Prep boys soccer • Murray reached the Class 4A state title game last season.
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For Murray boys soccer forward Chad Piersen, it's simple: It's all about taking care of some unfinished business this season.
As a junior, he watched his team's upperclassmen lead the Spartans to the Class 4A title game, only to fall 3-2 to rival Olympus. Now, he and his fellow seniors are ready to finish what was started.
"I feel like it's my turn to take that role," he said. "It's all of our turns to be leaders out on the field."
Piersen is making the most of his moment.
After scoring just four goals last season, Piersen already has netted two for the Spartans. He and senior Andrew Clayton lead a potent offense eager to redeem last year's state title-game loss.
"We made a few disappointing mistakes that cost us the game," center midfielder Clay Powell said. "Now we're looking for another chance."
"It was just heartbreaking, honestly," Piersen said. "They scored on us right before the half, and we came out strong after, but just came up short. We just came up short."
Still, Piersen insists the focus is on the here and now.
The returning Spartans stayed in contact during the offseason, working to improve their game on their respective club teams and later competing against each other on rival indoor teams.
"It's important to keep touches on the ball even when snow is on the ground," Piersen said.
The result, he said, is a squad packed with individual talent and a lot of potential.
"We've got fantastic individual skill," he said. "Now it's just about communication and coming together as a team."
If Murray has a weakness, it's defense. The Spartans lost all-state keeper Spencer Critchfield, as well as many members of a senior-laden squad in the backfield. Fortunately for the Spartans, Critchfield's younger brother, Tanner, has maintained his brother's dominance at the net, already earning two shutouts on the young season entering the week.
"He's just as good as [Spencer]," Powell said.
Meanwhile, Powell and fellow midfielders Jeff Hunter and Theo Gochnour plan to keep the Spartans on the attack while they solidify the defensive strategy.
"It's our job to make sure things are running well, to facilitate the ball to Chad or Andrew," Powell said. "So that's what we'll do."
The Spartans also are using a high-caliber preseason schedule to iron out any kinks and, more important, rediscover their identity as a team with a new cast of starters.
"We haven't played a bad team yet," Powell said. "And the teams we have played have shown us where we have weaknesses."
Redemption is one source of motivation for the Spartans.
Obligation is another.
As members of one of Murray's most successful teams, and the last team to earn a state title in any sport, the Spartans feel obligated to step up for their fans.
"Everyone at Murray looks forward to the spring sports, for our baseball, soccer and softball teams," Piersen said. "Even at away games, we have big fan support. It's fantastic, and we feel like we've gotta get a victory for them."