After two consecutive undefeated regular seasons, you would think a soccer program would be resting on its laurels. But, not at Skyline High.
“You might call it fool’s gold,” said Skyline Coach Chris Morgan, referring to the unblemished regular seasons that ended in early exits from the state tournament. “Yes, we were very happy with how the regular seasons went, but we want to go deeper into the tournament this year.
“And with the experience coming back from last year, we think we have the team to pull it off.”
The Eagles were 14-0-7 in 2017, and then went on to Brighton in districts. Pretty good year, right? Yes, but Skyline returns 11 players from that team – the Eagles are loaded with seniors – and Morgan gives good reason to expect more in 2018.
“When you have that many seniors, you are talking about 17- and 18-year-olds as opposed to 14- and 15-year-olds,” said Morgan, who has been the soccer coach at Skyline since the school opened its doors in 2008. “That means there’s a lot more physicality there. They’ve had a few more years to grow, to get bigger and faster. We’ve got a lot of experience, and we’ve got a good group of five juniors and four sophomores, too.”
Among the experienced seniors upon whom Morgan will lean heavily are tri-captains Kyri Wixom (goaltender), Omar Hassan (defender) and Thomas Halloran (defender).
“Each of the captains bring a different skill set to the table, but the one thing they have in common is they are all great communicators, which is what you need in a captain,” Morgan said. “Kyri is intelligent, which is a great trait in a keeper; Omar is a strong defender; and Thomas is one of the nicest kids you’ll see, but he’s also extremely competitive.”
Other top players – there’s plenty of them – include the flamboyant midfielder Siggy Tu, an excellent frontrunner in Logan Roeser-Nordling and the “silent but deadly” Kai Jurgle.
The Eagles just went on a team trip to East Lansing and then three days in Traverse City where they both bonded with some non-soccer activities, and also got in some matches. They played three scrimmages in East Lansing and then open the regular season Friday at Petoskey.
The team is on a good place right now, according to Morgan, and he sees bright things.
“It’s important for us to grow together now, because we are on a high,” he said. “Things won’t always be going smoothly, and that’s when we’ll be able to call on these times, when we know we are a team that has grown together.”
One of the areas of improvement that Morgan says can result in a deeper run into the state tournament is realizing the need for patience, something that he is really stressing.
“We think we can match last season as far as wins and losses, but we aren’t really stressing wins and losses right now,” he said. “The wins will come. We’re stressing patience, not rushing out there. Sometimes there’s a need to go 110 miles per hour, but there are also times when you need to slow it down.
“It’s important to know when to probe and when not to. Sometimes it’s even more important to know when to slow it down. That’s what the really good teams know how to do … how to slow the game down.”
The Eagles will be looking to speed things up, or slow them down, or play at whatever speed necessary when they host Pioneer at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug.23.
“We’ll have one game under our belts when we open up at home, which will be a help,” Morgan said. “We’re really looking forward to getting the season going.”
And, getting their hands on that genuine gold.