Mountain Ridge boys soccer leaves mark in first full seasonMay 24, 2021 02:35PM ● By Josh Martinez
By Josh Martinez | [email protected]
It hasn’t taken long for Mountain Ridge High School to make its mark on the boys soccer scene.
The Sentinels finished their first full regular season with a 13-3 record, a 10-2 finish in 5A’s Region 7 and a first-place finish in the region. This all comes on the heels of a 1-2 start to the season.
Mountain Ridge opened for the 2019-20 school year but the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the boys soccer team’s inaugural season. That only delayed the Sentinels’ arrival, which head coach Eric Arthur said comes from a short amount of time for learning.
“After those first four games, our players, our guys are just really intelligent soccer players and they figured it out,” he said. “They figured out how to work together, how to move together to find the space that each other are going to.
“They’ve always been a technically-gifted group. It just took a little bit for them to get in sync with their style and now that they have, they’re really a dangerous group of players.”
Mountain Ridge’s first four matches included three overtime contests, one of which included a shootout win over Alta after a scoreless draw. During the rest of the regular season, the Sentinels outscored their opponents 31-8 and found themselves in two overtime matches — a win and a loss — as well as five shutouts.
Arthur said those initial matches helped the Sentinels mature quickly and after having so many overtime matches, the team made a goal to stay out of that situation.
Senior Max Palmer said those four matches also helped the student-athletes learn a bit more about themselves.
“I feel like in the first four games, we were just trying to play an individual game and dribble a ton and just do it all ourselves and all be the star,” he said. “After those games, we really decided the best way to win was as a team.”
Fellow senior Tyler Moon said the original selfish mindset came from a lot of the players used to being the main guy on their club teams. The shift from selfish to selfless came after a realization.
“I think it was just realizing that every player has different strengths and if you can put them in those positions and maybe if they're better at certain things, then you can give them those situations and they can take care of them for you,” he said.
One benefit Arthur said he sees with having a new school is younger players get a chance to shine.
During last year’s abbreviated season, there were five seniors. This year, there are four. In both seasons, sophomores and freshmen obtained a lot of experience and it’s helping this season.
While Moon was one of Mountain Ridge’s top performers this regular season, there were numerous sophomores who scored goals while sophomore Eli Welch led the team in regular season assists. Defensively, sophomore Ben Maw led the way as goalkeeper.
Arthur said while the learning curve of last season was good for the underclassmen, he’s seen a group of tight-knit players who have helped each other grow.
“They really enjoy playing together and it’s been fun and it’s been exciting as we look to the future, as well, knowing just how young we are,” he said.
Moon described the chemistry as a group of guys who have a lot of energy, have fun and have bonded together on and off the pitch. Palmer said that solid chemistry does manifest itself on the field.
“It gives us the ability to trust each other, definitely, and connect well on the field,” he said. “Like, we know where players want it and we’re able to deliver it. That helps us to finish [offensively] and in defensive organization.”
With the first full season of the Sentinels’ soccer journey in the rearview mirror, Arthur said he hopes this year will serve as a catalyst for years to come.
“We’ve set a bar really high,” he said. “Because we’re so young and the group is so driven, I know that whatever we accomplish this year, they’re going to want more next year. No one’s going to look back on this year and say that was the best that they had to give.