Just think of Matt Williams as Archbishop Murphy’s Mr. Consistency.
The junior forward on the Wildcats boys soccer team wasn’t the type who scored goals in bunches. But he was on the scoresheet in almost every game. Archbishop Murphy played 22 games this season, and Williams was held goalless just five times. He was never held scoreless in consecutive games. Before a game started, the Wildcats knew they could count on Williams to find the net at least once.
Williams’ consistency was key to Archbishop Murphy’s repeat state championship, and it’s why he was named The Herald’s 2016 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“It was just the way he went about his job from game to game, because he never had a game where he really put five away or something like that,” Archbishop Murphy coach Mike Bartley said. “It was game in and game out, scoring every game and staying consistent, and that helped us win because we were used to that.”
“I had a pretty good season,” the understated Williams said. “A lot of my success came just from me feeding off my teammates. So all these awards are kind of me getting recognized for my team doing so well. I was just the guy who put the ball in the back of the net.”
He may say he was just putting the ball in the back of the net, but Williams did it better than anyone ever has for Archbishop Murphy’s storied program. His 35 goals were the most in recorded school history, more than doubling the 17 he scored last season as a sophomore. They played an integral part in the Wildcats going 21-1 and marching to their second consecutive 2A state title.
And Williams scored when it mattered most. He scored in the district championship game against Sehome, which Archbishop Murphy won 3-0. He scored the tying goal in the state championship against Quincy, which allowed the Wildcats to eventually prevail in penalty kicks.
“He can finish any way you ask of him,” Bartley said. “In the final game when we were down 1-0 to Quincy he scored off a header. In the game against Sehome in the district final he scored the second goal by dribbling through four guys in front of the goal in tight confined space. Then against Shorecrest last year he scored from 35 yards out. He’s capable of scoring in any way, any how, and defenses have to stay focused on him or they’ll be in trouble.”
But while Williams received recognition for scoring goals, he was more than just a goal-scorer. As the target man in a deadly front diamond that included Sam Johnson as the central attacking midfielder and Jensen Crisler and Isaac Feeney on the wings, Williams was charged not only with scoring goals, but with holding up the ball and getting his teammates involved. He added 10 assists to his goals, with Bartley adding that Williams often had the assist to the assist.
“I didn’t know what to expect this season,” Williams said. “I knew the Cascade Conference wasn’t going to be as tough as it had been in the past, but I didn’t expect to blow up like I did this year. I think all that came with the support I had in Sam Johnson, Isaac Feeney and Jensen Crisler feeding me. With teammates like that it’s hard not to have a successful season.”
Then there were the contributions Williams made off the field. The Wildcats suffered significant player attrition following their 2015 state title. That included the loss of playmaker Brady Henderson, the Cascade Conference Player of the Year in 2015, who elected to concentrate on his club commitments rather than play his senior season at Archbishop Murphy. With just two seniors on the roster, Williams was thrust into a leadership role a year early, being named one of the team’s captains before the season began along with midfielder Parker Buchanan.
While Buchanan handled the vocal aspects of leadership, Williams took over the role of keeping his teammates relaxed, serving as everyone’s confidant as well as leading the locker room antics with his singing and dancing.
“Our singing is basically just yelling, so I can’t really judge the singing talent, but I definitely think he has the dance moves,” defender Ryan Henderson said.
“I really enjoyed having Matt on the team,” Henderson added. “I think that it brought a lot of chemistry to the team with our goofy manner and the way we joked.”
It took until about midway through the season before Williams found his niche as a team leader.
“At first I wasn’t sure how to handle it,” Williams said. “I think I grew into my captain’s band throughout the season. I was kind of a silent leader some days, I was kind of in everyone’s ear other days. I really tried to just be laid back and mellow and not be too tough, let Parker be the talker and kind of just be chill and let everyone talk to me and not be intimidated by me. I just wanted to be a big brother figure to some of the younger players on the team.”
With just two seniors on the team, Archbishop Murphy has a wonderful chance of making history. No team in Washington has won three consecutive state titles at any level since Mountain View won the large-school division from 1991-93.
Williams said he has no intention of forsaking his senior season for club commitments, so if the Wildcats do find themselves chasing a third straight state title, expect their Mr. Consistency to be right in the middle of it.