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High school soccer: Golden Knights’ Kunert, Jacobs maintain the ‘D’

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COPENHAGEN — While the Copenhagen boys soccer team mainly plays a possession-oriented style of play, its success truly starts with its defense.

Much like the school’s girls soccer squad, which is also unbeaten, the Golden Knights take pride in their defensive prowess.

Copenhagen (15-0), ranked seventh in the state among Class D schools in boys soccer, has allowed only four goals this season.

“Possession is always huge,” Copenhagen coach Scott Randall said. “I always say to the guys our best defense is our offense by building up attacks, and the more we keep the ball in the other end, the better.

“But we teach defense to every player on the team — we try to defend with a lot of different people. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the offensive third, the middle third or the defensive third, we teach to pressure the ball, cover each other and this will lead to success.”

The Golden Knights have posted 12 shutouts en route to securing their second consecutive Frontier League “D” Division regular-season title.

“After a few games where we weren’t giving up any goals, we realized that was our identity,” Randall said. “As a team, we knew we were going to play good defense and just grind it out on offense and just try to wear teams down. ... I think we relish the fact that we don’t give up a lot of shots and we try to just shut down teams.”

At the heart of this success are defensive leaders Greg Kunert and Breven Jacobs, who comprise the team’s “back line” along with junior Sam Williams.

“They have a lot of experience,” Randall said of Kunert, a senior, and Jacobs, a junior. “The key thing for us has been moving Breven back on defense — he’s helped anchor that back line for us. He was excited with the opportunity to help us out there and he definitely has.”

Kunert and Jacobs hope to help lead the Golden Knights to another league playoff title as they will face rival Lyme in the “D” Division final at 7 tonight at General Brown.

This is Kunert’s third varsity season, anchoring the defense each year.

“Greg is a big strong kid, who has a lot of speed and is up for any challenge,” Randall said. “He’s always looking to improve.”

“He gives us a lot of experience back there,” Jacobs said of Kunert.

Jacobs’s move back to play defense was a natural transition as he played as a defensive midfielder last season.

“This preseason we weren’t doing as well as we were hoping and we had some holes to fill back there,” Jacobs said. “So I asked coach if I could play in the back and help shut down other team’s offenses.”

“He’s a very skilled player overall and a very good defensive player,” Kunert said of Jacobs, who has also contributed a pair of goals and nine assists this season. “He’s tremendously helped our defense with how quick he is off the dribble and just back. His instincts are really good, like where to be in coverage and when to step up.”

With Kunert and Jacobs leading the way and with sophomore goalies Brandon Buckley and Robbie Groff, who have shared playing time, the last line of defense, the Golden Knights recorded nine consecutive shutouts before they yielded a pair of goals in a 4-2 victory over Alexandria in Tuesday’s division semifinal.

“I think that’s the highlight of our season so far,” said Kunert, who has also totaled two goals and four assists this campaign. “Only letting in four goals throughout the whole season is quite a feat and I haven’t seen another team to that in a while.”

Copenhagen has shut out Lyme twice this season, 3-0, and most recently, 4-0 last Thursday, on its way to completing a perfect 12-0 league record in the regular season.

“We try to get the shutout every game,” said Jacobs, whose twin brother, Brenden, leads the team in scoring with 37 points, including 13 goals. “I know our goalies don’t have any shutouts because they share time back there, but I’m just as happy for them as I am about our defense.”

Beyond today’s league final, the Golden Knights hope to garner a favorable seed in sectionals, where last year they reached the Class D-1 semifinal, eventually losing to state semifinalist Poland, the state’s top-ranked team in Class D.

“Lyme is a tough team and always is,” Kunert said. “ ... Last year’s finish [against Poland] motivated me, that’s for sure. And I think it motivated every one else and even the new guys coming into this year. I think we all want to surpass what we did and be even better this year.”

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