Bishop England soccer is well known for its defense prowess. This season head coach Ed Khouri and the Battling Bishops have a lot to defend.
The 2013 Class AA state champions return ranked No. 1 in their class. Bishop England has racked up seven state championships in the past nine years. With so much success the Bishops have become accustom to lofty preseason rankings. But for Khouri and his squad, the preseason prediction isn't as exciting as the opportunity to protect it.
“We say, ‘It's hard work getting to the top but it's harder work maintaining at the top,'” Khouri said. “We stress defending that and playing up to that level every game. Every game we're going to get someone's best game. So every game we play we have to be ready to play our best to defend and keep that status.”
The Bishops lost five starters to graduation but return with the core of its defense still intact. Senior Zach Hooper is a five-year player and captain of the 2014 team. Seniors Matthew Mellin and Taylor Stark join Hooper in the Bishops defense. The three are key cogs in the Bishops' defensive formations and will rarely come out of a game.
“With our experience being pretty thin, the load is on these guys to carry the team,” Khouri said. “These guys are hard workers who bring their best game to the table every time.”
Sophomore forward and last season's leading scorer Joel Bunting returns to lead the Bishops' frontline. Sophomore Freddy Brown, and seniors Zach Khoury and Nick Saunders will be featured in the Bishops' midfield. Sophomore Jake Michel takes over in goal after receiving limited time as a backup last season but showing well in the preseason.
“We're strong in our core,” Khouri said. “The chemistry of our core is really good and that helps us a lot not having to spent a couple of months to get going.”
Bishop England faces an early test against statewide No. 1 Wando March 8 in the Mount Pleasant Rotary Classic. Four days later, the Bishops open conference play on the road against Class AA No. 2 Academic Magnet.
“Those games will be a measuring stick for us,” Khouri said. “The results of those two games, how we win or how we lose, should really cement our position moving forward.
“If we have good quality of play this season, we can achieve our goals no matter which team we're playing against. Our utmost goal is to be in the finals and every game up to that point, we're defending to the bitter end.”