Busy Summer has Höfs in Midseason Form

Sept. 3, 2017

Life is good for Thor Arne Höfs in his hometown of Fehmarn, Germany.
 

 

The George Washington goalkeeper’s perfect summer day on the island in the Baltic Sea starts with a five-minute trip to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation with his girlfriend, moves on to a training session with his local soccer club and finishes with a dinner of freshly caught seafood at his grandparents’ house nearby.

“I get the best food from them,” Höfs said with a grin.

Höfs could have had more than two months in his personal paradise if he’d simply headed home for the summer, as he did after his freshman season. Instead, he settled for two weeks this time around.

Höfs had his mind on the future when he signed on to play with the Seacoast United Phantoms of the Premier Development League. He spent much of the summer living with a host family in Groveland, Mass., and making the 40-minute daily commute to the club’s facility in New Hampshire.

So far, it’s seemed like a great decision. After helping Seacoast United to a berth in the PDL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, Höfs arrived for GW preseason feeling fit, confident and eager to build on a sterling sophomore season.

“It usually takes me like a week to get back into a good rhythm,” Höfs said. “This year, the first day I was ready. I don’t feel like I lost my touch or anything.”

Höfs set a lofty bar last fall. Boosted by a veteran defense, the goalie allowed just 11 goals in 17 starts and set a program record with nine shutouts. He led the Atlantic 10 in goals against average and save percentage.

Thinking ahead, Höfs didn’t take much convincing from head coach Craig Jones to change his summer plans. He understood the benefit of a dedicated practice regimen and more high-level game minutes.

In the summer, German clubs take a six-week break from competition, so it’s more difficult to get in quality training back home.

Höfs put together a highlight tape to send to PDL coaches around the country before finding a match with Seacoast United coach Alistair Bain.

“I just knew I wanted to get in as many reps as I could,” Höfs said.

After finishing the spring semester, Höfs headed off to New England, where he lived with the Merrill family, along with Seacoast United teammate Erumuse Momoh, a defender from Penn.

Höfs found the challenge he wanted. Seacoast United trained Tuesday-through-Friday with matches most Saturdays and Sundays. There were also gym workouts mixed in and extra sessions with the goalkeeper coach when he asked.

Bain frequently switched up his formation, which provided good experience playing a variety of different styles.

Beyond the pitch, it was a chance to explore a new part of the United States. Höfs had never been to this country before he showed up for his first GW preseason in 2015.

This summer, he toured Boston, lounged on New Hampshire's Hampton Beach and soaked in his new surroundings.

“Up there, it’s basically like all forest,” Höfs said. “When we were driving in the dark, that was like advanced darkness. I’d never seen anything like that.”

With Höfs the regular starter in net, the Phantoms went 11-1-2 and finished atop the PDL’s Northeast Division. They won a home playoff game before bowing out to the eventual league champion Charlotte Eagles in Georgia.

“It was an amazing season,” said Höfs, who ended up sixth in the league in total saves with a 1.43 goals against average.

After two weeks at home to recharge, Höfs reported to the Colonials last month with a noticeable hop in his step. Normally, he’d need a few days to adjust to the Washington, D.C., humidity, but he stayed strong this time as others dragged.

“Right now, he looks like he was at the end of last year,” Jones said as training opened. “He’s a little older, a little bit more experienced, so hopefully, that means he’s even a little bit better.”

GW had to replace defensive mainstays Tobi Adewole and Sam Summerlin. Höfs is now a veteran charged with organizing a new-look backline.

First-year assistant Manbi Nyepon has challenged Höfs to pick up his communication and fine-tune his footwork. So far, he’s passed every test.

“He came in and he was like ‘Hey, let's go,’” said Nyepon, a former college goalie. “He was confident in himself. He knew what he was doing, and he’s played well.”

Ultimately, Höfs believed sacrificing a few perfect summer days in Germany would translate into a more perfect fall at GW.

After a rocky opener at Binghamton, Höfs bounced back to blank Lehigh, 1-0, on Aug. 27. His 12th career clean sheet provided a blueprint the Colonials hope to follow often this season.

“We can do it," Höfs said. "Everyone has the mentality that we have to work even harder now. We have to stay even more focused.”

@GWMensSoccer

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