Sports

Youth, optimism abound at CK, KSS

Central Kitsap senior Adam Cronin (15) goes up for a header during a game against Lincoln in 2008. Cronin is a starting forward/midfielder on the 2009 Cougar squad, which is 1-1. - Jesse Beals/file photo 2008
Central Kitsap senior Adam Cronin (15) goes up for a header during a game against Lincoln in 2008. Cronin is a starting forward/midfielder on the 2009 Cougar squad, which is 1-1.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/file photo 2008

Both Central Kitsap and Klahowya are relatively young on the pitch, although the Cougars landed an impact player in freshman Miles Nilsen, who won a starting position at center midfield, scoring a goal in his second career game, a 5-0 CK victory against Port Angeles Tuesday. Here’s what the Cougars and Eagles look like heading into the 2009 season. The Olympic boys soccer team will be previewed in the March 27 edition of the Central Kitsap Reporter.

CK: Optimism is the name of the game

After graduating 11 seniors from the 2008 squad, coach Christopher Floro wasn’t sure how he’d fill all the holes.

But the Central Kitsap boys soccer team, Floro said Wednesday during practice, isn’t rebuilding, but rather reloading.

Three freshmen, including starting center midfielder Miles Nilsen, are picking up right where last year’s seniors left off and now-seniors such as Adam Cronin and Chase Ichiki, among others, are stepping up.

“I thought this year would be a transition year for us after losing 11 seniors from last year. But we have gotten an excellent infusion of freshmen and a sophomore newcomer,” Floro said. “We’re actually looking pretty good. I think we’re going to challenge some of the traditional powers in the Narrows League.”

Those powers include Gig Harbor, Bellarmine Prep, Lincoln and Olympia, Floro said.

The Cougars beat Port Angeles 5-0 Tuesday to rebound from a 1-0 setback against Bainbridge March 14 in snowy, windy, rainy conditions. Against PA, Nilsen scored a goal and set up two others, showing what Floro called “incredible talent.”

“In terms of his vision and creativity, he’s one of the best freshman soccer players I’ve seen in a long time,” Floro said. “I actually think he’s the best center midfielder I’ve seen in many years.”

Floro wasn’t bashful in expressing his optimism for the 2009 season, but he also toed a line of caution. After all, the season is two games young. He called the starting 11 “a pretty solid lineup,” adding the team “can put the ball in the back of the net and we’ve got a solid defense.”

“We’ve got the elements of just an awesome team, in my opinion,” Floro said. “I’m very optimistic; I could say cautiously optimistic.”

Fellow freshmen Jacob Beck, a defender, joins Nilsen in the starting lineup. The freshmen duo, Floro said, is earning the respect of the seniors with each day.

“Having a freshman start is one thing, but having them start and be effective, fit in with the team,” Floro said. “The seniors recognized right away that these guys were talents, hard workers, they have a grasp on the game that most freshmen don’t have.”

The Cougars also have two foreign exchange students in seniors Max Sesing (Germany) and John Mhando (Tanzania), with Mhando starting at midfield. Floro said seniors Grant Rico, Patrick Triggs, Drew Blaisdell and Matt Kunish should step up as well. Other key contributors include Niles Stirret, Ryan Hough, Brian Bonafilia and backup goalie Kevon Birang.

Floro said in order to keep the proverbial train on the tracks, the team needs to finish scoring opportunities, avoid being dominated in transition and maintain a solid line of defense.

“The core players who are back, I was looking to as the strength of the team and I still do,” Floro said. “It’s exciting. I don’t want to get overly excited and have a balloon burst, but when you see this kind of stuff out there, I feel very, very good about this team.”

CK visits Lincoln at 7 tonight, hosts North Kitsap at noon tomorrow and visits Bellarmine Prep at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

KSS: Youth runs rampant, wins may not come easy

When the second full week of the 2009 boys soccer season nears its end March 26, Klahowya will already have played seven games. In fact, the Eagles play those seven games over a span of just 12 days.

It’s no coincidence; third-year coach Jeff Quinn said Wednesday he scheduled as many non-league games as he possibly could, hoping to gauge where his team stands before Olympic League competition heats up.

“I’m using my non-league games to get a feel for where people are at,” Quinn said. “I’m trying guys in new positions.”

The Eagles dropped their first two games, losing against Steilacoom, 6-1, March 14 and Chimacum, 5-1, March 16. The team visited Port Townsend yesterday, but results from that game were unavailable at press time.

“We’ve never really been a strong team, we’ve had a few years in years past where we’ve had some strength,” Quinn said. “For a while, we’ve been kind of building.”

With just three seniors on the team, it appears as though the building will continue in 2009. Center midfielder B.J. McLaughlin will carry the bulk of the scoring load, receiving help from sophomore Mark Barbosa.

“He’s an aggressive player, he handles the ball well, he takes good shots,” said Quinn of McLaughlin, adding McLaughlin should compete for a spot on the all-league team. “For the most part, I expect good things from him.”

Beyond McLaughlin and Barbosa, however, the Eagles are inexperienced. Quinn said seven of his varsity players had never played on the team before this season, making for what could be a sharp learning curve.

But Klahowya does have a junior varsity team this season after going without one in 2008, meaning next year’s group of incoming varsity players will have at least one year of experience under their belt.

“It’s a challenge,” Quinn said, referring to the inexperience. “And the guys who have played before, even if their skills are lower, their sense of the game is better. That year of being on the team makes a big difference.”

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the 2009 team, Quinn said, is every player on the roster has shown the dedication and willingness to learn the game, which should make for steady improvement.

“The nice thing about this team is it’s a good group of guys,” Quinn said. “I don’t have very many attitude problems. In fact, I wouldn’t say I have any attitude problems. Last year I had some guys who were harder to work with.”

The Eagles resume action Monday at Port Angeles. Game time is 6:45 p.m.

The team then hosts North Mason at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sequim at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and visits Kingston at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.

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