The soccer team is young at best, with a combined 12 freshmen and sophomores on the 21-man roster.
The coach is in his second year at the school. He was an assistant last spring when the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he’s the head coach of a program that has been in existence for only three years
Welcome to the Philip Simmons High School soccer world, where Patrick Gunderson is the coach, the man in charge to take the soccer team to the next level. And the Iron Horses are doing just that with six victories in its first six games.
Not bad for a youthful, exciting and talented group of players who are taught to have their priorities in line.
Gunderson, a 44-year-old native of Norway, has been in the Lowcountry for nine years. He and his wife Suzanne arrived here just in time for the arrival of their first child, Beckett.
Gunderson stresses players should take no unnecessary chances during the pandemic that could put the player or teammates at risk.
And, he makes sure that the classroom always comes before the soccer pitch.
If you are wondering how receptive the team was, the Iron Horses are 6-0.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Gunderson, who also coaches at the club level. “Obviously, it’s difficult circumstances with all that’s going on,” he added. “Following the protocol is critical. We’ve had players quarantined for different reasons, but the kids have done a phenomenal job of handling it.”
The Iron Horses are 2-0 in Region 6-AA play and have outscored their six foes 33-4. They are coming off a 12-0 region victory over Burke, and play non-league foe John Paul II on Friday. Then comes other non-region foes next week before the spring break.
The team is unique because this is the first PSHS soccer team to have seniors on the roster. They include Will Patterson, Sammy Harbin and Matt Collins.
The captains are the nucleus and future face of the program: sophomore Riley Beard, junior keeper Anthony Visconti and sophomore Griffin Gore. Gore was an all-state football selection in the fall and leads the soccer Horses in scoring.
Like fall and winter sports, the state playoff format has been modified for spring with only the top two teams in each region qualifying. That’s why the Iron Horses must be ready to face a double dose of an athletic Woodland team when play resumes after break.
“Any region game is treated like it’s the playoffs,” Gunderson said. “Even though the playoffs are a month away, you have to win today or tomorrow to get there.”
Gunderson knows his team is young and has the energy to match the coach. The opposing talent will be better in the postseason, but the players have been there, done that because most play at a higher level either with the Cainhoy or DISA club programs.
“They have been in the situation,” Gunderson said. “They have been ready for all of the challenges of the last two seasons. Their response has been phenomenal.”