KATY—Seven Lakes’ boys soccer team is young. Sophomores and juniors pepper the roster.
Still, the Spartans are playing beyond their years during these playoffs.
“It’s fun to watch,” coach Jimmy Krueger said.
Krueger’s kids are growing up right in front of his eyes. Tuesday’s Region III-6A area playoff game against Cy Ridge was another example of prominent progress, as the Spartans rallied twice from one-goal deficits to ultimately pull away, 3-2, at Legacy Stadium.
“The big thing is we will never count ourselves out in any match,” Krueger said. “We’ve got a lot of talented goal scorers and the ability to put the ball in the back of the net, so we can take our bumps in the run of the game. They (Cy Ridge) scored against the run of play, and we stay calm. The same thing happened when they tied it up. It’s one of those things where it’s only a matter of time, and it’s just being patient and trusting what got us here and trusting our play style and trusting our ability.”
Sophomore Noa Stasic found space in the box and drilled a go-ahead shot with 15 minutes left to snap a 2-2 tie. It was particularly rewarding for the precocious striker because of how he had struggled up to that point.
“It was just a stressful game,” Stasic said. “I kept my cool and finished it, but … a lot of pressure just got to me. I missed, like, two or three chances in the beginning, just bad touches. But to get that score revealed all the stress and I let go of the stress. It felt great. I’m not going to lie.”
.@SLsoccer sophomore Not Stasic discusses tonight\u2019s Region III-6A area playoff win over Cy Ridge. Stasic scored the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute of the 3-2 win. @LethalSoccer @SLHSABC @SpartanCrazies_ @tascosoccerpic.twitter.com/fLEM3AZtXN— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1648608030
Sixteen minutes before Stasic’s goal, freshman Kortay Koc launched a shot from 25 yards out to tie the game, 2-2.
Those last two Seven Lakes shots, far and near, were indicative of the Spartans taking advantage of any opening, no matter where or how slight.
“We’re used to teams sitting in and trying to counter off of us,” Krueger said. “It’s been that way for the last 3-4 years, where teams are low blocking and looking to catch us in transition. For us, it comes down to experience in it and being patient. Attacking the pockets of space that do exist. Teams try to keep lines tight, so we’ve got to find the space on the field and attack that space.”
The first Seven Lakes goal was a Hunter Merritt shot off a centered pass from Koc that evened the game in the 39th minute, resulting in one of the finer celebrations of the playoffs with his version of "The Griddy" dance afterward.
.@HunterJMerritt evens it up for @SLsoccer in the 39th minute, 1-1. Awesome strike. @LethalSoccer @SLHSABC @kfinnesand @KatyISDAthleticpic.twitter.com/3HxMdoFeuj— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1648603319
State-ranked and a projected favorite out of Region III-6A, Seven Lakes (17-1-3) has had a rocky postseason.
The Spartans beat Fort Bend Clements, 1-0, in the bi-district round last week. Tuesday, they were down 1-0 late in the first half and 2-1 in the 48th minute.
Stasic said the team thought those first two games were going to be “quite easy.” They weren’t.
“I know we can play much better, and I feel like we play down to the level (of some teams),” Stasic said. “I know we can play better. We have better players in the midfield. We have to step up way more. That’s the main thing. We have to play more. We have to combine more. No long balls … no game’s going to be easy. That’s what we’re realizing.
“Everybody’s competitive and obviously no one wants to lose. This is the playoffs.”
Pressure is a daunting thing. Seven Lakes is a marked team. A perennial regional power and winners of three consecutive district championships in a loaded Katy ISD district, the Spartans get every team’s best shot every time they line up.
The young Spartans are being forced to grow up quickly.
“It’s hard,” Stasic said. “It’s hard. We have to keep up. We have to step up every single game. We have to prove every night that we’re Seven Lakes and can compete against all these good teams and win some championships.”