The next time T.C. Hull plays soccer for his school team, it will be for Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
That’s intensely bittersweet for the reigning Kane County Chronicle Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
The gifted St. Charles East junior forward is enthused about his future as a Cougar but saddened at the loss of his senior season with the Saints. Hull, who committed to SIU-E on Thursday, tore his right ACL during a club match in April, and anticipates surgery the week after school lets out.
An expected recovery time of at least six months means he will not be able to build off his 31-goal season with East last year, at least not with the Saints.
“I’m definitely really disappointed just because I had a lot of goals set and a lot of things planned for the future, both with [his club team, Campton United] and the St. Charles East team,” Hull said. “I’m just disappointed, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Making a college commitment offered Hull a nice distraction from dwelling upon his knee woes.
Hull was weighing offers from SIU-Edwardsville, Michigan State, Loyola, Northern Illinois and Butler, with his decision ultimately coming down to the Cougars and the Spartans.
He said the more free-wheeling playing style exhibited by the Cougars was a better fit for his skill-oriented game than the harder-edged soccer typically played by Big Ten teams.
“It’s basically possession with a purpose,” Hull said of SIU-E’s approach. “That’s the style of play I like to play.”
Hull also noted that with no football team at SIU-Edwardsville, men’s soccer carries a higher profile on campus. Hull said the Cougars’ class of 2014 recruiting haul projects as one that will keep the Cougars highly competitive throughout his career.
He’s used to winning big after a 20-3-1 season for the Saints that ended with a Class 3A supersectional loss to Warren.
A big encore season is expected with several key returnees due back in the fall, though Hull’s injury will leave coach Paul Jennison’s team a major void up top.
“That’s obviously a massive loss,” Jennison said. “I fully expected him to continue [from] his fantastic junior year. We had high hopes for him and more importantly he had high hopes for himself. It’s a shame because he’s a great kid. … Not many times do you have a kid as good as he is who really doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s completely down-to-earth. That’s such a refreshing change. The hardest thing for him to do was to tell his teammates he wasn’t going to play this year.”
One of those teammates – Hull’s close friend and Saints junior defender Jake Sterling – made a college commitment on the same day Hull did, choosing Spring Arbor University, an NAIA program in Michigan.
Hull thinks East still has ample talent to meet the program’s rising expectations.
“I think we’ll be one of the best teams in the state, even without me,” Hull said. “I think as a team, we’ll come together and even be better next year and play really well. I feel like this year is going to be something special, even if I’m not on the field.”
At least Hull now knows where he’ll be when that time comes again.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.