As a well-known returning scorer this season, Danny Bensch was bound to get extra defensive attention and a few extra illegal shots that went unseen by officials. But as a member of the Notre Dame High Latin Club, might Bensch be able to offer some unflattering complaints to the refs in Latin so as not to get red carded?
“Potentially, yes,” the Mercerville resident said with a laugh.
Actually, Bensch has been pretty level-headed when it comes right down to it, and has easily dealt with whatever comes his way.
“Sometimes it does get a little hectic getting double marked,” he said. “I just work my game. If it’s not working for me, my team has the ability. I try my best to get open, get the ball and work it forward. Being double marked it’s hard but I work through and just keep going and play my game.”
Irish coach P.J. Barrett has been impressed with his junior forward’s composure.
“Of course everybody gets frustrated at times, but he’s done a very good job,” Barrett said. “He’s a mature player. We’re happy with what he’s done.”
After a year on the Irish JV team, Bensch exploded last season with a team-leading 16 goals and one assist. Heading into this year’s state tournament, he led ND in both goals (13) and assists (6) during a 7-1 regular season. His output has come despite opponents game planning to slow down Bensch.
“That’s one of the things we talked about this year coming in,” Barrett said. “Everybody knows who he is, he’s not gonna surprise anyone, so he knew he had to work harder. He put in the time during the off-season.”
That off-season work ethic carries directly onto the field during games.
“He works very hard and doesn’t stop,” Barrett said. “He’s tenacious, relentless, and does what he has to do to put the ball in the net. He creates good opportunities for himself and finishes his opportunities.”
Bensch said his philosophy this season was to keep it simple. Don’t try to do too much, let things come to him, and capitalize when chances arose.
“I knew after last season there was definitely gonna be some marking,” he said. “I just stuck to the game I know, worked the ball with my team and started scoring some goals. We work well together. Our midfield has come up big.”
Bensch has been a forward all his life, since starting in the Hamilton rec league and moving on to club soccer. It was the only place he ever wanted to play.
“When I was young I just wanted to score goals,” he said. “That’s the name of the game, put the ball in the back of the net. Ever since I was little there was just the drive to score goals.”
It’s that kind of attitude every coach wants to see in their strikers.
“I just love the feeling of putting the ball in the back of the net; nothing compares to it,” Bensch said. “If I can get up there and put some balls in, or even if I can get an assist; just having anything to do with putting the ball in the net is a great feeling.”
After a stint with the Hibernian Huskies, Bensch played for the GAK Havoc and the Mercer FC before coming to his current PDA club. He feels the opportunity to play for different programs has helped in his overall performance.
“It just adds to it,” Bensch said. “You take skills from every coach. Every coach has a different philosophy, obviously. I just take what they give me, kind of combine it into one along with my game and that’s where my game’s at today.”
After making varsity as a sophomore, Bensch got off to a slow start with just one goal in Notre Dame’s first eight games. That wasn’t too much of a shock since the Irish were loaded with senior talent, but Bensch would not be denied much longer. He scored two goals against Hightstown and four against Ewing, starting him on a binge of 11 goals in a six-game span.
“Last year was an adjustment,” Barrett said. “When kids make that jump from JV to varsity, it’s the speed of play that’s tough. He acclimated to that quickly; continued to work hard and positive things happened.”
Bensch admitted as much, saying, “Coming in as a sophomore is definitely intimidating. I just stuck to my game. Last year, we had a very strong team. I started getting used to the boys, getting used to the play. Once it went from there I started getting my goals.
“I knew what my ability was and I definitely brought it last year. I tried to do it this year, bring that intensity, bring that ability to find the back of the net. I’m trying to create what I did last year.”
He certainly did that in averaging nearly two goals and one assist through the regular season. Bensch started with a hat trick against Ewing and also had a five-goal outburst at Nottingham. He scored in all but two games and had a hand in 19 of Notre Dame’s 23 goals
“He’s been a large part of our success offensively,” Barrett said. “We have a lot of players around him that have helped out like Aiden Hoenisch, James Watson, James Ferraro. He was aware nothing was going to come easy this year, he wasn’t going to surprise anyone.”
And yet, Bensch still has the skills to shake himself free for a shot.
“He changes directions very well,” Barrett said. “He has a very powerful strike. His placement is pretty good as well but overall I think it’s his work and determination that puts him in a spot to get goals.”
Bensch is also a member of ND’s Catholic Athletes for Christ club and runs hurdles for the winter track & field team as he tries to build his resume for college. He has been in touch with some colleges and calls it “an interesting process going through recruiting.”
But for now, his focus is firmly on fighting through double teams and continuing to score for the Irish.
And just so refs know, he was only kidding about that Latin thing.