Commentary

Aquinas adds to soccer legacy

Updated: November 11, 2009, 11:40 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

There was no prolific scorer.

There was no major college prospect.

Yet, most importantly, there was not a single loss.

A sound defense and opportunistic offense carried the boys' soccer program at St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.) to its greatest season for this storied Midwest program. The Saints wrapped up their seventh straight state title and 13th in the past 18 years with Saturday's 2-0 Kansas Class 5A state final victory over Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.). St. Thomas Aquinas finished a perfect 21-0-0 for the first time since 1994, beat teams from four states and tied school records for wins and season shutouts.

St. Thomas Aquinas' soccer accomplishments often are full of mind-blowing facts, such as the team's .829 win-loss percentage over the last 20 years. But this year, the team's stats reveal quite a different path to success.

Take away a 10-0 first-round playoff victory, the Saints averaged a modest 2.8 goals per match. Yet, this same group beat every opponent and won four tournaments (Bronco/Tiger Classic, Top Dawg, Gateway City Soccer Classic and the Kansas 5A state tournament). Its list of victims include Washburn Rural, the Kansas 6A champ that finished 20-1-0; Lee's Summit North (Lee's Summit, Mo.), currently in the Missouri state quarterfinals; Rockhurst Jesuit (Kansas City, Mo.), St. John the Baptist (West Islip, N.Y.), O'Fallon (Ill.) and Quincy (Ill.), all of which spent time in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 this season.

"We've almost always had a Division I scorer," St. Thomas Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said. "This team did it without a real true frontrunner. Basically we had to manufacture goals on set pieces. & They played really well as a team, and they defended as a team really well."

Ewing said the play of senior Sean Latz at left back was key to this year's team success. In fact, Latz, St. Thomas Aquinas' lone Division I commit, served up assists on both state final goals on long throw-ins to leading scorer Emilio Quezada. Latz, a Drake commit, led the team with 13 assists.

"Those guys in the back, Colby [Martin, a senior] in goal, Latz on the left, [senior Tommy] Harrison and [junior George] Skevington in the center, and [sophomore] Andrew Brown on the right made up a defense that gave up very few chances. & We limited those chances and capitalized on creating deadlballs for our offense."

Quezada, a junior, led the team with 14 goals. Skevington, junior Thomas Schmeroly and senior Jordan Zarse scored eight apiece. Juniors Kyle Whigham and Luke Steel combined for 13 goals.

Ewing had no hesitation in labeling this year's squad as the best team in Aquinas history, citing both the higher level of player and the more demanding schedule compared to the 1994 team.

"You go back to 1994 that was a hell of team," Ewing said. "But how many soccer teams where there at the time? We were a stacked team in 1994, but other than Rockhurst and Aquinas, there were not a lot of great teams in this area. I think now how much better soccer is in Kansas and many other places in the U.S. And I can tell you, we've never played a schedule a strong as this year."

St. Thomas Aquinas, which primarily draws club players from the KCFC Wizards and Kansas City FC, figures to be strong again in 2010 but with a different look. With many of the defensive starters graduating, the Saints may reinvent themselves as an offensive power. After all, players who combined for 43 of the team's 67 goals will be returning.