During the last few years, the St. Thomas Aquinas boys soccer team stopped referring to games with zero goals allowed as “shutouts.”
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Instead, such games became “Gressouts” — an homage to senior goalkeeper Kyle Gress, who posted eight shutouts last season with a 0.94 goals-against average.
“Coach (Craig) Ewing has been around Aquinas for 25 years, since the beginning of the school,” Gress said. “I’d gone to his camps, so he knew me coming in. He coined the term and it just kind of stuck. My friends would give me a hard time before games, ‘Is it going to be a Gressout?’ ”
Now, Gress hopes to teach a much wider audience what the term means when he plays in the 2012 Choice Hotels International Boys Soccer High School All-American Game on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
And Gress won’t be alone.
Lee’s Summit North senior forward Michael Panarisi, who plays with Gress during the club season for Billy Goat FC, also was selected for the 20-man West roster along with two senior defenders, Rockhurst’s Brendan Marquardt and Olathe South’s Clay Stewart.
“Kansas City soccer is definitely on the rise,” said Panarisi, who scored 39 goals for the Broncos this fall. “I guess I have to credit the Sporting program for a lot of the youth development. We’re all getting better. There’s a lot of talent in Kansas City.”
Before the season started, a watch list was issued that listed roughly 200 players who might play their way into the second annual All-America game, which is held in conjunction with the NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship.
“I was shocked initially when I saw that I was on the list,” said Marquardt, who plays for the Sporting Blue Valley club team. “Honestly, I was not expecting to make it, but I had known about it. It’s pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to playing with other All-Americans.”
There’s pressure now on each player to justify his inclusion in the game, which will feature the best collection of talent any of the Kansas City quartet has ever played with or against.
“I’m going to be surrounded by the best players in the nation,” Stewart said. “They might be academy guys, but probably everybody who will be there could be. It’ll be a big challenge.”
U.S. soccer changed its youth development academy in the spring, requiring players with certain clubs, like Sporting KC Juniors, to forego high school competition and play with their academy teams year round.
“I’m really happy about the decision still,” said Stewart, who signed with UMKC. “I still wanted to play my senior year and try to win a state title. It didn’t happen, but getting All-American was icing on the cake.”
He may not be as thrilled after facing the firing squad Saturday against some of the most elusive and technically skilled forwards he’s ever faced.
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s going to be really cool playing against the best,” said Gress, who signed with Marquette. “It’s going to be cool to try to end on a shutout. It’s a second chance to try and go out on a win.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.