NORMAL — As the second youngest of Bill and Shari Somers’ seven soccer-playing children, Hunter Somers attended many matches while growing up.
The 17-year-old University High School senior captain didn’t let that time go to waste as he watched and learned.
In fact, Somers soaked up so much he has been named to the United States Youth Soccer Region II Olympic Development Program Pool Team in his age group.
“It’s a huge deal,” said U High coach Jeremy Stanton of an elite 18-man squad drawn from 13 Midwestern states.
“This honor is well deserved for sure. We’re thrilled he got selected for this. It’s definitely awesome for him.”
A midfielder for U High, Somers was named to the Region II team as an outside defender. Coaches selected him at a camp in Rockford last summer and announced the team last month.
“He’s a very versatile player who can play about anywhere, which is nice,” said Stanton of a player who earned all-sectional and Pantagraph All-Intercity honors last year.
Somers is among three Illinois players to make the Region II team along with Chicago-area goalkeepers Chris Lucatorto and Mike Novotny.
When Somers learned he made the team, he didn’t try to act cool.
“I ran around in circles a few times,” he said with a laugh. “It was pretty exciting.”
Somers’ Region II team will compete against the nation’s three other regions Dec. 12-15 in Sarasota, Fla.
“It’s actually a lot of fun watching some of the other players do their thing because it’s crazy how good these guys are,” Somers said.
Stanton believes selectors were wise to choose Somers, a savvy ball distributor, because of his knowledge of the game and stellar vision.
“He was more of a goal scorer for us (last year),” Stanton said. “Obviously, he’s still looking to score, but we’ve really had him as more of a playmaker this year and cleaning up the middle of the field for us.”
Somers has four goals and four assists for the 8-5-3 Pioneers after notching 12 goals and seven assists last year. The third-year starter had three goals and six assists in 2011.
Somers frequently takes U High’s penalty kicks and free kicks. He boils his passing decisions down to two options.
“I could put in a long ball or I could just keep it and play simple, which is the option most often that I like to choose,” he said.
Stanton hopes the Region II gig earns Somers attention from college coaches.
“I think Hunter has the capability of playing Division I,” Stanton said. “Something like this will definitely be a good resume builder.”
Somers’ climb to prominence in a region that stretches from Nebraska to Ohio began in the yard of his Heyworth home against siblings Tessa, Ellie, Trevor, Sophie, Sadie and Emma.
“Growing up watching all the older kids play, it actually helped me a lot because I learned so much just watching them,” he said. “Just being around a soccer family, it’s a lot of fun.”
Somers began travel soccer at age 8 with the German Soccer Academy. He later played for the Bloomington-Normal Soccer Club, Central Illinois Select Soccer Club, Illinois Fusion and the Springfield Area Soccer Association.
“I’m thankful to all the coaches that I’ve had over the years because that’s really been a huge factor for me,” Somers said.
It would seem the right combination of coaches and siblings can build quite a player.