The Millbrook PA announcer was calling him Sh-Lute.
Hearing his name mispronounced after goals isn’t a problem for Kris Schulte.
Because he’s a volume scorer, Schulte gives announcers another chance to get it right next time.
That was the case Thursday as Schulte was the engine behind Kettle Run’s underdog run to the Northwestern District boys soccer championship.
On a sunny, breezy afternoon in Winchester, the Cougars downed Millbrook 4-2 in the title game to complete one of the rarest of postseason runs, winning the tournament as the No. 5 seed after three amazing road upsets.
John Hamilton got Kettle Run on the board in the 19th minute, and then Schulte produced a hat trick as Kettle Run dominated a Pioneers team that had their number the last three years.
After finishing the regular season with a sub-.500 record at 7-8-1, Kettle Run (10-8-1) is back in the region tournament and hosting a Region 4C semifinal Tuesday as the district tourney champs. They’ll face Loudoun Valley.
“We had to win every game. We just bonded towards the end of the season,” said Schulte, whose squad downed No. 4 James Wood, No. 1 Sherando and No. 3 Millbrook for the crown.
Coach Phil Roper watched his team put together a complete performance in the biggest game of the year. The Cougars controlled the midfield, finished their chances, and clamped down on dangerous Pioneers Ricardo Palma Flores and Ronald Velasquez.
Roper was confident they had it in them, even if regular season results were lackluster.
“Every game we’ve lost this year has been by one goal, except for the Fauquier game they scored with under a minute left to make it 3-1. I’ve been telling them, ‘We’re in every game.’
So we finally said, alright, what’s the difference? Maybe we’re not doing the little things and we started doing the little things,” he said.
“At James Wood we get one, we got another one at Sherando. All of a sudden we start to get that little vibe.”
Another person who had the vibe was Schulte, who reached 32 goals to set a school single season mark, topping the 30 by Evan Szklennik.
Another standout was Lucas Tabit, who also fueled the Cougars’ offense. “Our playmakers, our impact players made the difference today,” said Roper.
In the 19th minute, Schulte helped the Cougars to a 1-0 lead by making a brilliant play along the end line. He held the ball, eluded a defender and sent a pass across the goal mouth for John Hamilton to blast into an open slot near the left post.
“I just gave him a little hesitation move. And then beat him to the baseline and cut it back for John to finish off. I think I beat two guys,” said Schulte. “I was waiting for him to get off balance and play it across.”
Schulte scored his first goal in the 36th minute by racing upfield to chase a deflected ball, then beating oncoming goalie Nate Hershberger and a defender with a timely foot poke to make it 2-0.
The Cougars put immediate pressure on the Pioneers to open the second with Schulte nearly scoring on a short angled shot in the 41st minute that required a big save by Hershberger.
Schulte made it 3-0 in the 46th minute when he found himself alone ahead of the defense with only the goalie to beat. He held the ball as Hershberger came out, then slid it under him for a seemingly insurmountable lead with almost 35 minutes to go.
Seemingly deflated, the Pioneers mounted no threats until the closing moments, then made it very interesting indeed on strikes by Ethan Perloff in 73rd minute and Hansbrough in the 78th to make it 3-2.
Cue Schulte, who took a pass off the ensuing kickoff and scored almost instantly on a wicked 25-yard shot. It came about 10 seconds after Kettle Run took possession at midfield.
“I was trying to remain a calm on the sideline,” said Roper about the dwindling lead. “If you remain calm, the guys on the field stay calm. It got sketchy at 3-2 but I figured he had to be blowing the whistle soon. Of course it helps if you got a guy who goes down and scores right off the kickoff.”
The result left Millbrook coach Keith Kilmer shaking his heading in admiration of Kettle Run and Roper’s program.
“That’s Roper. That’s why he’s won a state title,” said Kilmer. “It’s an honor to play against them. I think they are the classiest program in this conference. We had won five in a row against them, but they took it to us today.”
Kettle Run lost twice to Millbrook in the regular season, 1-0 and 2-1, but Roper said he made no adjustments.
“Our mantra is we don’t change our game. Make them adjust to us,” he said.
“We’re a team that works hard. The pace was fast. We kept going the whole game,” said Schulte.