assists.
“I was confident in my abilities last year,” he said. “I knew as long as I played my best and worked hard, I would get my fair share of minutes.”
Unfortunately for the Scotties, he was planning on transferring after the school year. When Donigan, the former University of St. Louis and Rutgers coach, was named the head man at Notre Dame last March, it was pretty much a no-brainer for the midfielder/forward.
“Knowing Dan would be the coach really helped my decision,” Hoenisch said. “I really wanted to further my career with him. He understands the game, he obviously played soccer his whole life. We play similar positions, I played on his PDA team and he’d always coach me to get the best out me.”
While transferring can sometimes be an acrimonious situation leading to bitterness, Scotties coach Jason Zablow was classy in how he handled things.
“Zablow was really cool about it, he was supportive,” Hoenisch said. “Zablow’s a good guy.”
Donigan was thrilled to get his new player, who impressed him during club soccer.
“I had the top team in the ’04 age group (in PDA), and as soon as I saw him I wanted him because I thought he had some great traits as a player,” Donigan said. “He’s never missed a beat since.”
Asked to assess his young star, the coach reeled off a laundry list of superlatives.
“He’s a great athlete,” Donigan said. “He’s got great speed, great pace. He’s technical, he works incredibly hard. Those traits right there alone tell you he’s gonna make an impact on the field.”
Not to mention, Hoenisch has a natural instinct for the sport.
“He’s just got a very solid skill set for the game of soccer and he is gonna be very impactful to any team,” Donigan continued. “You take any type of team, any style of team out there, he’s gonna fit in because of what he brings to the table with his work ethic, his speed and his soccer IQ. He’s got a tremendous soccer IQ as well.”
O’Neill was quickly impressed by his new teammate.
“He’s just been that dynamic player,” the senior said. “He can use his left, he can use his right. Honestly, being a sophomore he’s way better than I would have ever expected coming in. He’s got a wicked shot on both feet. He passes, he shoots.”
Hoenisch is quick to point out that joining a team of 16 seniors has helped his game as much as he has helped theirs.
“It’s definitely an experience playing with this bunch of kids,” he said. “This senior class has really stepped up. Just to join a team when it’s already successful and being able to help them out has been fun.”
Not to mention impactful.