The recent week Ryan Massey had for University High’s soccer team was the stuff of sports movies.
With the season on the line, a star rises to the occasion and carries his team to victory.
In this case, the movie-style cliche is real. Two games remained in U-Hi’s season. The team was in danger of missing the league playoffs for the first time in school history.
The Titans, 3-3 in the league, faced in succession North Central and Shadle Park, teams with 4-2 records.
In two high-scoring victories, Massey scored five goals, more than double his season total.
The Titans jumped from sixth to third place in league and yesterday were involved in the first round of district playoffs.
“I felt I hadn’t been playing well and needed to help the team,” said Massey. “I did just by finishing my shots.”
Massey, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound center midfielder, played a larger role than just scoring goals. He was responsible for marking up NC’s high-scoring Paul Johnson. NC had won three-straight games from the Titans.
Because Johnson likes to head the ball, Massey’s height made him the perfect defender.
“He’s so good in the air, we had him play defense as well as leading the counterattack,” said U-Hi coach Brandon Deyarmin. “We needed him at both ends (of the field).”
He did his job against Johnson, limiting the prolific scorer to a single goal during the 6-1 win. And he had the game of his life, completing a three-goal hat trick on a penalty kick midway through the second period.
In the next game, a 5-3 win over Shadle, Massey scored twice more and had an assist as the Titans took a 4-1 halftime lead. Included was another penalty kick goal.
“I missed one at the beginning of the year but haven’t since,” he said.
His last goal of the day, he said, was his favorite.
“I threw it in, the ball hit off Nick Earling’s head, bounced straight up, rolled off my knee and went in,” said Massey. “I’d have to say it was the best since I’ve been here.”
Athletes in other sports are also aware of the defensive ability of Massey, who is winding down a three-sport career.
Ryan hounded the leading scorers on opposing basketball teams last winter. The Titans were good enough to beat the best in league, but just missed the playoffs.
“We would show up for a game we thought was big, but didn’t treat every game as important until the end,” said Massey. “I was really disappointed the season ended early. I was having my best season since junior high.”
Football also ended early for the Titan senior, a defensive back and wide receiver. He separated his shoulder in the fourth game and watched the rest of the season from the sidelines.
Massey said his heart has always been with basketball, but soccer is his best sport.
“It gives you more involvement in the game,” he said. “You’re not standing around. I have to move or I get tired.”
Despite his size, he doesn’t consider himself particularly physical or a finesse player.
“I’m in between,” he said. “I’m tall, but not big and I’m not the best ball handler.”
Massey will continue his soccer career at Spokane Falls Community College.
Had he worried that the Titans might not make the playoffs?
“After the Lewis and Clark (loss) I had doubts in my mind,” he said. “They were small, but they were there.” After losing twice to NC, despite outshooting them three to one, there was incentive to win. “We owed them,” Massey said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo