BOYS SOCCER | Vartanian latest to take reigns at South Kitsap

Most of his athletic accolades came on the gridiron.

But new South Kitsap boys soccer coach Cory Vartanian, his love for athletics began on the pitch.

Vartanian, who was named as Julie Cain’s successor Feb. 20, began playing soccer when he was 5 years old. He only gave it up during his junior year at Horlick High School in Racine, Wis., when he fractured a vertebrae in his back after being kneed during an indoor soccer contest.

“I wasn’t able to run as well and I had to take cortisone injections to basically seal that fracture so I wouldn’t have any pain,” Vartanian said. “It just got to a point where I lost a ton of speed and quickness.”

He said he was fortunate that remained skilled enough to earn a scholarship as a kicker. While at Horlick, Vartanian was dubbed “the most successful kicker in the history of Racine County high school football” in 2001 by the Journal Times newspaper. Vartanian then kicked from 2002-05 at North Dakota State University.

A paraeducator, Vartanian has taught at South since 2010 after being an assistant football coach for two seasons at the University of Rochester in New York. He served as an assistant coach for the last three seasons with the Wolves’ football team. Vartanian also was an assistant under Cain last season.

Vartanian said Cain notified him Jan. 7 that she was resigning and encouraged him to apply. Cain said some personal matters arose that would have hindered her ability to make time for practice, but she feels those issues will be cleared up in time for her took coach the school’s girls team, which she has guided since 2009, this fall.

As South’s fifth coach in the last six seasons, Vartanian said he wants to bring stability to the program. The Wolves were 6-6-4 overall and 6-5-3 in Class 4A Narrows League play during Cain’s lone season.

“That’s why I applied for the job,” Vartanian said. “One of the biggest things — if not the biggest — is that I want to create consistency in the head coaching job at South. We can have consistency in the head coach and have leadership.”

Athletic director Ed Santos agreed.

“The committee was really looking for some consistency for the players,” he said. “When you have someone who is qualified and knowledgeable, it sure helps with the transition.”

Vartanian, 29, is excited to remain involved in a sport he was introduced to by his brother, Chad, who is seven years older than him. The elder Vartanian now is a police officer in Milwaukee.

“My brother was a phenomenal soccer player,” Vartanian said. “I was very fortunate to have someone to look up to and mentor me in the game. From a young age, I learned at a very high level. When my brother was at his peak at 16 or 17 years old, I was 9 or 10 years old watching him and learning. He would teach me and watch games.”

Vartanian, who played outside back, also was coached in club soccer by Rick Kilps, who guided the University of Wisconsin-Parkside men’s soccer team for 27 years before retiring in 2011. He said he wants to bring the “clean and crisp” play he learned under his older brother and Kilps.

“What I would like to see is a lot of movement off the ball; a lot of communication,” Vartanian said. “I just want to get this team to play with consistency day in and day out. Learning how to prepare for games and have success.”

The Wolves have not advanced to state during the last three seasons, but the program won the 4A state championship in 2009 and finished second three years earlier. Vartanian is convinced South can accomplish a lot again.

“The talent level here has shocked me,” he said. “Moving out here, the play at the high-school level is the best I’ve seen. There’s a lot more support for soccer out here. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

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