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Soccer: This Knight’s Tale Features Goals — and Lots of ‘Em

As a freshman last year, Mark Knight scored more goals than any community college player in California; this season, he's second in state scoring.

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Mark Knight, a star forward on the Santa Barbara City College men’s soccer team, started playing club soccer at age 5 in Woking, England. “I have always loved playing soccer and every aspect of the game,” he says. (Ken Sciallo photo)

Mark Knight started playing club soccer as a 5-year-old lad in Woking, England, and it didn’t take him long to discover he had a knack for the net.

“I have always loved playing soccer and every aspect of the game,” said Knight, a star forward on the Santa Barbara City College men’s soccer team. “I believe I am lucky to have a natural ability to play well, and am willing to work hard to better myself and reach my goal.”

As a freshman last year, he found the goal more times than any other community college player in California. Knight led all players in the state with with 28 goals and 61 points, helping the Vaqueros reach the Southern Cal playoffs with a 13-7-2 record.

“I seemed to have always had the ability to score goals,” said Knight, who has 37 goals in his 31-game collegiate career. “I played for a junior club in Woking called Meadow Sports between the age of 5 and 16, managed by my dad. In one season at Under-12, I actually scored 56 goals. We had a very successful team during those years, winning the league four times, two County Cup Finals and the League Cup, as well as finishing runner-up three times.”

Knight is second in state scoring this season with 13 goals and five assists for the Vaqueros (9-4, 4-1), who are in first place in the Western State Conference.

So, what’s the secret to scoring goals?

“It’s about being in the right place at the right time,” Knight noted. “It’s also about a bit of luck, to keep on trying even when luck is down, and never giving up. Oh, and some skill.”

SBCC is 3-1 on its longest road trip of the season — a five-game trek that concludes Friday at Canyons. The Vaqueros will play six of their last eight at home, starting Tuesday with a 7:30 p.m. game at La Playa against Hancock.

Knight heard about SBCC through an agency called Sports-Ed. “They gave me (coach) John Sisterson‘s e-mail address, and they had heard he was looking for a forward, so I got in contact immediately,” he said.

There are six English players on SBCC’s roster as well as 13 internationals from six countries. Knight didn’t know any of the Englishmen when he arrived in Santa Barbara, but they became fast friends and now share an apartment. The other English players are defensemen Luke Chambers and Jordan Leeming, midfielders Craig Davies and Scott Wells, and forward Danny Molineaux, who had a hat trick and two assists in an 8-1 win over L.A. Mission on Sept. 30.

“Danny is quick and Waid (Ibrahim of Ghana) has speed to burn,” Sisterson said. “Stuart Kirk (of Wales) also has speed, and Mark was the state leader in goals last year. We’re quick with tools up front and that allows us to score goals.”

SBCC is second in goals among Southern California teams with 39. The Vaqueros are ranked No. 6 in Southern Cal, and the top 13 make the playoffs.

“We are a more attacking team than we were last year, as you can see by some of the results we’ve had (they also beat Cypress 8-0),” Knight said. “We’re a force going forward, and teams find it hard to deal with us. We have shown we can be a force to be reckoned with but inconsistency is creeping into our game as it did last year. But I am confident that we can overcome that and do well.”

The Vaqueros have been sizzling at home since last year when they won their final six games in La Playa Stadium. They’re 10-1 in their last 11 at home with seven shutouts. During that stretch, they’ve outscored the opponents 47-5.

Sisterson says Knight’s dedication and intelligence make him tough to defend.

“He’s dedicated to what he does and he works hard, both on and off the ball,” said Sisterson, who also grew up in England. “He’s a strong player, he’s quick, he’s difficult to knock off the ball and he knows how to find the back of the net. He’s very good at that.

“He’s an intelligent player as well. He tends to get himself in the right place. When he’s 50-50 with the keeper, I’m betting on Mark. That’s what makes him such a dangerous player.”

Sisterson said he has received calls about Knight from NCAA Division 1 schools such as UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Oregon State, Portland State and Cal St. Northridge.

“Players like that tend to be able to score goals at any level,” Sisterson said. “I feel Mark will go on and play Division 1 at a four-year school and score goals, as well, then move on again. Mark could play in the pros some day. We’ve had a number of phone calls from U.S. colleges as well people talking to us about Mark playing professionally.”

Knight said he’s considering kinesiology as a major and is well on his way to completing his associate’s degree. He appreciates playing in La Playa Stadium, where the ocean is just a couple of goalie’s kicks away.

“My ultimate goal is to make it as a professional,” he said. “It’s all I have ever wanted to be, a professional soccer player.”

Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.

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