Knights prepare to get in the zone

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suffolk Christian Academy rising junior Steven Effler was a threat on offense last year and will continue to be one this year as the Knights' sole striker to start off the season.

Suffolk Christian Academy rising junior Steven Effler was a threat on offense last year and will continue to be one this year as the Knights’ sole striker to start off the season.

Jeremy Effler took over as the girls’ soccer coach this past spring for Suffolk Christian Academy, and this year he does the same for the boys’ soccer team, working to develop a new system and to impart his strong team mentality to his players.

Steven Milner opted to step down as boys’ soccer coach after last season, already busy as a teacher and the athletics director at SCA. Effler served as his assistant coach and was the obvious choice to move up.

The Knights went 5-5 last year and were eliminated in their first game of the Hampton Roads Athletic Conference tournament by the BEACH Breakers.

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Effler’s experience with the girls’ team gave him a sharp awareness of where the boys need to improve based on what he has seen from them in preseason practices.

“The girls’ team meshed really well,” he said. “I think our first obstacle to get over is actually creating a team here.”

He has 24 players who practice together, and the group includes both the SCA varsity and junior varsity teams, ranging from sixth-graders to 12th-graders.

Nineteen of those players will be on varsity, and he said some of their personalities are currently clashing.

“We’ve got to get over that,” he said. “That’s a big hurdle for the team. We’re making progress there, but that’s going to hurt us because that makes you not trust each other on the field.”

Effler is changing SCA’s formation this season to a 1-4-4-1, meaning one sweeper, four defenders, four midfielders and one striker.

“It’s a zone-type offense and defense,” he said, and his players took to it quickly. “Our passing, just from changing up that and understanding the zones, increased instantly. It was just a night and day difference, so I’m excited about that.”

Suffolk Christian lost four seniors from last year’s squad: Kirk Chenault, Collin Dennys, Brent Hall and Kyle Pinto.

Chenault and Dennys were primary defenders, and Effler will be looking for rising seniors Nathan Leiter and David Day to provide leadership in the back this year.

“They play either on the defensive line or as a sweeper,” the coach said.

Eventually, Effler said he wants to transition to a 4-4-2, with two strikers, but for now, rising junior Steven Effler will be the lone striker.

Rounding out the seniors will be Caleb Hayes.

“He played two years ago, but did not play last season, but he’s back, and he’s a really good midfielder,” Coach Effler said.

Effler said he expects his team to be competitive but does not expect blowout wins.

“I don’t know where we’ll be in the tournament,” he said. “I’m hoping that at least we won’t go out first round. I hesitate to say — I still don’t think we’re all the way there for championships yet, but we’re building the foundations for that.”

The Knights begin their season on Friday, hosting StoneBridge School at 4:30 p.m.