Athlete of Week: Williams returns to lead St. James

sjsoc-14St. James soccer standout Luke Williams couldn’t suit up for his high school squad last season. Now the junior striker is making up for lost time.

As a freshman on the Sharks’ surprising state finals run in 2015, Williams got the golden opportunity to join the Charleston Battery’s Academy team last year. While the highly competitive program provided Williams with valuable experience in what it takes to play at the next level, it also kept him from being a part of St. James’ up-and-coming squad.

“Playing for the Battery Academy team was a great experience,” Williams said. “We were playing against MLS Academy teams and traveling a lot, but you can’t play Academy and high school (at the same time). They ended the program down there so at least I was able to get one good season in, but I was excited about coming back to play for my high school team.”

Needless to say, the Sharks are happy to welcome him back to the fold. Williams leads the team with 28 goals in 17 games and has helped St. James claim a No. 2 state ranking with a 15-2 record. His recent play earned him the Mammy’s Kitchen Player of the Week award as the Sharks seek to make a similar run to the state title game like they did two years ago.

Although Williams was only a freshman on that St. James’ state runner-up team, the seed was planted for returning to take the Sharks to the next step of a state championship. The year off allowed Williams to improve his game significantly, especially when it comes to speed. Williams has been taking part in speed and agility training to add a new element to his game.

“I’ve been working on it for a while,” said Williams, who uses his speed to blow past defenders and put added pressure on opposing goalkeepers. “I used to not work on it very much but now it’s a big thing. We do a lot of attacking on offense, and our defense is solid too. As long as we can do those things well we have a chance.”

The next step comes Tuesday night, when the Sharks travel to rival Myrtle Beach for a first-place showdown in the region. Unlike the 2015 squad that had to criss-cross the state to reach the title match on the road, the Sharks hope to secure a top seed and the home games that come with it. But first and foremost, the Sharks have the Seahawks on their minds.

“We’re playing well. We struggled (in Saturday’s loss to Socastee) but we bounced back (in Sunday’s victory over Oceanside Collegiate),” Williams said of St. James’ weekend in the Soccer at the Beach tournament. “We have to play our best against Myrtle Beach on Tuesday because it’s for the region title. It’s time for us to pull together as a team.”

Just one more reason Williams is happy to be back in the high school ranks.

Photo by Terry Massey

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