SK gets 'Gut'-check this season

It seems everything about Travis Gutierrez is contagious.

From his pseudo-Mohawk haircut, which some of his teammates are now sporting, to his selflessness on the soccer field to his pure joy of playing the game, his way of doing things is a very popular choice around South Kitsap.

And why shouldn’t it be that way? After all, Gutierrez and his mates are off to a 6-1 start this year heading into Tuesday night’s Narrows League Bridge Division game with Shelton.

The Wolves come out of spring break rested and ready and trailing North Kitsap in league standings by just a single point.

“We’re having a ton of fun right now,” Gutierrez said.

But it has been Gutierrez as much as anyone that has lit the flame underneath the Wolves so far this year. His aggressive style of play has netted him six goals, tied for team best, and three assists, again near the top of the list, and helped get South near the top of the standings.

But he doesn’t quite see it that way. He feels its more about his teammates than himself and seems quite happy to just be in the mix.

“It just kind of happened that way,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve been really fortunate to have some really great passes from my team. I should really be thanking my team for all the really great crosses ... I’ve been really fortunate to be on the end of all those great balls.”

It’s that kind of attitude that has not only served the junior well throughout his soccer career — he also plays for FC Kitsap 88, a pretty studly club soccer team — but it has his coach, Eric Bergeson, downright giddy to have him around.

Especially Gutierrez’s vocal leadership, which he said is tremendously important in soccer.

“Guys who are verbal are showing that they are understanding the game,” Bergeson said. “His leadership starts there, and he’s a workhorse at practice. His love of the game is always apparent.”

His six goals came fast and furious this year, as he scored all of them in the Wolves’ first two games. He has since cooled off a bit, but the team hasn’t — and that’s all that matters, he said.

“I think he’s just developed into a bigger, stronger, faster player,” Bergeson said. “He’s become more skilled, and he plays at a high level year-round.”

Dan Nelson is tied with Gutierrez for the team lead with six goals, but the scoring wealth has been pretty evenly spread around. It’s a case of a more wide-open attack due to the number of athletes on the team.

“I think (Bergeson) has really just let a lot of us play, since a lot of us play together on the same select team,” Gutierrez said. “He’s letting me have a lot of freedom. He lets me go for some things when I see them open. He’s really let our whole team kind of flow, and we’re playing well right now.”

Gutierrez said when he first started playing soccer he was a scorer, but he backed off and tried to play team soccer once he started with FC Kitsap.

But he’s gotten the offense going once again although it hasn’t been on purpose.

“I just look to see what’s open. I don’t really look to score,” Gutierrez said. “Whatever the easiest ball is to play, that’s what I try to play.

“I really look to make my teammates better, that’s what I try to do,” Gutierrez said. “Ultimately having our team win and having our team better, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Those are the kind of thoughts and phrases that come out of the mouths of team captains. And although Gutierrez was not selected this year, he has the tools to be one some day, as he is the captain of his select team.

Bergeson said he had seniors coming up to him before the season started putting in a good word for the talented junior.

“He has the respect and the leadership,” Bergeson added, “the role is his in the eyes of his teammates.”

Gutierrez has had an immediate impact on the team since coming over from the Wolves’ junior varsity basketball team. But his style of play my have to take a back seat to his style of haircut for now.

The pseudo-Mohawk he sports, in recognition of his favorite player David Beckham, has been picked up by a couple of teammates.

Which once again shows that when Gutierrez leads, others will follow.

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