Knights head to district playoffs as No. 1 seed | Boys soccer

Team overcomes injuries, lack of varsity expereince
By David Pan | Apr 27, 2017
Photo by: David Pan King’s Atley Shapiro (left) eyes the ball during a Cascade Conference game against Sultan Wednesday, April 19, at Woolsey Stadium.

The King’s boys soccer team is headed to the district playoffs as the Cascade Conference’s No. 1 seed.

The Knights went 4-2 in the second half of the regular season with victories over Granite Falls (6-0), South Whidbey (2-1), Sultan (2-1) and Cedar Park Christian – Bothell (1-0). The two losses were to 2A opponents Cedarcrest (2-1) and Archbishop Murphy (3-0).

King’s finished 7-4-1 in league play (10-4-2 overall) and was third in the league behind the Wildcats and Red Wolves, but the Knights earned the top 1A seed for the postseason, which coach Sam Hartman said was the team’s goal at the start of the season.

The Knights came into 2017 with a roster of young players and then suffered injuries to two starters that forced Hartman to turn to his bench.

“We’re still waiting on our team to get fully back,” he said. “We’re hoping that everyone will be back in time for the playoffs.”

The lack of varsity experience didn’t seem to hurt King’s.

“The theme is that it’s a gritty, hard-working team with a lot of heart,” Hartman said. “We’re not the most talented but we’re finding a way to get results. … We could be getting healthy at the right time and playing our best soccer going into the playoffs.”

King’s is scheduled to host a district playoff game at 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 3.

The Knights faced a lot of questions with so many new players this season. The team’s early wins against nonconference opponents Shorewood and University Prep, coupled with the Knights’ winning league record should give the Knights some confidence.

“We’re trying to install in them a belief in themselves that they can compete with anybody,” Hartman said.

Junior Roma Billing has been a major part of King’s victories with a team-high 10 goals.

“He’s always had the talent,” Hartman said. “This year it’s all clicked. He’s come into his own.”

Billing uses his speed and shiftiness to surprise the defense.

“Most of his goals come on one-on-ones or breakaways,” Hartman said. “He’s always had the speed. He didn’t know how to use it.”

Senior Jack Van Dyke is the team’s second leading scorer with 7 goals. Van Dyke has seen some time back in the defense after being up front.

“That’s a big change,” Hartman said. “We didn’t have many natural defenders. We had to find someone to play in the back that could dominate back there. My philosophy is defense wins championships.”

Hartman hasn’t decided whether to keep Van Dyke as a defender and his decision is going to depend, in part on the probable return of an injured defender, and a cost benefit analysis of whether it’s better to have Van Dyke as an offensive threat or a lockdown defender.

“We’re tinkering around to see what clicks,” Hartman said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Gunnar Morehead has stepped into a vocal leadership role. Morehead took over as goalie midway through the season last year.

“We don’t have the most vocal team,” Hartman said. “I’ve challenged him to speak up and I trust what he does. … It’s really nice to have him in the back.”

Junior Jared McInnes anchors the midfield and has a team-high 7 assists. Atley Shapiro and Riley Richards also have performed well in the midfield.

The Knights lost in the quarterfinals last year and are aiming to be playing on the final weekend of the season.

“That’s where we’d be really happy to be,” Hartman said.

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