Profile: Caleb Shoup saves the day – and the season – for Pioneer soccer

Some goalies don’t like the pressure. They don’t like to be the center of the attention. And they don’t like to have the outcome of a game squarely on their shoulders.

As the Beatles song goes, “Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.”

But Pioneer’s Caleb Shoup has big shoulders. Really big shoulders. And he was more than happy to carry the world (or at least the game) upon his shoulders.

“I love shootouts,” said Shoup, the Pioneer goalie after his team won a District Final 3-2 over Saline on Friday night – in a shootout. “We have been practicing them thanks to our coach who figured we might get to that situation at some point in the playoffs.

Shoup doesn’t have a detailed scouting report on every Saline player’s tendencies when it comes to taking penalty kicks. So he goes by what he knows and that’s reading and reacting.

“I just try to read the player,” he says. “I look at their hips and where their eyes are and make a decision.”

It was his quick reaction that helped make a huge save in the shootout on Friday and save the day for the Pioneers. He read the player, dove to his right and got a hand on the ball. The next player booted his attempt over the crossbar to end the game.

Pioneer Coach Jon Sundermann had plenty of confidence heading into the shootout that his senior goalie would make at least one save. He ended up making two – yes, the ball over the crossbar counts as a save.

WLAA photo gallery – FINALS

WLAA photo gallery – SEMIFINALS

“He’s very humble and a total team guy,” Sundermann said of his keeper. “He came in this year after playing in the Academy Program last year, worked hard, demonstrated great leadership and was elected tri-captain by his peers.

“He’s probably a top three goalkeeper in the state but very unassuming. He even scored a few goals when we put him in the field – which the boys got a huge kick out of.”

Shoup also is very smart. He’s cautious when laying out his shootout game plan. There might be another one in Pioneer’s future – they play in a Regional game on Wednesday at Dearborn against Grosse Pointe South – and he doesn’t want to tip his hand. Maybe Grosse Pointe South also loves Ann Arbor and will read this story.

“Yeah, I don’t want to give away too much,” he said smiling.

Beating Skyline and Saline to win the Districts was “crazy,” says Shoup. And beating the Hornets was even crazier. “We looked like we were out of it twice but we kept on fighting back,” he said. “Our team spirit and strength all year is to fight back, keep fighting and it paid off today.”

In the game against Saline played at Dexter the Pioneers had some great chances to take the lead including some brilliant opportunities in overtime. But that side of the field is out of Shoup’s control and all he can do is hope the offense delivers at some point.

“No, you can’t get down or frustrated. You can’t think like that,” he said. “You have to stay in the game. And when you do have an opportunity to influence the game that’s when I can make a difference.”

And he made a big difference, throughout the game and especially in the shootout.

The Pioneers reached a District final during Shoup’s sophomore year but that’s where the season ended. Skyline came out of the District last year and went all the way to state champions. It’s a path the Pioneers hope to follow this  year.

“Everyone doubted us this year and we were never in any rankings but we proved them all wrong,” he said. “We have been beating good teams all year so we will be ready to go on Wednesday.”

Shoup spent many years playing for the Michigan Wolves Academy but decided this summer he wasn’t going to play soccer in college. It’s just too much of a time commitment and he wanted to focus on school when he walked on a college campus.

“Yeah, so I quit the Wolves and just wanted to play one last year of high school soccer with my friends and have some fun,” he said.

Shoup and those big shoulders are having plenty of fun right now.