Sports

BOYS SOCCER | Wolves bank hopes on youth

Rebuilding is not in his vernacular.

That means South Kitsap boys soccer coach Cory Vartanian is relying on his players to mature.

And quickly.

“We’re young from a very strong, skillful sophomore class that we have and we’re young with a lot of our returning seniors and juniors … with their playing experience,” Vartanian said.

The composition of the roster is in stark contrast to last year when a veteran-laden squad led the Wolves to the West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament, where they lost 4-0 against Mount Rainier. That team finished with a 7-6-2 record.

But that team had other issues. Vartanian became the program’s fifth coach in six seasons in 2013.

“It was a talented group, but I believe they had a new head coach every single year,” he said. “At that age, you’ve been through so many different changes I think it would be hard for anyone to come in and tell you what to do. There was a lot of individual play last season on our team.”

Vartanian said he has seen a difference in his team’s first four matches of the season. He believes that stems from providing some consistency at South. Before Vartanian was named the Wolves’ coach, he guided the school’s junior-varsity program in 2012. During that season, he worked with some players who now are upperclassmen.

“That senior class knows who I am,” Vartanian said. “They know how I manage. They know what I expect. They know what ticks me off and makes me happy. I think that helps.”

Even though South features an inexperienced roster, Vartanian elected not to ease the team’s nonleague schedule. The Wolves opened March 17 with a 5-0 loss at Inglemoor. Vartanian said his team outshot the Vikings during the first half, but still trailed 3-0 at the intermission.

“In my opinion, they’re a top-four team in the state,” he said. “They capitalized on every single mistake. They put away everything.”

Vartanian now is looking for consistency. He said his team did not prepare well for their league opener, a 2-all tie March 19 at Stadium, but they recovered Friday with a 3-0 win against Olympia. Senior midfielder Aaron Weathington scored all of his team’s goals during that contest.

The biggest issue with Weathington, Vartanian said, is for him not to place too much pressure on himself.

“I told him I just want him to play free and be yourself,” he said.

Weathington is not the only senior midfielder who has gained Vartanian’s attention. He said Andrew Hollis has exceeded expectations.

“He’s already played phenomenal,” Vartanian said. “Against Inglemoor, I couldn’t give him enough confidence. That’s how strong he played in the back.”

Sophomores Dalton Burkett, Ben Figueroa and Kristian Hernandez also are expected to play significant roles after they saw varying varsity minutes a year ago.

And that pretty much encapsulates South’s returning experience. That includes goalkeeper, where senior Kyle Metzger replaces Jaxom Beverage, who graduated. Vartanian said he felt Metzger’s excitement about earning the starting job was a distraction when the season began, but he since has become more focused.

“He showed a lot more poise in the back of the net against Olympia,” he said.

While Vartanian said he is excited about the team’s potential, he said the absence of multiple academically ineligible players has left the Wolves without a much-needed dynamic.

“Speed on the outside,” Vartanian said. “That’s what we’re missing.”

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