Befitting a state champion, the Priory soccer team swept through the postseason awards named by the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association.
Priory defeated Lincoln College Prep 3-0 to win its third state championship.
The team unveiled its state championship banner recently before a home basketball game in the Priory gym.
Michael Spencer was named Class 2 Defensive Player of the Year. Spencer is the third player honored at Priory for that award. The other Priory defenders who have won it are Josh Walburn in 2005 and Will Hanley in 2016.
Spencer is just a sophomore.
Priory coach John Mohrmann said he plays like a veteran.
“Michael was often one of the best players on the field. He played left back for us, but he could easily play center back or center midfield,” Mohrmann said. “His defensive positioning, tackling and decision-making are excellent. And he is very skilled and smart with the ball, often overlapping to join our attack. He will play a major role next year.”
Greg L’Hommendieu was named the goalkeeper of the year. The junior became the second Priory netminder to earn that honor. Ryan Wehking won in 2007.
“This was Greg’s first year on varsity,” Mohrmann said. “At the beginning of the season, I rotated three goalies. But Greg gradually proved himself, and then he improved dramatically as he accumulated varsity game minutes. By the home stretch, he grew in confidence and began to dominate.”
Senior Charlie Berns was named the Class 2 Player of the Year.
Mohrmann himself was honored. He was named the Private School Coach of the Year. It was his third time be won the recognition.
He also earned it in 2005 and 2011. Both years, Priory won state.
“It’s a nice honor, but a team full of really good players makes a coach look good,” Mohrmann said.
Going into the season, Morhmann believed he had a team that was capable of making a deep run in the postseason. Although the squad was young, Morhmann liked this squad of Rebels.
“I thought we could have a very good team because we had many very good, skilled players,” Mohrmann said. “But most of the players were young and lacked varsity experience because last year’s team was dominated by 12 seniors, and so it was hard to predict how we would be. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out where players should play.”
This group came together quickly. They worked hard.
“They trained well every day, challenging, pushing and supporting each other in practice,” Mohrmann said. “They concentrated on doing the little things well, setting an example for each other, which helped to form a tight-knit group.”
There was not a special moment where it all all came together for the Rebels, Mohrmann said.
“It was a gradual improvement for most of the season. We were 7-7 at one point, but early in the season we had played very well in some tough games against large schools , even with Vianney; wins versus Fort Zumwalt West and Washington and overtime with De Smet and Webster,” Mohrmann said. “We had a sense we were good, but we needed to concentrate on getting better in a few areas and on not letting doubt creep in. Maybe the turning point was our final loss, our second game against league rivals John Burroughs.
“We lost on a late goal, but we dominated the game, pressurizing throughout, hitting the post a couple of times and having a goal cleared off the line. It was hugely disappointing to lose in another close game to JBS, but we also discovered that we were really good. After that, we tightened our defense a little bit and began creating and finishing chances.”
After that loss, the Rebels went on a 12-game winning streak en route to winning state.
“The team played extremely well at the end of the season,” Mohrmann said. “We played attacking, high-pressing soccer that produced chances and goals and played calm possession when needed. And we began to give up fewer chances.”
In five postseason games, the Rebels allowed just two goals. That shows how well the team played.
“Those two goals were penalty kicks,” Mohrmann said. “I think it was, in part, due to increased maturity and focus in defense, but also because we were more aggressive on offense. That is, we defended higher up the field.”
In the Final Four, Priory recorded back-to-back shutouts. That matched the effort in the previous two state championship teams.
“We had shutouts in the semifinals and finals in 2005 and 2011,” Mohrmann said. “The performances in the Final Four this year were dominant, but the sectional game versus Burroughs and the quarterfinal versus Duchesne were difficult.”
Winning state is hard. Mohrmann now has three on his coaching resume.
“It’s always difficult to win a state championship. A lot has to go well at the right time,” Mohrmann said. “I feel very fortunate to have coached so many good players and teams.”
With a young team this year, most of the Rebels will be back in 2018.
That is exciting for Mohrmann. However, he knows there will be a bull’s eye on Priory next season as teams will want to knock off the state champions.
“I am very excited about next year,” Mohrmann said. “But the weight of expectations will pose many different challenges next year.”