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Central's Somerset, defense fueling Indians in return to state tournament

May 16—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne Central boys soccer coach Dirk Dijkstal was a prolific goalkeeper during his time in an Indians uniform, and is the current school record holder for career shutouts with 36.

But the second-year coach feels he has a keeper on his team with the potential to break his school record. That player is sophomore keeper Leo Somerset, who earned the starting spot his freshman year and has been Central's go-to keeper ever since.

"He's only gotten better since last year," Dijkstal said. "I'm not sitting on pins and needles, and I'm already anxious on the sideline, so it makes it that much better (when we have Somerset in net)."

So far, that pressure to be better than his coach has not affected Somerset. During his freshman season, Somerset posted 56 saves and notched eight shutouts. He has managed to build on that with yet another standout season.

Entering today's Class 4A state tournament in Rock Springs, Somerset has matched his shutout total from last season — a number that is tops in all of 4A. He has also posted a goals against average of 0.466, allowing more than two goals just once on the year, according to WyoPreps.

"Dirk brought me under his wing, because he played goalie," Somerset said. "The whole backline is always cheering me on and pushing me to be better (which has helped with the success I've had)."

Ever since he was a little kid playing soccer, Somerset's main job has been manning the net for his teams. His abilities in the net have always been something he feels is one of his strengths.

"Everything almost comes naturally," Somerset said. "I don't want to sound braggy about that, but (that's just how it is). I've put in a lot of hours, and I'm blessed."

Somerset's abilities were on full display during the Class 4A regional championship Saturday, when the senior posted 11 saves to help the Indians claim their second consecutive conference title. Somerset was under siege for a majority of the contest, but came up with clutch saves on difficult chances by Sheridan.

His only blemish came on a free kick from 20 yards away.

"I trust Leo with my life," senior defender Brock Pedersen said. "He's a fantastic goalie, and one of the best I've ever seen in the state, honestly. I can't wait to see how he comes along in the next few years. It's crazy because he's only a sophomore, and he's also a leader out there, which is great to have."

That trust from his senior captain has helped Somerset's biggest asset — his confidence.

"(It makes my confidence) go miles higher," Somerset said. "I'm only a sophomore, so I'm one of the younger ones. But when you hear a captain, let alone a senior, (say that), it makes me feel so much better and so much more confident."

While Somerset has been lights out for the Indians for two consecutive seasons, the sophomore admitted that it would be impossible for him to do everything by himself.

That's where Central's backline comes into play.

The quartet of Pedersen, Matthew Klaassen, Tyler Davis and Koen Ziemann on the back-end have helped lead Central to the third-best goal differential in the state at plus-43. Only Jackson (plus-125) and Kelly Walsh (plus-59) have better differentials.

Combined with center midfielder Nate Brenchley and Somerset, the six-man group has allowed just seven goals all season. The Indians started the first month of the season with a six-game shutout streak.

The group has become suffocating to play against.

"They are just so well trained," South coach Joshua Eastman said. "They are all born and bred through (their club teams), and part of why they are good is because those kids have been playing together for a really long time. That creates a very solid unit.

"(Somerset is also) so vocal, and is leading and telling those kids where to be and what to do. As a defender, when you don't always have to think for yourself, that's huge. They have great chemistry, work hard and reward themselves for that."

The group's efforts have also made life on Dijkstal that much easier, giving the coach solace in knowing that, more often than not, his players will make the right play.

"I'm not shaking in my boots when (the other team) is in transition," the coach said. "That's not every season, and it's a blessing, for sure. Our defense has been playing phenomenal.

"...If you don't have a solid backline, boy, it's a troubling matter, and it makes you really nervous on the sideline. It's a pleasant experience to not have to be very concerned going into games."

While the group's efforts may not always show up on the score sheet, the entire team recognizes just how important what they do is to the overall success of the team.

Seeing the back-end make those kinds of plays also provides a spark for the forwards.

"It's amazing, and we're all really hard on them, and they're hard on us," senior forward Sammy Shumway said. "It's a great system we have. We have only let up (seven) goals this year. Being able to have complete trust in those guys so they can do what they need to do and we can do what we need to do, it just makes it so much easier.

"... It allows us to have our mind ready for the counterattack and have our midfield being able to press and step up with us."

Central opens the state tournament as the East Conference's No. 1 seed. The Indians will face West No. 4 seed Natrona County at 4 p.m. today at Rock Springs High.

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at matencio@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @MattAtencio5.