Sports

OC Ranger men learn from losses

OC freshman Jereme Huesche battles a Highline defender during a 4-0 loss Wednesday. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
OC freshman Jereme Huesche battles a Highline defender during a 4-0 loss Wednesday.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

Kris Lowry didn’t predict a first-place finish for the Olympic College men’s soccer team.

In fact, prior to the 2008 season, the second-year coach asked his players for a two-year commitment to winning because he suspected, with 16 of the 17 players being freshmen, they’d face a substantial learning curve.

With six games remaining and the team still winless (0-11-1), Lowry was right.

“This is a huge step up for these boys as 18-year-olds,” he said of transitioning from high school to collegiate play.

Add injuries and academic problems to the equation and winning games becomes more difficult, even taking a back seat to simply working hard and improving as a team.

“The wins, they’ll come,” Lowry said. “The guys I’ve got, they are a great group of kids, they work hard. We’re working on the little things.”

The team has struggled on both ends of the field, being outscored 69-5 through 12 games, including a 4-0 defeat against Highline at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.

The offense lost a huge scoring threat early in the season when Bremerton grad, forward Fransisco Garcia, who led the Olympic League in scoring with 17 goals, was sidelined for academic issues.

Peninsula College and Edmonds Community College recruited Garcia, but Lowry was able to convince him to stay in the Bremerton area.

“He is a phenomenal player,” Lowry said. “But you’ve got to get the other stuff, too.”

The defense then lost two goalies to injury, forcing Lowry to call upon players with little to no goalkeeping experience.

“That’s the kind of season it’s been,” Lowry said.

But Lowry believes his team will mature, having the character to withstand a losing season while preparing for the next. And that’s Lowry’s top priority: character. He recruits players who not only have on-field skills, but who work hard in the classroom.

“I recruited character guys, guys who are going to work hard on and off the field, guys who are going to do the school work, guys who are going to work hard every time I bring them out,” he said. “In ‘student-athlete’ student comes before athlete. If you’ve got guys who can figure that out, it makes our job really easy.”

Lowry also recruited outside Kitsap County, hoping to bring in players with big program experience.

“I went and grabbed some guys who weren’t from (around) here to come in and bring the experience of playing in Bellevue and with these bigger clubs,” he explained. “Bring them to the West Sound area to filter in with these guys so they know what the work rate is supposed to be like.”

Those recruits include Tyson Ellis and Derek Martinez, of Tahoma, Jordan Kaatz, of Skyline, and Andy Manley, of Polson. All four have stepped in and figure to return as leaders next season.

“I recruited all these boys,” Lowry said. “We’re gonna work at it and hopefully the wins will come, some before the end of the year, and then on into next year. We’re really trying to build each day.”

With the season winding down, Lowry said everyone is optimistic, even with the losses piling up.

“We’ve got some guys who get a little depressed and get a little down on themselves,” Lowry said. “But other than that, I think they are going to be fine. They know it’s a two-year process, and I told them when I recruited them it’s going to be a two-year process.”

The Rangers visit Tacoma for a 4 p.m. game Wednesday before returning home Oct. 25 against Edmonds.

The OC women have fared better than their male counterparts through 2008. Currently 4-8-2, the Lady Rangers have struggled of late, having failed to win since a 2-0 victory against Lower Columbia Sept. 25.

The OC women also lost against Highline Wednesday, falling 3-1.

While postseason competition appears out of the question, the OC women have remained competitive in NWAACC play, holding serve in fourth place of the West Division. Bellevue (9-2-3), Tacoma (7-3-4) and Highline (6-3-5) are first, second and third, respectively.

The Lady Rangers’ next home game is noon Oct. 25 against Edmonds.

The woes continued for the OC volleyball team Wednesday, as Bellevue visited town and left with a 3-0 sweep. The loss extended the Rangers’ losing streak to 19 games, dating back to Sept. 5 when they beat Centralia 3-1.

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