Sports

Wolves relying on youth early

Question marks always abound at the beginning of any sports season, and for the South Kitsap boy’s soccer team, that’s nothing new.

With just a handful of returners coming back from last year’s squad that placed second in the Narrows League Bridge Division and qualified for yet another state tournament, the prospects in 2006 were wide open.

But when the season started with potential stars not being around because of a variety of reasons, things could have taken a turn for the worse.

r it could be a blessing in disguise.

“I’m very confident in the guys I have and focused on what we do have rather than who we don’t have,” coach Eric Bergeson said. 

The Wolves have been hit hard in just about every conceivable way and have so far opened the season a bit short-handed.

The success of the Wolves’ basketball team has kept senior forward Dan Nelson from the necessary numbers of practices to be eligible, while illness has forced Nolan Kalkwarf to miss time.

Off-the-field discipline issues led to the loss of a three-year starter, while Tim Grey, who transferred to South Kitsap from King’s West High School last summer, has seen his request to play denied by the West Central District and is now appealing his case directly to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

All of this would bring a lesser team to it knees, but in the case of the Wolves, it could be just what they needed.

South is off to a 3-0 start after early wins over Kent-Meridian, Central Kitsap and Gig Harbor. And it’s been youth, which has been forced into action at some points, that’s led the way.

The open spots have not only led to many underclassmen getting unexpected playing time, it has also forced them to play above expectations — and many have, Bergeson said.

Travis Gutierrez has been one to already take the step forward. The junior midfielder has established himself as a vocal leader already and his play on the field, with six goals in the Wolves’ first three games, speaks for itself.

But this team has plenty of youthful experience. Junior midfielder Kyle Schoales is back for his third season while junior defender Alex May also returns, as does goalkeeper Tony Saddler.

Senior Cade Mossman is the team’s lone captain at this time, but should get leadership help from junior Victor Kelmel and Nelson once he gets all his practice time in.

There has also been the play of sophomores Gunther Hammell, Quincy Lyman and Jordan Thomas. All were expected to see some playing time this year, but not to the extent they’ve seen so far.

All in all, South looks to be in pretty good shape despite carrying a roster of just 15 players to start the season.

And all this playing time for the underclassmen can only be a good thing, Bergeson said.

“Some guys we’ll get back, some we won’t,” Bergeson said of his missing players. “But I’m very pleased with the kids we do have in uniform. And they haven’t had to step up because they were already good. They’ve just had to play longer shifts.”

Bergeson said there are three key things his players have taken care of themselves that have helped get his young team off to a solid start.

First is the athletic condition that his players came to practice in and the fact that they’re willing to push themselves to get in better condition by going on multiple mile runs before practices.

Second is their toughness. Bergeson said his kids have shown a willingness to sacrifice their bodies on the field to get things down.

And third is making sacrifices for the team. Bergeson has always had a policy of giving his players Fridays off if they win both games during that week. But even before last Thursday 4-0 win over Gig Harbor, the team had already unanimously voted to practice the following day, which was a day off from school, in order to help Nelson get his required number of practices more quickly.

“That was a team decision. The coaches weren’t even there,” Bergeson said. “Any one of them could have stopped that from happening by speaking out. (But) they don’t pout about playing time and they’re really developing into a selfless group. Those three main things are what have gotten us off on the right track.”

2006 South Kitsap Boys Soccer Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

March 11 @Kent-Meridian 10 a.m.

March 14 @Central Kitsap 7:30 p.m.

March 16 GIG HARBOR 5 p.m.

March 21 @Port Angeles 6:45 p.m.

March 23 BREMERTON 5 p.m.

March 28 OLYMPIC 5 p.m.

March 30 @North Kitsap 6:45 p.m.

April 11 @Shelton 7 p.m.

April 13 CENTRAL KITSAP 5 p.m.

April 19 @Gig Harbor 3:30 p.m.

April 21 PORT ANGELES 5 p.m.

April 25 NORTH KITSAP 5 p.m.

April 26 @Bremerton 7 p.m.

May 1 @Olympic 7:30 p.m.

May 3 SHELTON 7 p.m.

May 6 Narrows League @Mt. Tahoma TBD

2006 KNG Preseason Narrows League Soccer poll

Here is the Kitsap News Group's preseason Narrows League boys soccer poll voted on by the sports editors and writers of the KNG newspapers. First place votes are in parentheses.

1. Gig Harbor - 34 (2)

1. South Kitsap - 34 (2)

3. North Kitsap - 21

4. Olympic - 21

5. Central Kitsap - 14

6. Bremerton - 13

7. Shelton - 11

8. Port Angeles - 4

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