By Bob Narang

St. Edward sophomore defender Cameron Kruk picked up an odd hobby during the offseason – boxing.

Considering the Green Wave will have a big target on their backs after finishing third in Class 1A last season, Kruk’s extra toughness might come in handy.

“When the season ended, I started working out right away because I want to get more playing time,” said Kruk said, who was a reserve in 2017. “Three days after the season was over, I joined a boxing class.

“I’ve been doing that for about five months now, and I feel so much better. I’m fast and stronger.”

Kruk and Co. will have to be faster and stronger if they’re to surpass or come close to equaling last season’s memorable campaign. Led by a historic season from AJ Franklin, the Green Wave compiled a 27-2 record – the most wins in a season for the program.

Replacing the goals by Franklin will be a tough task for the returnees in 2018. That’s because Franklin, a senior forward, scored an eye-popping 70 goals in 29 games, finishing one goal short of the IHSA single-season record.

In addition, the Green Wave must replace talented midfielder Will Gaston, but optimism remains with eight starters returning.

One of them is freshman Jackson Godfrey, who had a breakout season and became a mainstay in the rotation. The midfielder admitted he endured an overwhelming first year on varsity, in many aspects.

“This year was insane to come in and play for a team that took third in state,” Godfrey said. “It was just awesome to play with two guys who could be playing college next year in A.J. Franklin and Will Gaston.

“Since we’re losing AJ, I know I will have to step up and contribute more next season. The team didn’t need me much last year.

“It’s going to be a big step for all of us, because we all have to do more. I know I have to work even harder this offseason, just to reach that elite level.”

Another player looking to improve this offseason is sophomore goalie Evan Sajtar (pictured).

“I gained a lot of confidence last season,” Sajtar said. “My main goal next season is to be stronger and have more shutouts.”

St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said the main goal for next season is to not remain satisfied. Instead, he wants the returnees to be motivated to build their own legacies and extend the program’s back-to-back 20-plus win seasons to three.

“We want to be a program that people will look back on in a few years as one of the top small school programs, not a one-hit wonder,” Brieger said. “We have teams looking to add us to their schedules.”

Last season, the Green Wave started two freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and three seniors.

“Our identity will be different next year, but we don’t see it as a rebuilding,” said Brieger, whose team will participate in the PepsiCo Showdown, along with a Class A showcase at Herscher. “AJ was our focus last season, and he helped carry some of our youth. Next year, we will have a roster full of players with three and four years of varsity experience.”

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