Matt Williams, who had 35 goals and 10 assists last season, returns as the Wildcats are looking for their third consecutive Class 2A state title.

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At this time last spring, coach Michael Bartley was searching for the right guy to finish goals for the Archbishop Murphy boys soccer team.

Even though Bartley didn’t find his man immediately, the man he settled on is firmly entrenched in that role again. Matt Williams piled up 35 goals and 10 assists on the Class 2A state championship squad, and the job of finisher for the Wildcats is undisputed this spring.

“Matt wasn’t the starting striker for us in the beginning,” Bartley said. “He was attacking center mid. We tried (midfielder) Diego (Rios) up there. We tried (midfielder) Isaac Feeney up there. We rotated a few people through there until we figured out that we needed Matt to hold the ball up for us. One of the critical things was putting Matt at point and putting Ryan Henderson at center back.”

5 to watch

Teams

Tahoma: The Bears, fresh off their first Final Four appearance since 1996, must adapt to the loss of high-scoring forward Cris Garfias (ACL) and the departure of longtime coach Jason Johnson. Former Highline High standout Zack Pittis, who played at Seattle University, takes over the program.

Snohomish: Gone is longtime coach Dan Pingrey after 28 years in the program. Matt Raney, who spent a stint as interim coach with the team, takes over. The program comes off a fourth-place finish at state.

Interlake: The Saints won the last two Class 3A state titles. The talent level might be down overall, but they retain senior defender Elijah Vidal, a three-year starter, and senior goalkeeper Sam Dawson.

Mercer Island: The Islanders feel they outplayed Interlake in a 1-0 loss in the Class 3A final last spring, and are out to make amends this spring. Four times, including three of the last five seasons, the Islanders have fallen in the title match.

Kentwood: The Conquerors come off a 15-2-1 campaign with a loss in the first round of Class 4A state and figure to be a force with seven returning starters in the field and two goalkeepers who split time. Kentwood features 10 players who been on varsity together for two or more seasons.

Players

Erik DeAnda, Auburn Mountainview (Sr., forward): The St. Martin’s commit provided 26 goals and four assists as the Lions won the school’s first West Central District title after securing their first SPSL 3A regular-season crown.

Robby Guyer, Tahoma (So., forward): The Bears’ energy player emerged as a force (13 goals, 8 assists) as a freshman when he put up a hat trick in his team’s 4-2 win over Snohomish in the Class 4A state semifinals.

Manav Gill, Kentwood (Jr., midfielder): The Conquerors’ playmaker should be even better after a sophomore season where he was named co-offensive MVP in the SPSL 4A North Division and was picked all-state at midfielder.

Daniel Mycroft, Archbishop Murphy (So., keeper): The Wildcats found a gem in the 6-foot-5 Mycroft as he won the job early last season as a freshman and was a big part of the team’s second Class 2A title run.

Dane Evanger, Lynnwood (Sr., forward): The second-team Class 3A all-state selection hopes to build off a season in which he scored 20 goals and helped the Royals to a second-place finish in WesCo 3A.

Matt Massey

The way Williams sees it, it was others who made him better. He capitalized mightily by playing the point of the Wildcats’ diamond formation and cited his teammates’ willingness to share.

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Bartley says Williams, a captain, deserves ample credit for his impressive stats and taking a major step forward in that new role in 2016.

“It was surprising he was that high (in goals scored), because we thought the diamond would score a lot of goals,” he said. “Jensen (Crisler), Sam (Johnson), Isaac and Matt were going to score a lot, we thought. Matt rises to the occasion. You put a great team in front of him, and he plays his best.

“He didn’t ring up a lot of goals against the easy teams. He was ringing them up against the teams that could really play.”

Williams, one of 10 returning starters and 13 returnees overall, attempts to follow up an unforgettable 2016 spring campaign as the Wildcats reeled off 21 consecutive victories to claim the Class 2A state title for a second consecutive season.

“We faced every game, not with individual efforts, but more as a team effort,” Williams said. “I’ve have had a lot of playmakers playing underneath me the last two seasons. They would feed me the ball, and I was there to just finish every opportunity we got. I think my junior year I just grew into bigger shoes in that (scoring) role.”

Last season, the Wildcats (21-1) opened with a 3-0 loss at Class 4A power Camas,but learned what they needed to and never lost again in 2016. Only one starter — Parker Buchanan, the team’s starting holding midfielder — doesn’t return for this season.

“I think they learned a lot from last year, so I think this group is even more experienced,” Bartley said. “It’s nice to have this many seniors (13) that have this much experience and know what it’s like.”

Junior midfielder Sam Johnson returns after contributing 14 goals and 12 assists, and senior forward Jensen Crisler is back after a 10-goal, nine-assist season. Those playmakers surrounded Williams in the diamond formation and were the perfect complement.

“Having Sam behind Matt, that was the best part,” Bartley said of that passing-scoring connection. “The thing we’re working through now is how to have all these good players do the best for us and where they should be. We’re trying to make sure we have everybody who can contribute their best at the position we need to have them at. We’re still going to fine-tune it all the way through.”

ATM scoring machine
Archbishop Murphy senior forward Matt Williams would like nothing more than to keep scoring goals at the same rate as he did in 2016, when the Wildcats successfully defending their Class 2A state title. Williams’ goals and assists have steadily risen in his four-year career and so have the wins:
Year Goals, assists Record, state finish
2014 4 goals, 2 assists 17-4-1, quarterfinals
2015 16 goals, 8 assists 21-1-1, state champs
2016 35 goals, 10 assists 21-1, state champs
Total 55 goals, 20 assists Two state titles