During his first two seasons with the Rockhurst University men’s soccer team, Grain Valley graduate Blake Desselle wasn’t pleased with the playing time he was getting.
In fact, he didn’t see the field that much at all. It was time for a change.
When former Grain Valley teammates Noah Espinosa and Alex Thiessen heard about Desselle’s displeasure with the Hawks, they both suggested that he join them on the William Jewell College team.
That’s exactly what Desselle did as he reunited with his former teammates, who he played with when Grain Valley made its first state final four in 2015.
“It was a tough choice, I made a lot of friends there (at Rockhurst),” said Desselle, the 2015 Examiner Player of the Year and a two-time all-state midfielder. “It’s one of the best (Division II) programs in the country.
“But when I decided to leave, I decided to go play with two guys I grew up playing with. It was a pretty easy choice when it came to where I wanted to transfer. The guys were chirping in my ear to come here. They said, ‘You’ll get to play, and you’ll love it.’”
They were right. He played in 15 of the team’s 17 games and started in the midfield for 11 of them last fall. Espinosa started 10 games and played in all 17 while Thiessen played in just one game.
“It was super exciting to see some familiar faces on the field,” Desselle said. “Playing with those guys definitely brought back memories of playing at Grain Valley.”
Thiessen enjoys those times.
“I was ecstatic when I heard the news,” he said. “When Blake came to Jewell, we showed him around the place. We couldn’t get enough of him. We were talking about the chemistry we’d have together.”
Espinosa had similar thoughts.
“There’s nothing like reliving the dream playing with those guys again,” he said. “We knew we’d have chemistry here when we’re all on the field at the same time.
“At Grain Valley, it was our first time building what we have today as teammates. Here, it’s a whole different journey. I know where Blake wants (the ball) before he even says it.”
Last season, Jewell finished 5-12 overall and 2-11 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
“Jewell has been a successful program in the past when they were in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics),” Desselle said. “Once we moved up to (NCAA Division II), we struggled in the past couple of years.
“It didn’t go as planned. We didn’t win as many games as I wanted to, but it felt good to get back on the field and play all the time.”
The trio hopes to make 2019 a much better season.
“We had a pretty good freshman class this last year,” Desselle said. “We lost quite a few seniors, which will hurt a little bit, but I think this group will be better than last year, We also have a new coach. Everyone is pretty excited about it.”
Added Espinosa: “Just like high school, our freshman year didn’t go so good (at Jewell), my sophomore year was a little bit better and I hope my junior and senior years are like high school in a sense (when Grain Valley made the Class 3 state final four back-to-back years).”