High School Sports

‘We’ve got the talent.’ Bryan Station rises from also-ran to region contender

Bryan Station’s boys’ soccer team is on track for its first winning season since 2012 and has a chance to make the 11th Region tournament for the first time in its history. “There are a lot of players that have been put into our hearts to make us get here,” said senior Eddy Irumva, left.
Bryan Station’s boys’ soccer team is on track for its first winning season since 2012 and has a chance to make the 11th Region tournament for the first time in its history. “There are a lot of players that have been put into our hearts to make us get here,” said senior Eddy Irumva, left.

Eddy Irumva has trouble with English, but you wouldn’t know it in conversation with Lexington senior.

He speaks eloquently and loquaciously, especially when asked about soccer, the sport he fell in love with after he came to America as a refugee from Tanzania almost a decade ago.

It’s the written word that makes Irumva scratch his head.

“Writing it is tough,” Irumva said of the English language. “There’s a bunch of rules that people don’t follow during speech and a bunch of things people skip over in their enunciation and pronunciation of words. It’s kind of like we make up all these rules. It’s a fancy language on paper, but not very fancy in words.”

He added with a laugh: “I’m learning some things and I’m like, ‘No American knows these things.’”

Irumva attends STEAM Academy but plays soccer for Bryan Station High School, which is on track to finish with its first winning record in boys’ soccer since 2012. The Defenders are 9-3 — matching the 2008 team for the program’s most wins this century — and have scored more goals than any other team in the 11th Region with 55 (next closest is Model Laboratory School, with 39). That goal total already is a program record in the 16-region era.

Bryan Station so far hasn’t been able to defeat a fellow Fayette County team this season, but it twice came close. Tates Creek handed the Defenders a 6-0 loss that would have fit in with prior struggle-filled seasons, but Station held its own in 1-0 decisions to Henry Clay and Lafayette — losses in which their offense generated ample opportunities to score but just couldn’t seal the deal.

They’re still losses, sure, but Station has closed the gap in a city that has produced 11 of the 43 previous state soccer champions. Close defeats are even easier to appreciate within the context of this fact: before last year’s victory over Frederick Douglass, a first-year program, Bryan Station had not beaten another Fayette County program during most of its players’ lifetimes.

“We’ve got the speed. We’ve got the talent. Our biggest strength is in our attacking third,” said Manes Preptit, a former Asbury University standout who has been Bryan Station’s head coach since 2013. “We’ve got players in every position on the field who can put the ball in the net, and it’s shown with our results. We’ve had midfielders scoring, my six has scored, all my strikers have scored. Even guys off the bench have scored. This is the best team we’ve had at Station in a long time. I’ve never had a team that’s more hungry than them.”

180821PrepSoccerStationmg003.JPG
Bryan Station’s Juma Prince was issued a yellow card on this aerial shot against Lafayette’s Jon Reynolds, left, and keeper Justin Puckett at R. L. Grider Stadium on Aug. 21. Matt Goins

Station opened the season 4-0 — its best start ever — which included a 3-0 showing in the annual Fayette County Soccer Spectacular. The Defenders had never swept that event, which each year brings region contenders from across the state to Lexington in order to showcase the sport during its opening week.

“Every year we try to set up goals that are achievable and measurable. If we don’t know where we want to go, we’re never going to achieve it,” Preptit said. “They’ve got their goals written down and we’re going to achieve a majority of them. We’ve already achieved a good bit of ’em.”

The Defenders have never played in the 11th Region tournament. They’ve positioned themselves to qualify as a No. 2 or 3 seed in the 42nd District tournament, where they’ll likely have to play Scott County, which has ended their season each of the last two years.

If they can get past that hurdle, figuring out how to score against the region’s elite programs will be essential if it’s first region trip were be a long one. Irumva and Diallo Irakoze, whom UK is recruiting and considered the best player in the city, if not the state, lead a group of seniors who want more than anything to have that shot.

Irumva wishes he had the chance to play soccer before moving to the U.S. so he could have developed more skills and be “an even better player,” he said. He worries about that, along with his English, but to a stranger all his talents seem refined.

Writing English might be tough, but one doesn’t need to write to be a great motivational speaker. Bryan Station couldn’t ask for a better one.

“There are a lot of players that have been put into our hearts to make us get here,” Irumva said. “I’ve played for the last four years and I have the names of all those players on my back, cause I remember them. I remember how hard we played and how games didn’t go our way. I see their heart and how fierce their love for the game was, and how hard they played, and that’s what’s on my back. That’s what’s pushing me to do my best. There’s a lot of players who, I felt like earned it, but didn’t get it.

“And that’s why we got to get it for ’em.”

180821PrepSoccerStationmg015.JPG
Bryan Station’s Diallo Irakoze dribbled against Lafayette at R. L. Grider Stadium on Aug. 21, 2018. Matt Goins

  Comments