For a guy who didn’t enjoy preseason pressure put upon him, Ryker Seifert sure didn’t show it.
A litany of quality soccer players went through Gilbert High School the past five years, several of whom remain friends with Seifert. So when his senior year began and the Tigers may not have had the depth of previous versions, Seifert’s 16-goal effort as a junior was going to be taken up a notch for the Tigers to make any kind of postseason play.
Make that two notches. Seifert doubled his results as a senior and tied the school record with 32 goals — including 12 which proved to be game-winners — and 10 assists to earn Tribune Player of the Year honors.
Though keenly aware as he drew closer to the record, his attempts to block out the thought either didn’t work because others kept talking about it, or because the Tigers’ team on-field goal was unfulfilled.
“I never really thought so,” he said of making the record books. “I’ve scored some (16 as a junior) and everyone having a big senior year, and I was worried about it. I didn’t think I’d get there. Everyone was talking about it and I said 20 goals was my goal, and when I passed that, I guess I could try for the record. I tried not to think about it because I’d have rather won the state championship.”
Gilbert’s postseason visit ended prematurely compared to recent seasons, but it might not have otherwise come close. Flanked by Zach Frazier as the main man setting up Seifert up front, his (and the team’s) sluggish finish to the season was offset by being involved in 50 percent of the team’s scoring.
He scored multiple times vs. Desert Vista, three goals vs. Ironwood and Chandler, four goals vs. Desert Ridge and Mesquite, and, in the flukiest game of his career, hit the post twice vs. Hamilton.
“He was a wrecking crew for us,” Tigers coach Jeff Perry said. “It’d have been awfully difficult to do anything all season without him. He’s as good a finisher as I’ve ever had along with (Cody) Schulz, so clean in front of goal and doesn’t make mistakes.”
Ryker’s older brother took up soccer, and so did he by age 3. He still sees and plays pickup games with his former classmates/teammates — including one two weeks ago on neighborhood basketball courts. Many, including Schulz, the man with whom he shares this new record, are also soon-to-be teammates again at Chandler-Gilbert Community College this fall.
Peers and the subsequent pressure are making a comeback, at Seifert’s request.
“I don’t find myself panicking,” he said. “I like the pressure and in (penalty kicks) I always like to be the fifth (final) guy when the pressure is on. I just feel like I can do it. Take a deep breath, relax and, do it or not, at least I tried.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.