Sunlake’s Hrenko sets national mark for shutouts

A lack of height isn’t an issue for Sunlake High soccer phenom Danny Hrenko.

The 5-foot-10 Hrenko, a senior goalkeeper on the Sunlake Seahawks soccer team, achieved his 75th shutout on Dec. 14, setting a new national career record for the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).

“Once I broke the record, it was definitely a good feeling,” said Hrenko, who has started as Sunlake’s varsity keeper since his freshman year. “I definitely felt a huge sense of accomplishment over my last four years here playing high school soccer.”

Sam Koleduk, head Seahawks soccer coach, put the accomplishment in context.

Sunlake High goalkeeper Danny Hrenko set the national career shutout record on Dec. 14. (Courtesy of Sam Koleduk)

Sunlake High goalkeeper Danny Hrenko set the national career shutout record on Dec. 14.
(Courtesy of Sam Koleduk)

“You’ve got to look at the record, and if you put it into perspective, he’s going to average over 20 shutouts a season, which is quite remarkable. I think it’s the biggest accomplishment in probably Pasco County soccer history and, probably, in the state of Florida.”

Thomas Gallagher, who played at St. Louis Christian Brothers College High School in Missouri, set the previous record of 74 career shutouts in 1997.

Interestingly, Hrenko had “no idea” how close to the shutout record he was before the start of the 2015 season, until someone gave him the heads-up, so he could keep track of the statistic.

“At the beginning of the season, I was made aware of it, and I started counting down game after game, ‘only 12 more, only 4 more,’ or whatever it was,” he said.

With a significant chunk of the season remaining in both the regular season and postseason, Hrenko has an opportunity to put the longstanding record even more out of reach for high school goalkeepers across the nation.

“He’s not only going to break the record, but he’s probably going to shatter it by 10 or 12 by the end of the season,” his head coach said. “I think it’s pretty remarkable.”

Hrenko, who has played soccer since age 3, has only been a goalkeeper for the past seven years. The position change happened by accident after he tried it out one day in practice and quickly realized he had a knack for it.

With additional instruction from Koleduk and Tampa Rangers coach Mike Connell, Hrenko was able to take his goalkeeping production to new heights by improving his footwork, leaping ability and overall comprehension of the game.

“I got the proper training and the proper coaching, and everyone was behind me,” said Hrenko, who used to be a midfielder. “And, I definitely worked on being the best I could be at my position.”

Also, not having an interest in playing other sports like football or baseball allowed Hrenko to put all of his focus on soccer, where the additional experience allowed him to develop his skillset even more.

“Playing so many games for high school, playing so many games for club and training all the time, it definitely has added another dynamic to my game,” said Hrenko, who has played in more than 100 high school soccer games.

While his natural athleticism allows him to be a physical presence in front of the net, it’s Hrenko’s leadership skills on the field that really stand out, whether it’s organizing the team’s defensive structure or giving his teammates direction during a game.

“It’s like having a coach on the field,” said Koleduk, praising his standout goalie. “He basically instructs everybody where to be… like if a kid makes a couple of bad passes, he’ll get up to him and talk to him. And, he does it in a good manner. He’ll get up and explain what his teammates are doing wrong, even during the game he’ll do it, and I think the kids appreciate that.”

Hrenko’s consistency and eye-popping statistics over the past four years have drawn the interest of several Division II, Division III and NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) college soccer programs. However, he has yet to land a coveted Division I offer from a major university.

Both Hrenko and Koleduk agree that the main reason Division I programs haven’t called yet is because he’s less than 6-feet tall.

“I’d say it’s 100 percent his height,” Koleduk explained. “And, in his case, it doesn’t matter. It’s almost like an NFL quarterback like Drew Brees or someone that’s kind of shorter. There are certain guys that can do it and some that can’t. But, for some reason, a lot of the DI coaches want somebody that’s 6-foot-4 or 6-(foot)-5.”

“Not (being) tall enough is one of the main things, but I don’t let that get me down,” Hrenko said about the absence of Division 1 offers. “I try to play to the best of my ability, and I try to showcase myself in the best manner possible. I’ll just do my best and hope for the best. That’s all I can do.”

While the soccer player hasn’t received a Division 1 offer yet, Koleduk believes there is still a good chance one will come Hrenko’s way, possibly by March or April.

“Soccer’s a weird thing for scholarships,” Koleduk explained. “Even for the best field players…so much of it is done last minute because it’s not like (college) football where (programs) just have tons of offers and scholarship money. So, for soccer it’s a little bit more difficult; you’ve got to kind of wait it out a little bit.

“I think by the time it’s said and done, someone’s going to offer him that’s not scared of the height issue,” the coach said.

While Hrenko is proud of his individual accomplishments, he said the “ultimate goal” this season is to win a state championship with his team come February. The Seahawks have reached the state semifinals in the playoffs three consecutive years, falling short to the eventual state champion on each occasion.

Coach Koleduk noted this year’s Seahawks squad doesn’t have quite as many “superstars” as the past years, but the players have better cohesion and chemistry as a unit on the field.

“I think this year we’re maybe not as strong as we were last year, but I think we’re a better team,” Koleduk said. “We play better together.”

His senior captain agreed.

“This year, I think we have more camaraderie, more teamwork, more understanding of each other,” Hrenko said. “They’ve all been great squads over the past four years, but I think this squad has something special.”

Published January 6, 2016

 

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