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Preview story: Lake Park coach makes DuKane debut vs. Batavia

By Jared Birchfield, 09/04/23, 11:15PM CDT


Mike Bruckner, Lake Park’s new head coach, will get his first taste of DuKane Conference action Tuesday when he matches wits with visiting veteran Batavia leader Mark Gianfrancesco and his Bulldogs at 6:30 p.m.

While Bruckner is one of two new head coaches in the league, the other is Wheaton North's Joe Klingelhoffer, he is not a greenhorn. The Lake Park instructor has spent several years coaching high school, college and club teams.

“I’ve been doing it a little while -- 14 years,” he said. “I coached at a number of high school programs in Wisconsin with a couple of championships. I also served as an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Concordia Wisconsin. We were able to set some team records at the time.

“I coached high-level club when I came back to Illinois in 2018. … I love the game, and I hope the kids have a really high-quality experience.”

Bruckner, who had been an assistant coach in the Lake Park girls program, replaced Sean Crosby when he took a position as a school principal this summer.

“Coach Crosby called me in late June and told me about his opportunity to take a leadership role in U-46 (Elgin School District),” the new Lake Park head said. “And he was going to put my name forward as the guy. We worked it out with the AD shortly thereafter.”

Crosby left Bruckner a healthy program.

“We had 128 athletes at registration for soccer this summer,” said Bruckner. “We’re very proud and happy that we have five programs and six coaches on staff.”

The coach feels that his Lancers (3-3-0) are quickly adapting to his style of play. 

“They’re definitely trying to learn our way of playing. They are hungry for information. We spend a lot of time after practice talking with guys,” Bruckner said. “They’re asking really good
questions. They’re trying to understand the way we want to play. We’re focusing on the performance, and the results will come.”

Four returnees from last year’s 8-9-3 squad will be the nucleus of the team. 

“Jacob Tourtillott, Patrick Swacha, Anthony Juarez and Francesco Cardone are guys from last year that can contribute,” the Lancers coach said.

Bruckner is also counting on a quintet of sophomores.

“Carlos Ramos, Andrew Donato, Dominik Nash, Luca Bobel and Jonathan Ademi on any given day can make an impact,” he said.

Senior Jakub Simek, who played junior varsity last year, will patrol between the pipes.

Batavia starts conference play after bringing home hardware from the 22nd Morton (Ill.) Invitational last weekend. Batavia beat Rochester 3-1 in the quarterfinals. Junior Brokk Olberg found the back of the net twice, and senior Owen Stahl converted a corner kick.

After being shut out 2-0 by their host in the semis, the Bulldogs rebounded to take down Gateway Legacy (Mo.) 2-1 for a third place finish. Stahl and fellow senior Michael Ruffo provided the offense.

Batavia’s current 2-3-1 record is only one win shy of last season’s victory total.

Batavia has the experience to compete this season. Olberg, Stahl and Ruffo are three of 10 returnees from last year’s team for coach Mark Gianfrancesco, who has led the Bulldogs for the past 13 years.

It could be taxing for opponents to score against a Batavia backline composed of Stahl and fellow veterans Nick Evangilista, Max Simmons and Luke Petersen.

The Bulldogs hope to end a 12-game winless streak (0-11-1) Tuesday.

Lake Park finished 3-3-1 in conference play in 2022. They will have to work to match that record this season.

“It’s a tough conference. The St. Charles schools are always tough. Geneva is also going to put
together a tough team,” said Bruckner. “Glenbard North obviously, very close in
proximity to us and there’s kind of a local rivalry. They always have a very tough team.”