Loyola transfer Griffin Kutzner looking to add depth to Quinnipiac midfield

Loyola transfer Griffin Kutzner looking to add depth to Quinnipiac midfield

Dylan Fearon

By: Dylan Fearon

Griffin Kutzner’s journey from Southbury, Connecticut to Quinnipiac’s campus in Hamden was much longer than just a 27-mile drive on I-84 East.

The junior midfielder spent two seasons playing Division I soccer at Loyola Maryland before deciding to transfer to Quinnipiac.

“Loyola brought in the 13th best recruiting class in the country after my freshman year and I was hanging on to a lingering groin injury and the distance from home,” Kutzner said. “I thought it was time to come home and hit the reset button and see if I could get back on track.”

Heading into the first day of the preseason on Wednesday, the groin is 100 percent healed after spending months in Quinnipiac training rooms. A rare case, Kutzner transferred after the fall 2016 semester and has been enrolled as a Bobcat since January.

“The spring is huge for a soccer program because there’s no time in preseason to establish yourself,” Kutzner said. “You really hit the ground running and within two and a half weeks you’re right into the schedule. So I knew if I was going to get healthy and earn playing time in the fall it would be beneficial to come in the spring. It played out exactly how I planned. Everybody welcomed me and the transition was so easy.”

Quinnipiac played in five spring scrimmages last year. Once his groin was healed, Kutzner took advantage of his minutes, the majority of which came in the final two games.

“When a player can come in and train and compete with the team for four or five months instead of just two weeks in preseason, it’s a huge advantage,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. “He has some quality and he’ll be able to contribute in a few ways. He’s a great kid.”

Kutzner will have a different jersey this season, but he’ll be wearing something that he hasn’t taken off in over a year: a blue bracelet in support of his best friend’s cousin, Tommy, who was paralyzed in a tragic swimming accident last summer.

It’s Kutzner’s constant reminder to strive for his best every day.

“I use the bracelet for two very important things,” Kutzner said. “One, in support of Tommy. When it’s July and 100 degrees and it’s easy to not go out and train, I look down and think ‘Tommy would kill to be able to train right now.’ And then two, to not take anything for granted. Coach Eric has given me a second chance kind of, and I can’t take it for granted.”

Quinnipiac’s coaches have some good problems to face heading into the 2017 season. The Bobcats return a core that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title, and Kutzner’s added depth will be important as the preseason begins.

“It’s more firepower to an already strong midfield,” senior captain James Doig said. “He’s done well coming in and he’s fitting in very well. He’s played keeping and moving the ball well in the spring. He’s a student of the game and does what he’s told.”

An Oakwood Academy club player for three years, Kutzner has learned the Quinnipiac system quickly; keep possession and keep the ball on the ground.

His teammates are noticing.

“He’s learned tactical and technical things about how we play and has a big head start on others that are coming in,” Doig said. “He’s doing very well and if he put in a good summer, he’ll be ready.”

Although Kutzner has been on the team since January, he still feels he needs to prove himself to Da Costa.

“I think everyone always feels that way, but me in particular,” Kutzner said. “It’s almost like being a freshman again. Guys expect more from you since it’s not your first time at the collegiate level. I’m up for it though. But there is something to prove, especially to Coach Eric. He took a chance on me.”

Another advantage of being around the team for the spring semester is realizing the heartbreak that the men’s soccer team suffered back in November. Quinnipiac lost to Rider in the MAAC Championship game on its home field in Hamden.

“I almost feel like I was here for it,” Kutzner said. “It was mentioned a lot during the spring, the fact that they came and lifted the trophy on our own field. It was the motivating factor in the spring. We’ve shown we can consistently win the regular season. But now it’s about winning the tournament. We need to get over that last hurdle.”

It’s been a long road to Quinnipiac for a local kid. But once that whistle blows to start the regular season on Aug. 25 against Boston College, Kutzner says he’ll feel one thing.