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Playoffs are the goal
Central Kitsaps reloading after the most successful soccer season in school history.
Olympics senior-dominated team is refocusing and determined to put together a successful season of its own.
And Klahowyas rebounding from an 0-17 season while playing mostly Class 3A and 4A competition in the now defunct Olympic League.
Last year we didnt really think we could win, Klahowya coach Troy Oelschlager said. We knew it was a rebuilding year.
The Eagles return most of their starting defenders and their confidence is on the rise, knowing theyll be playing schools their own size in the 2A Nisqually League.
Its very reasonable that we should end up with a playoff spot, Oelschlager said. Six of us get in. I think well be a middle-of-the-pack team ... if we can find ways to score goals.
Two-year starters Jacob Greenwalt and Scott Rants, along with goalkeeper Justin Wick, anchor Klahowyas defense.
After two games, Oelschlager was still looking for somebody to step up and take charge for us, on offense.
Oelschlager, who coached the Klahowya girls to a state title and had the boys in the playoffs two years ago, said it takes a combination of speed and ball control to be a goal scorer. We have players who are fast and some who have ball control, but none that have the combination of the two, he said.
Olympic has the talent to be successful at both ends of the field. They did a year ago, too, but the Trojans never jelled after losing Brian Meherg with a knee injury and wound up a disappointing third in the Olympic League.
The kids expected more success last year, said coach Steve Haggerty, whos been running the Olympic program since its inception in 1981. Theyre coming back with more discipline and focus this year. Theyre mostly seniors and they know they want to go out with a good year. Weve got the same personnel, but attitude-wise, were better.
Meherg blew his knee in the first half of Olympics first game a year ago, but hes back, better than ever, said Haggerty.
Brians got such good vision, Haggerty said of the midfielder who was voted team captain. He played quarterback when he was at Fairview, and hes kind of got that field vision that good quarterbacks have. He can see the passes and hes got the skill to execute the passes he sees. And this year hes working harder than ever supporting runs and supporting teammates.
Joel Nelson, Olympics leading scorer a year ago, is one of the most explosive players in the league. He has the ability to accelerate with the ball, Haggerty said. Hes a passionate type of individual. He needs to keep it under control. Sometimes (his emotions) are misguided.
Nelson and Meherg arent the only weapons. Paul Struwe and John Hoogestraat, whos dangerous in the air, compliment Meherg in the midfield. Dan Dreany and Kevin Miller also have the ability to score.
Andrew Nelson, Ryan Butts, Toby Ligon and goalkeeper Adam Paulin are among the defensive standouts.
Weve got the potential to be one of the top teams in the league, Haggerty said. But this league (Narrows Bridge Division) is a lot tougher. We gave up Sequim and Port Townsend, but we pick up Gig Harbor and South Kitsap. Thats two very good teams. Our goal is to get one of the four (playoff) spots.
Thats Central Kitsaps goal, too.
The Cougars lost nine players and their coach (Jason Visintainer) from the team that won its first league title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the state 4A tournament.
New coach Rob Cole, who teaches in the Central Kitsap School District at PineCrest Elementary, didnt see any of Centrals games last spring. He was offered videos to scrutinize, but turned them down.
When I came in, I wanted to give everybody a clean slate, Cole said. I didnt want any bias.
The Shelton native said hell lean on his nucleus of seniors to lead the way while he implements a new system.
I think they will rise to the occasion because Im putting pressure on them pretty hard at practice, Cole said.
Senior Nick Van Buecken, a first-team all-league defender a year ago, is Centrals tactical captain, said Cole. He does a good job running the field from the back. He knows how to run the sweeper position.
Teammates voted another defender, senior Jesse Richards, as the other captain.
Hes more of a nurturing kind of captain, Cole said. Its like a mom-and-dad situation from a peer perspective. Together, they make a great team.
Senior Brandon Rust, who had three goals after three games, and junior Brandon Screen have been CKs top offensive threats. Sophomore Keith Cain, a midfielder who started as a freshman, has impressed Cole with his poise and ability to distribute the ball.
Another freshman, Kyle Stroh, might make an impact this year. Stroh scored four goals in a junior varsity game and Cole plans to give him some varsity time.
Coles also trying to find a home for Ben Goodwin, a 5-foot-4 sophomore.
Hes very fast and doesnt run out of gas, Cole said. He just keeps going.
Coles also high on Trevor Lang, a sophomore goalkeeper who backs up senior Andrew Floro and has the skill to play forward.
I think were right up there as far as skill and leadership is concerned, Cole said when asked how he thought the Cougars would do. I think well give the teams in our league a good run for their money.
Last year, they werent supposed to rise to the top, but look what they did.
Hell know more after this week. Central played at league favorite Gig Harbor on Tuesday, March 19 and faces Olympic on Thursday, March 21 at Silverdale Stadium.
AT A GLANCE
Coach Steve Haggerty (22nd year).
Last year 9-5-2 (3rd in Olympic League).
This year 3-0, 1-0 Narrows League Bridge Division through March 18 (beat Port Townsend 7-0, Klahowya 4-1 and Bremerton 2-0).
Top returners Brian Meherg, M, sr.; Adam Paulin, GK, sr.; Ryan Butts, D, sr.; John Hoogestraat, M, jr.; Paul Struwe, F/M, sr.; Joel Nelson, F, sr.; Andrew Nelson, D, sr.; Andy Hart, M, sr.; Dan Dreany, F., so.
Top newcomers Kevin Miller, M, sr.; Tyler Southard, M, jr.; Toby Ligon, D, sr.; James Roberts, D., jr.
CENTRAL KITSAP COUGARS
Coach Rob Cole (1st year).
Last year 16-2-1 (league champion, reached state 4A quarterfinals).
This year 1-1-1, 0-0 Narrows League through March 18 (beat Foss 4-0, lost to Stadium 4-1, tied North Kitsap 0-0).
Top returners Jesse Richards, D, sr.; Brandon Screen, F, sr.; Brandon Rust, F, sr.; Andrew Floro, GK, sr.; Sam Berni, D, sr.; Nick Van Buecken, D, sr.; Shane Powell, D/M, sr.; Chris Taylor, M/F, sr.; Keith Cain, M, so.
Top newcomers Ben Goodwin, M/D/F, so.; Oscar Svendensen, M/F, sr.; Kyle Stroh, F, fr.; Trevor Lang, GK/F, so.
Coach Troy Oelschlager (5th year).
Last year 0-17.
This year 0-2 (lost 8-0 to Bainbridge and 4-1 to Olympic). Opened Nisqually League play at Port Townsend on Tuesday, March 19.
Top returners Charlie Hodder, M, sr.; Kevin Broga, M, sr.; Jacob Greenwalt, D, sr.; Cody Allen, M, so.; Scott Rants, D, sr.; Justin Wick, GK, jr.
Top newcomers Elias Cook, D, fr.; Ryan George, M, so.