South Kitsap gunning for return to state

"The memory of making it to the state quarterfinals last year still puts smiles on the faces of veteran members of the South Kitsap High School boys soccer team.But after just falling short of the final four, this year's squad is gunning for more.Absolutely. I think we have the team that can do it, senior midfielder Andy Stromberg said. It's just a matter of team chemistry, and so far that looks real good. We had the hardest tryouts in the three years I've been here.Stromberg, the reigning Narrows League Bridge Division MVP, said he's looking forward to showing SK wasn't a one-year wonder.Third-year coach Eric Bergeson said he has confidence in his team, but also said it will be a harder road to state this year. The result will make for a more exciting post season.We have a West Central District tournament for the first time, Bergeson said. Now you can't qualify for state out of your league.The good news is SK is in the weaker division compared to the Bridge Division, which has stalwarts Bellarmine, Gig Harbor, and Wilson.Bergeson said the Wolves may be in a weaker division, but other than Mount Tahoma, they will be challenged by Peninsula, Stadium, and Capital.We are certainly fortunate our side of the division is not as tough as the other one, but it's not going to make a difference because we're in the district tournament.The top two teams in each division advance to districts, but only the winner of each division is assured a spot.The Narrows League No. 3 plays against No. 4 to see who plays the No. 2 for the district spot.Bergeson said this year's offensive line will be stronger than last year's, but it will be the defense that makes or breaks the season.Besides Stromberg, SK returns forwards Joey Fenton and Andy Wilson.Also returning is junior Nick Michael, who showed flashes of brilliance last year but was injured for most of the season.Senior Ryan Letson may be the biggest addition to the frontline.Though known for his basketball skills, Letson played soccer for years before quitting three years ago.Bergeson said Letson not only adds skill to the team but also competitive fire.He's big, real sharp, works amazingly hard and he's a fit competitor, Bergeson said. He gets a little more freedom out here. Here he's not so confined like in a gym. Here he will sort of pick and choose his battles and go hard and it pays off right away.Defense is the big question mark.Replacing last year's Narrows League first-team sweeper Chuck Kilbridge is impossible, but Bergeson said he is confident in senior Eric Little.A defender last year, Little moves to the last line of defense as sweeper.He's an excellent defender and very vocal and he's a a team leader, Bergeson said. He was Chuck's understudy last year.Also returning on defense are goaltenders Derek Dickerson and Jimmy French.Dickerson, a senior, returns as the starter and Bergeson said French, a junior, will be a solid backup.Senior Kevin Milovac dabbled at goalkeeper last year but will be the team's full-time stopper this year.The rest of the positions will be filled by underclassmen and lesser experienced players.Bergeson said players to watch include Jeremy Anderson, Chris Kendall, Derek Dunlap, Nick Fletcher, Brandon Stacy, and Kyle Smith.The Wolves will be tested early as they open up against league-favorite Bellarmine, and Gig Harbor.The tough goal of getting to state is still there, but Bergeson said the team must concentrate on the league first.We just want to finish in the top two, stay healthy, and hopefully win the division. But there's no easy games."

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