Heins Has Helped Stir Up Recipe For Success at Lutheran Northwest

ROCHESTER HILLS — When Joe Heins first entered Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, he was just hoping to make the Crusaders’ soccer team. Now, he has been a key cog in the revival of the Northwest program.

Heins, a versatile senior who has played multiple positions in his career, is the first player in years that will be considered as a conference player of the year from Northwest.

The talented athlete has also helped build the program back up and hopefully will leave it a desirable place for future players to enroll and play soccer in a tradition-rich area.

“(I was just) happy coming in as a freshman coming into (the starting lineup), he said. “Now that I am a senior, I am trying to help lead us.”

Heins has helped his school with a quick revival. When his coach, Mike Miller, took over in 2007, the team was struggling and winning seasons were hard to come by. Now, in a new league playing other smaller schools, the Crusaders are enjoying some long-awaited success with their first back-to-back winning seasons since the 1990s.

“The league we were in (when I first came to Northwest) helped build us up as a team,” said Heins. “We might not have had the confidence then. It definitely was a building process for us. As the years went on we got more focused. We try harder in our practices and get things done.”

This season the Crusaders have posted a 14-3-1 record, one of its best seasons in school history, entering the postseason. The win total ties Northwest’s record wins of last year, and that included the Division 4 state tournament.

“Coach has been good to us; the guy (is well liked),” noted Heins. “The guys like playing for him and it shows.”

And Northwest is reaching heights that have not been touched in far more than a decade.

“(Our goal) is to win the (league championship) this season we’ve had so far this season, the players we got, good defensive core, good offensive core, I think we can do it,” added Heins. “We would also love to do something in the (state tournament).”

Northwest finished 12-2 in its first season in the MIAC Red last season after competing in the Metro Conference from 1993 to the spring of 2009. The Crusaders were also 14-6-0 overall and advance to the district finals before bowing out to state powerhouse Auburn Hills Oakland Christian. They finished second in the league to Newport Lutheran South.

As a junior, Heins collected 19 goals and nine assists, and included in that total were nine game-winning tallies. He made the All-MIAC Red Division, All-District and All-Area squads.

Heins and a talented group of multiple seniors and juniors, led Northwest to its first league championship this season in the MIAC Red Division in 25 years and has led the team to its first back-to-back winning seasons since the 1990s, when the Crusaders were still a Division 4/Class D top-tier team.

This season he hopes to add Conference MVP and All-State to his repertoire. Heins already has 20 goals and 15 assists for 55 points, one of the highest point totals in school history.

Northwest will look to add to its win total this season to finish with one of the highest wins totals in school history and Heins will be in the mix, setting up teammates and scoring goals. The Crusaders participate in the D-4 district at Oakland Christian, the top-ranked school in the division, with five other schools.

Heins and Northwest would like to face Oakland in the district final, as the bracket has it set up for that potential matchup.

“We want to play the best. That’s the only way to see where we are at,” said Heins. “I think we’ve come a long, long ways as a (program). Games like that will be (a measuring stick) to see where we are as a program.”

“In a few years, I would love to see (Northwest) playing for league championships and district championships every year,” he added. “I would like to say that we helped bring the (Northwest) team back.”

Individually, the MIAC Red Division MVP candidate would love to earn some type of all-state recognition. Two years ago, a Northwest player, Nick Miscovich, earned all-state honorable mention honors in Division 4. But no Northwest player has made first-team, second-team or third-team all-state since the mid-to-late 1990s.

“That would be cool,” he said. “But I can only do that if my team plays well. So much of that has to do with your team. I feel we have a really good team this year, so we hope to have a couple of us make All-State.

“It’s been a lot of fun, especially the past two years,” added Heins. “We’ve won a lot of games and we have the right (mix).”

It’s the key ingredient in Heins.