Sean Speirs' hair was talked about more than his game on the Murray boys soccer team for a while last season.
Then a funny thing happened. Speirs cut his flowing blond locks and actually improved his game, scoring more goals. Whether the haircut had anything to do with his performance is irrelevant. The soon-to-be junior has begun to fulfill the potential Murray coaches have known he possesses.
"We've known Sean for a long time and been familiar with him," said Murray coach Bryan DeMann, who coached Sean's brother, Nate, a few years ago. "We always expected him to be a contributor. Having him step up and be a solid player for us gives us high hopes for next year."
Speirs, who played all three spots on the forward line, finished with seven goals, including a two-goal effort against region rival Skyline. He perhaps is the fastest player on the team, and his ability to outrun defenders made him a viable target up top.
"It comes with the chemistry we had as a team," Speirs said. "If I got to that spot, I knew the midfielders would get me the ball. I knew where I needed to be. At first, I wasn't good with that, but as I got my timing down, it got better. We became a family and got stronger and stronger every game."
Understanding how and when to make his runs was key to his production, DeMann said. Though he could move quickly from spot to spot, he wouldn't always be in the position needed to receive the pass and do something with it.
"He actually ended up grasping the angles we work on with passing and started to pick it up," DeMann said. "You have to read the angle of where the pass is coming from and make your run to match the angle of the pass. When he started doing that, he got pretty good. It's tough for guys to stick with him."
The Spartans won the Region 7 championship at 9-0-1 (14-2-3 overall) and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual Class 4A state champion Bountiful 5-4 on penalty kicks. Speirs, 16, scored a goal against the Braves and had another in a first-round victory over Springville.
Much of what Speirs does on the field has to do with his brother, Nate. The two enjoy a friendly yet competitive sibling rivalry. In fact, Sean said his objective is to score more goals than his brother did each season at Murray.
"When he was a sophomore, he got three goals," Sean said about Nate, who is serving an LDS mission in Arizona. "Now this coming year, my goal is to get 12."
Speirs works hard to refine his game, playing competitive soccer on one of Sparta's premier teams in the offseason. With that experience has come good competition, which should make him even better next season.
"He's a real athletic kid; real fast and very aggressive," DeMann said. "If he can work on his first touch and passing, he's going to be hard to stop."
Now about the hair.
Though the long locks no longer exist, Speirs said he wouldn't rule out growing his hair long again with one caveat.
"I kind of got sick of finding a ponytail holder or headband for it," he said.