By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Halfway through his high school soccer career Eric Weetman was faced with a choice.
Starting working on soccer or just start working.
“My parents really pushed me to work with somebody over the summer after baseball was done so it was either get a job or work with somebody on soccer,” Weetman explained. “I decided to work with somebody on soccer because who wants to get a job?”
Instead of turning in a job application at a gas station Weetman starting turning up for extra sessions at Spartan Stadium with goalkeeping coach Nate Castillo.
Casey’s loss turned out to be Solon’s gain.
Weetman has gone from a little used reserve to one of the top goalkeepers in Class 1A in a matter of months helping fourth0ranked Solon (16-5) return to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
In his first season as a full-time starter, Weetman has allowed just 12 goals entering Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinal against third-ranked Regina (13-5) at 12:10 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
“Over the summer he worked hard on getting better,” Solon coach Jeremy McMurrin said. “He got some workouts in with our old goalkeeper coach Nate Castillo and he’s just been a different player. Confidence wise it has been an unbelievable change.”
The summer workout sessions that got Weetman out of working the gas station counter consisted of drills designed to improve hand-eye coordination, footwork and positioning.
What Weetman was lacking mostly after his first two years of high school soccer was confidence.
An injury to starting keeper Logan Linderbaum got Weetman tossed into goal four games into his freshman season.
Four unanswered goals in a 4-2 loss to Clear Creek Amana left Weetman wondering if he had what it took to be a successful keeper.
“I just remember the ball going through my legs, we were winning 2-0 and then they scored four in a row,” Weetman said. “After that I didn’t think I could play at this level.”
After a concussion limited Weetman as a sophomore he found himself at a crossroads in his soccer career.
Not ready for a job, Weetman got to work perfecting his craft.
“We worked on hands, proper form, footwork drills, footwork into hands,” Weetman said. “I learned a lot and that gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season.”
The extra work and increased confidence showed immediately as Weetman posted six shutouts during a 7-0 start to the season for Solon.
Suddenly what was once a foreign concept for Weetman was second nature.
“I felt like I knew what I was doing,” Weetman said. “The last two years I felt like I was out there to get in the way of the ball but this year I felt like I knew what to do.”
The strong start was just the beginning for Weetman.
He has posted 15 shutouts this season while helping Solon rank fourth in Class 1A in goals allowed with 12.
Weetman has a goal against average of .609 and a save percentage of nearly 87 percent.
“He’s a fairly tall kid, he has a good frame and he’s quick and athletic side to side,” McMurrin said. “He’s worked hard on his footwork and his positioning and how that he has that and he has coordination that he didn’t have a few years ago he’s playing as well as anyone.”
Solon will need more strong play from McMurrin if it is to advance at the state tournament.
The junior was at his best in the regular season matchup with Regina, recording 12 saves as the two teams played to a scoreless draw for 100 minutes before the Regals won in penalty kicks.
Weetman and Solon get a second shot against the Regals on Thursday.
“We were sitting in the team room this season and coach asked, ‘How many people think we can make it to state?’ and there were a few hands, less than 10,” Weeetman said. “Then he asked ‘How many think we can win state?’ and I think there were two. If you asked that now I think everyone would raise their hand. We feel like we can go in there and win. We have that confidence.”