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Boys soccer: Wolves adjust to major changes
That might be the best way to describe what South Kitsap’s boys soccer team is facing right now.
In addition to new coach Julie Cain, the Wolves lost arguably the state’s best player when midfielder Diego de la Cruz did not return for his senior season. Cain said de la Cruz, who was the last remaining player from the school’s 2009 Class 4A state championship team, was required to sign a contract with his club team, Crossfire Premier, that he would not play with South. Crossfire does not allow any of its players to compete for a high school.
“That’s a tough break,” Cain said.
Junior defender Austin Hammer said while the Wolves cannot replace de la Cruz, his departure can be mitigated. Hammer felt that players too often were “in awe” of de la Cruz and stood around watching him. But without a marquee player, he said that won’t be possible.
“We can have a group of people coming together in a great way,” Hammer said.
He said that also applies to Cain, who was hired Feb. 27. She replaced James Ritchie, who left to become the coach of Premier Development League’s Kitsap Pumas after compiling a 17-12-4 record in two years at South.
“I think everyone respects her,” Hammer said. “We’ve seen what she has done with the girls team.”
Cain has led the school’s girls team to a 35-8-10 record and two state-playoff appearances in three seasons.
South’s boys team missed the playoffs last season after posting a 6-6-2 record in 4A Narrows play. The Wolves were 8-6-2 overall.
Cain thinks South could surprise some this year. She acknowledges that the team does not have a standout along the lines of de la Cruz or Austin Arper, who scored 19 goals as a senior in 2010. While she doubts the Wolves will have one prolific goal scorer, she said juniors Cameron Harris, Shawn Lange, Bryton Owen and Joey Starr and sophomore Noah Sterling have the ability to beat defenders from the forward position.
She said depth is strong at several positions throughout the program. In the midfield, Cain said South could rotate senior Shea Baxter, juniors Daniel Henry, Justin Peterson, Keiran Prince and Connor Weaver and sophomore Aaron Weathington.
“We’ve got a really solid group,” Cain said. “I think our level is really high across the board.”
That continues at defender, where Hammer is the only returner. That position generally has been a strength for the Wolves. Last year, they only allowed more than two goals in a match twice. They surrendered an average of 1.19 goals per contest.
“We graduated quite a few defenders, but I think we have people who could fit the description of a good defender,” Hammer said.
Cain likes that group, which consists of juniors Hammer, Mike Nation and Connor Weaver, who returns to the program after running track in 2011.
“I think you’ll see a lot of assists from our outside backs,” she said.
Junior goalkeeper Jaxom Beverage also returns as a starter. Cain noted that the program has “quite a few” talented players at that position.
Hammer said he has teamed with Beverage on club teams in the past.
“I’m familiar with playing with him,” he said. “I think he’s a great goalie.”