Early competition helps Knoch boys soccer prepare for playoff push

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Monday, October 4, 2021 | 10:01 AM


The Knoch boys soccer team entered this season as a rather inexperienced group, but what they lack in seasoning they have made up for with effort.

That’s put the Knights in a lot of close games.

Entering Saturday’s match with Highlands, six of Knoch’s 11 games were decided by one goal or ended in a tie.

Knights coach Malcolm Cook joked that, from a coaching perspective, it’s given him a few more gray hairs. He’s hopeful the experience gained in the first half of Section 1-3A play will suit them well as they fight for a playoff spot.

“We’ve got a young team, but they have been competitive every game,” Cook said. “When you’re playing with a less experienced team, some of the games that you should put away sometimes we haven’t put away, but at the same time, when we’re playing stronger teams we’ve kept on going whether we’re losing or tied. I can’t fault their effort. They are giving 110% every night.”

Knoch (6-4-1, 5-4) was in fourth place in Section 1-3A entering Saturday.

The Knights start two freshmen, Kannon Trofimuk and Matt Welsh, as well as some sophomores and juniors, including Owen Milcic, Ethan Alwine and Caleb Oskin.

They have three captains: senior forward Nick Dellarosa, senior center back Jared Cushey and Oskin. Cook credited Cushey with being a leader on and off the field.

Dellarosa and Oskin are the leading scorers, and Cook called Milcic a “classy midfielder” as well as an adaptable player who can end up in two or three different positions in a game depending on the formation.

Knoch has played the top two teams in the section, Hampton and Mars, tough. The Knights dropped the first meeting with Mars, 2-0, but in the rematch last Monday they led late only to see Mars tie the score then win 2-1 in double overtime. The first meeting with Hampton came down to the wire, with the Talbots winning 2-1. The rematch is set for Oct. 11.

The Knights were on the winning side of one-goal matches against Indiana, 2-1, and Freeport, 3-2.

Cook said he has a strong 11 to start, but the Knights aren’t relatively deep off the bench because of their smaller roster. To counteract that, the Knights change strategy depending on the opponent.

Cook credited his assistant coaches, Mitch Andrews and Shane Huffman, with helping the players with their assignments at practice.

“When you change the system or move players to different positions on purpose, some pick it up right away, and others it takes time,” Cook said. “Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the younger players are better at it than older ones, because it’s more about experience. Experience helps you adapt quicker. It’s difficult, because sometimes you’re asking players to do something they’ve never done before, but when you’re playing strong teams you have to do it.”

To go along with effort, there’s also strong chemistry within the team. That could go a long way to helping the Knights lock down a playoff spot for the second consecutive year.

“At the start of the year, you never know who the younger players are going to mesh with the older players, but this group likes each other, which is huge,” Cook said. “Sometimes you get a group of good players that don’t get along that well, but this particular group has been in every game because they fight for each other.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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