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Adam Watts: Buzz is building for Trojans boys soccer

Expectations for this year's Worthington Trojans boys soccer team are high ... very high. And they should be. The team returns almost every player from a squad that went to overtime in the Section 2A championship last fall, and is comprised of pl...

Expectations for this year’s Worthington Trojans boys soccer team are high … very high. And they should be.

The team returns almost every player from a squad that went to overtime in the Section 2A championship last fall, and is comprised of players that just won U17 and U18 Minnesota Youth Soccer Association state titles this summer. Clearly they are talented.

This week I talked to head coach Smitty Eknitphong and he told me that he can already feel the buzz surrounding this year’s Trojans. They can’t even start practicing until Monday, but he has already heard the rumblings from the faculty and student body. People know this could really be a team to watch out for come postseason time.

“Word has gotten out,” the coach said. “People know we could be good. We want to live up to that.”

Ektnitphong knows it is a long road back to the section championship, and doesn’t want the players to get ahead of themselves, but he also knows he’ll have to address the possibilities with them.

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“I’m old school and I want to take it day-by-day, but I know there are expectations,” he said. “On paper we should be pretty good. But I need to make sure they’re ready to play.”

The Trojans have built a tough regular season schedule for themselves this fall. They play Section 2A champs Mankato West, Section 1A runners-up Austin, and Albert Lea -- the only team to beat Worthington in the regular season in 2016. But that is just the sort of experience the team will need when it faces the top teams in the state come postseason time. And it doesn’t sound like Worthington is ready to back down.
“We like the challenge,” Ektnitphong said.

The coach told me that he was impressed with the character of his team after their overtime loss in the section championship. They didn’t let themselves get too down.

And as an observer from the sidelines, I wholeheartedly agree with him. His players worked their tails off in that game. And frankly, I believe they outplayed Mankato West from bell to bell. The Trojans played tremendous team soccer. Their passes were crisp and clean and they set each other up on attacks beautifully. But a tremendous individual effort from Minnesota Class 1A Mr. Soccer Award winner Jake Makela came between them and a state tournament berth.

The Trojans players took a minute to mourn their loss, letting their disappointment show as their season came to a close. But they only took a minute. Shortly after, they sprung back up and held their heads high as they congratulated their foes and received their medals.

“They showed their character last year,” the coach told me. “They way they accepted their trophies, I couldn’t be more proud. I didn’t know what to tell them on the bus. They did everything I asked of them, they just came up short.”

If they continue to play with that kind of character and class, and work just as hard, this could be a special season for the Trojans.

“I believe (last year) wasn’t meant to be,” Ekntitphong said. “And if it is this year, I hope we can take advantage. Even if it isn’t supposed to be our year, maybe we can break our way in.”

Related Topics: BOYS SOCCER
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