BYRON — Byron striker Matthew Williams led the Eagles last season with 31 goals and 14 assists and helped Byron craft an 18-4 season and win a share of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title.
He hopes to up the ante this fall.
Through the first six games, he already had 15 goals — including a pair of four-goal eruptions in two separate games. The junior also had four assists.
“I think our team is better than last year — I think we’re more solid everywhere,” said Williams, an honorable mention All-Stater in 2018. “We don’t have a ton of depth this year, but a lot of solid players.”
He said his biggest goal is trying to help the Eagles win another conference title and go further in the district tournament.
“I’d like to make it past the second round because last year we lost in the second round (of the districts),” Matthew Williams said.
He said Byron, which lost to Ovid-Elsie 4-3 earlier this season, must beat the Marauders during the second meeting and win the rest of the conference games to ensure another title.
“If we beat Ovid-Elsie and win all of our remaining conference games, and if they win the rest of their conference games, we’ll share it,” he said.
He said Byron has several other scoring threats besides himself. Teammates Alessio Nieuwenhuizen and Justin Frye each have three goals apiece, and senior teammate Jacob Miller is also a talented player.
“Alessio Nieuwenhuizen is really good — but the one that’s the most dominant probably is Jacob Miller,” said head coach Greg Williams — Matthew’s father. “He’s a senior and he has the ability to carry a team. He’s physical enough, he’s smart enough and he can shoot it. He opts to pass a little more and play a little more defense on the midfield side. But if you’re looking for a player with all of the tools it’s Jacob Miller.”
Greg Williams also had high praise for Frye.
“He went in during the shootout against Durand in the tournament (Byron tournament) as keeper and he stopped three out of five,” Williams said. “So he plays everything — every position up and down the middle. Right now I have him at defense. He’s fast, he’s got good touch, a smart player.”
Matthew Williams had 17 goals as a freshman. He has 63 for his career — which is a school career record for the young Byron program — and wants to get to 100 by the end of his senior season.
However, he is able to keep it in perspective.
“This is like our fifth year of being around (as a varsity soccer program),” the junior said. “So not that many goals have been scored.”
As for playing under his father, Matthew Williams said it’s something he is comfortable with.
“I’ve been used to it,” the junior said. “He’s been coaching me a long time. He’s tough on me probably — I’m not sure. I mean he says he is.”
Greg Williams said his son is a talented scorer and passer.
He said the most important thing is for Byron to score — regardless of who does it.
“One of the things on his agenda is he wants to be the point leader — whether through goals or assists, he doesn’t care,” the coach said. “But he has a physical dominance right now. He has worked out all offseason. And I think he’s at the point now where he feels comfortable with himself. He has real good ballhandling skills. When he gets the ball on his feet, it’s hard to take it off.”
Added the coach, “He plays in the air too, with his left or his right foot. And I think that helps out tremendously.”
Matthew Williams said he has become more skilled through hard work in the offseason.
“I’ve played quite a bit (over the summer),” he said. “I’ve gotten better at probably going through the defenses and taking my shot better. Because I might wait for my shot this year. And I’m getting better passes from players — so I get better shots quicker.”
Greg Williams said that he is hopeful that Byron can win another league title, despite an early loss to Ovid-Elsie.
“We were up by a goal with 5 minutes left,” Greg Williams said. “They got a PK and then they put one in a couple of minutes later. It was a very even game and I feel really confident. Last year was similar, we lost 3-1 against them (in the first meeting but then won the next two times).”