Sports Person of the Week
Engels Loves Tending the Westbrook Net
Junior goalie Ryan Engels earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team accolades for his performance in net with the Westbrook boys’ soccer squad this fall. (Photo courtesy of Lifetouch Photography)
When Head Coach Derek Hanssen thinks about the cornerstones of the Westbrook boys’ soccer team, the first name that comes to his mind is Ryan Engels. Ryan is goalkeeper who recently completed his junior season starting in net for the Knights.
Westbrook finished with a record of 4-10-2 for the 2021 season, but Coach Hanssen credits Ryan for keeping the Knights competitive in most of their contests. Hanssen says that Ryan is the foundation that his program is built upon.
“Ryan performed at a high level no matter the opponent that we faced or the amount of pressure that he was put under during a game. He was an irreplaceable member of our team,” says Hanssen. “Ryan had a number of great games this season, but two stand out. His performances against Portland and Cromwell were remarkable. While the team lost both of those games, it was Ryan’s goalkeeping that kept us a threat to win throughout.”
Ryan started playing soccer as a youngster at the Westbrook Parks & Recreation facility. The more time that he spent on the pitch, the more that Ryan fell in love with the sport.
“I have been playing soccer for almost my entire life. I started how a lot of little kids start, just kicking a ball around on Saturday mornings with the Park and Recreation organization,” Ryan says. “I just kept playing, and I’ve gotten more and more serious about soccer as I’ve progressed. It started as just something fun to do with my friends, but it’s become a really big part of my life now.”
Ryan earned a spot on the All-Shoreline Second Team for his efforts as Westbrook’s netminder this season. He was also named the Knights’ Most Valuable Player for the 2021 campaign.
While he appreciates those accolades, Ryan’s most memorable experience from playing soccer in Westbrook to date was being part of the team’s run to the Class S State Tournament in his freshman year. Ryan wants to help the Knights get back in the state bracket when he’s a senior.
“This season was great, but my favorite moment as a player was being a part of states as a freshman,” says Ryan. “The environment of states is so much different from the regular season. It’s great. Although I wasn’t a major part of the team my freshman year, it was a great experience, and I hope to make states next year.”
Ryan likes leading Westbrook from the net, and one of his favorite parts of playing of soccer is communicating with his teammates. Ryan knows that it’s important for him to be vocal, especially since goalies have the best view of the field.
“My favorite aspect of soccer is the importance of teamwork. Being able to move the ball up the field as one unit is important to me,” Ryan says. “Starting the ball from the back with a goal kick or some form of distribution from me to my teammates and then moving up the field from there is just amazing to watch.”
Ryan credits Coach Hanssen for helping him improve his goaltending skills. Ryan holds a unique role as Westbrook’s goalie, and he appreciates how Hanssen does everything in his power to help him continually get better at the position.
“Being a keeper is so different to that of a field player, so he makes sure I have everything I need to improve myself and the team,” says Ryan of Hanssen. “Whether it’s my own warm-up time for games or implementing keeper-specific drills in practice, he makes sure I’m getting the best out of every practice and game. He was also my history teacher my sophomore year, so we have a great relationship already.”
Aside from soccer, Ryan also competes for Westbrook’s boys’ basketball and tennis teams. Last spring, Ryan earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for the tennis squad while helping the Knights advance to the championship match of the Class S State Tournament.
Looking ahead to his senior soccer season, Ryan wants to see Westbrook keep making strides on the pitch as they pursue a place in states.
“I have high expectations for next year,” Ryan says. “Looking at our roster, we are a heavy sophomore and junior team right now, so I’m really happy to have almost our entire varsity lineup returning for next year. I think we can do some really great things.”