Royal Oak Shrine’s Ben Abel follows through on a goal  kick in a game against Chesterfield Austin Catholic Sept. 19 at home. The Knights beat the Crusaders 9-0.

Royal Oak Shrine’s Ben Abel follows through on a goal kick in a game against Chesterfield Austin Catholic Sept. 19 at home. The Knights beat the Crusaders 9-0.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Shrine soccer gearing up for postseason

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published September 24, 2019

 Shrine’s Michael North carries the ball upfield while being pursued by a Chesterfield Austin Catholic defender. At press time, the Knights were 13-5 overall.

Shrine’s Michael North carries the ball upfield while being pursued by a Chesterfield Austin Catholic defender. At press time, the Knights were 13-5 overall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROYAL OAK — From here on out, the road only gets tougher for the Royal Oak Shrine boys soccer team. 

At press time, the Knights were 13-5 overall and 7-0 in the Catholic High School League Intersectional 2 division.

Coach Mark Soma’s team only has two regular-season games left. The first is at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at home against Clarkston Everest Collegiate, which was just one game behind the Knights in the league standings at 6-1.

The Knights, who are currently No. 9 in the Division 4 state coaches rankings, conclude the regular season against undefeated and No. 1 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 on the road.

As for its district, Shrine’s includes Liggett, No. 10 Bloomfield Hills Roeper, Madison Heights Bishop Foley, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian and Warren Michigan Math and Science. 

Knights coach Mark Soma is still confident in his team’s abilities despite the upcoming challenges.

“We have some good games mixed in the next couple weeks,” Soma said. “We’ll definitely be ready to play. We’ll make sure they’re ready to play.”

Soma’s confidence derives from a tough out-of-conference schedule. The Knights have played four games against ranked teams across D-3 and D-4, winning two of them.

Playing an equally important role in preparing the team for the postseason are Shrine’s five seniors: Eli Cortez, Cian Dotson, Noah Gappy, Adam Goller and Peter Salerno.

“They’ve done a good job,” Soma said. “They’ve stepped up, and they do a good job of helping the younger kids on the team understand what we want as a group. They do a good job in-game encouraging kids and keeping us working hard.”

Of note, Soma said that Dotson, along with junior Ben Plunkey and sophomore Beck Peaslee have all been standout players this season.

The Knights’ defense has given Soma another reason to be confident. Shrine has two sophomores and a junior manning a defensive unit that, while young, has been playing experienced soccer.

Shrine has only surrendered 10 goals, and goalkeeper Ben Abel has recorded eight shutouts so far this season. 

“We’re still playing well as a group defensively, and we’ve been solid in net,” Soma said. “We’re strong defensively from the midfield back as a group, and that’s what makes us good as a defense.”

In games against ranked opponents this season, the Knights have scored nine goals. In all other games, Shrine filled the net 51 times.

The Knights control their destiny in terms of winning the Catholic League, which has been the expectation from the beginning.

“As long as we win the rest of our league games we’ll be in Catholic League finals,” Soma said. 

Call Sports Writer Jacob Herbert at (586) 498-1062. Follow Sports on Twitter @CandGSports.

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