Friday, April 22, 2011

SPORTS>>Cabot’s Hidalgo St. Louis-bound

Leader sportswriter

Central Arkansas has produced its share of high-profile college recruits the last two years.

The state watched two years ago as Little Rock Christian running back Michael Dyer signed with Auburn, and the recruiting circus surrounding Sylvan Hills guard Archie Goodwin is ongoing on the basketball side of things.

Now, meet William Hidalgo, local soccer’s version of a big-time collegiate recruit.

Hidalgo, a senior midfielder for the Cabot Panthers, recently signed with St. Louis University. The Catholic school may not be a household name to football and basketball fans, but the Billikens’ soccer program is traditionally regarded as one of the best in the country after winning 10 NCAA national championships from 1959-73.

Hidalgo became the first athlete from Arkansas to sign with the USL program.

“From when I was younger, I always wanted to play for SLU, because it was such a renowned program,” Hidalgo said. “As I grew up and started talking to them, there wasn’t much interest until I started developing this last year.”

Hidalgo has enjoyed success with Cabot since starting his sophomore season, but it is his affiliation with the Little Rock Futbol Club that opened doors nationally and internationally.

LRFC has dominated classic soccer in Arkansas for nearly a decade, and Hidalgo was selected last summer to represent the state in regional all-star play. He was one of 18 players tapped to represent the U.S. in Argentina.

Hidalgo was named captain of his all-region team and scored his first international goal over the summer, sparking interest from many of the nation’s top college programs, including Clemson and Wake Forest.

But once the letter from SLU arrived at the Hidalgo residence last fall, the search was over.

“As soon as I came back, I started getting calls from multiple colleges,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo is one of only two NCAA Division I recruits in the state. Vilonia’s Kyle Moore signed with UCA.

Hidalgo’s numbers with Cabot this season are solid. He had five goals and three assists through 11 games before a torn hamstring suffered at Van Buren two weeks ago took him out of commission.

But his LRFC stats give the full impression of Hidalgo’s talents. Through 26 games last season, Hidalgo scored 39 goals.

“My game is all about trickery,” Hidalgo said. “I love trickery. I love fooling players on the field. Jukes, head fakes, to where they think I’m going one way, but I’m actually going the other way.”

Hidalgo has a 4.0 grade-point average and first-year Panthers coach Steve Porter said Hidalgo’s strong work ethic and attention to detail, as well as his natural soccer talent, helped his recruiting profile.

“William is a hugely talented player,” Porter said. “I’ve been really impressed with not only his technical ability, but more so with how he handles himself as a person. He’s got to where he is right now with just a good work ethic and a dedication to the sport.

“He’s a great role model for others.”