Wolves get rude awakening

If there was one lesson to be learned at Saturday’s Narrows League Soccer Tournament, it was one in humility.

And Bellarmine Prep was doing all the teaching and South Kitsap coach Eric Bergeson hopes his team did some learning.

In a battle of the league’s top seeds from the Bay and Bridge Divisions, Bellarmine wasted little time in getting its message of domination across, scoring five goals in the game’s first 25 minutes en route to a dominating 6-1 win.

“It’s a good lesson in humility for me as a coach, and it’s a good lesson in humility for that defense,” South coach Eric Bergeson said. “You’re not keeping the ball out of the net by standing still. You keep the ball out of the net by going and attacking it and being the harder-working team.”

The win gives the Lions, 12-1-4, their sixth-straight league title and sends them into next week’s West Central District tournament as the No. 1 seed out of the Narrows.

South, which dropped to 12-1-4, will enter WCD play as the Narrows No. 2 seed and face the sixth-seed out of the South Puget Sound League at noon on Saturday at Mount Tahoma Stadium.

Their opponent will not be known until tonight, when the SPSL league tournament concludes.

That game is a winner-to-state, loser-out contest. The Wolves will be going for their fifth straight trip to the Class 4A tournament.

While the loss wasn’t huge as far as playoff seedings go, it could have a major effect on the psyche of a team that suffered its first loss of the season and allowed more goals in 80 minutes on Saturday afternoon than it had in its first 16 games of the season.

The Wolves entered the game loose and ready to claim their first league title in years but just 52 seconds into the match, they were down 1-0.

Five minutes later, it was 2-0, then 3-0, 4-0 and finally, 25 minutes into the first half, the Lions led 5-0.

And all five goals came on free kicks or corner kicks with just one touch needed to find the net.

That wasn’t the start the Wolves expected, especially after getting the Bridge Division’s top seed on the last night of the regular season.

That emotional lift should have carried over to Saturday’s play, Bergeson said.

“We wanted to come out here and play with pride and win,” Bergeson said. “I was disappointed and shocked. Both.”

Bergeson said he was even more surprised by the quick scores because he felt his defense was in position and played like it was supposed to. At least it did right up until it was time to play the ball.

“More than anything, the first four goals were a first-touch play where we stood, they didn’t, and they went and made things happen and we didn’t. We sat there and hoped that bad things didn’t happen,” Bergeson said. “That pro-active approach is what championship teams do. Sitting back on your heels is what young teams do, and we have a week to grow up.”

Embarrassed by their first-half play, the Wolves gave a much better accounting in the second half and played the Lions to a 1-1 tie.

Kylie Balstad scored the Wolves’ lone goal off an assist from Cassie Brown 48 minutes into the game.

“The second half, at least, showed that if we will play some hard-nosed soccer and take it up to a playoff-level in intensity and physicality, that we might at least stand a chance,” Bergeson said. “If nothing else, in the second half, at least we could walk off the field and look each other in the eye.

“I put it on myself for obviously not having them ready and not communicating to them what they were going to see,” Bergeson said. “But unless they buy into it, and unless they decide to do something to avert these kinds of disasters and make something good happen — unless they buy into that, we’re going to be in trouble. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

Bergeson said he still has full confidence in a defense that never allowed more a single goal in a game all year until Saturday but likened their response on Saturday to a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

But this week will allow them time to work things out, he said.

“I’m committed as a coach to the philosophy that we will not be as flat-footed (as Saturday),” Bergeson said. “We’ll work in clear ways all week to send the message that standing around is not going to be acceptable.”

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