Seven seniors return from last year’s state playoff team
By David Pan | Mar 22, 2018
King’s stayed the course and its perseverance was rewarded.
Seniors Atley Shapiro and Roma Billing each scored a goal in the second half as the Knights rallied to defeat University Prep 2-1 in a nonconference boys soccer game Wednesday, March 14, at Woolsey Stadium.
New head coach Matt Spron and the players both felt that King’s played well in the first half, but the bounces just didn’t go the Knights’ way.
Spron, who has spent the last 12 years as an assistant with the King’s girls soccer program, told his players at halftime that they weren’t going to alter their approach to the game.
“We talked about remaining calm and patient and doing what we did in the first half and not to panic and just keep on building and doing what we were doing,” Spron said.
Midway through the second half, Shapiro scored the tying goal off an assist from senior Jase Fransen. About five minutes later senior Roma Billing followed with the second goal off an assist from senior Jonathan Chen.
“We were kind of discouraged we hadn’t gotten a goal yet,” senior co-captain Jared McInnes said. “We put one in and we had some momentum from there.”
Shapiro added that that mindset of the Knights coming out of halftime was that they needed to score. King’s passing in the first half was much improved from the team’s season opener, a 0-0 tie with Shorewood on Saturday, March 10.
“We connected really well in the first had and we hadn’t really done that,” Shapiro said.
“I felt that we actually played the same way in this first half that we did in the second,” Spron added. “I thought we had great opportunities in the first half. We just didn’t quite get there.”
King’s new coach and his players are still getting to know each other as Spron was only hired four weeks ago. Spron decided to go with a different lineup against University Prep.
“It did really help connect our passes,” he said.
The Knights also were helped by the play of junior goalkeeper Gunnar Morehead, who made several key saves in the second half. The Pumas’ only goal came off a penalty kick by Ty Maider that was placed in the right upper corner of the goal, past a diving Morehead.
“He always keeps us in games,” McInnes said. “He’s good for about a goal a game.”
King’s will be relying on Morehead to lead what Spron describes as a very young backline.
“He is very valuable. He is amazing,” Spron said of King’s junior goalkeeper. “He is fearless I think that he is incredibly gifted just in his ability to jump and his intuition on where the ball is going. He always seems to be in the right place.”
Sophomore Christian Engmann also is expected to play an important role in the defense.
“Christian is kind of the motor of that backline,” Spron said. “He keeps everyone in order.”
In the first two games, three sophomores, a senior and a freshman have started in the defense.
“They are wise beyond their years,” Spron said. “We still have a lot of work to do back there. With Gunnar behind them, it’s a good foundation to build on.”
The King’s offense will be powered by Billing and Shapiro, at least to start out the season. But Spron noted others, such as Fransen and freshman Jack McCallister, also will be offensive threats. McCallister scored the only goal in King’s 1-0 victory over Cascasde (Leavenworth) Saturday, March 17, at Woolsey Stadium.
“As the season evolves, we’ll develop more weapons,” Spron said. “I expect our senior leaders to help carry us.”
Seven seniors return from last year’s state playoff team, which lost in the first round. Two freshmen join five sophomores with Morehead, the lone junior.
“The biggest thing is team chemistry,” McInnes said. “We’re just bonding as a team and getting to know each other.”
Everyone is in full agreement about where the Knights hope to be at the end of the season.
“Our goal is a state championship,” Shapiro said. “We can definitely get to that opportunity. We’ve just got to keep putting in the work and just growing as a team and the chemistry will come.”
Spron also is impressed by the returning talent and the newcomers’ skills.
“I’m expecting us to go deep this year,” he said.