Wolves open title defense with loss
March 22, 2010 · Updated 9:51 AM
The North Kitsap High School boys soccer team opened the 2010 season with a 1-0 victory Monday over the defending Class 4A state champion South Kitsap Wolves in Poulsbo.
Vikings forward Marco Lopez scored the match’s only goal during the 10th minute, collecting a bouncing pass from Nathan Nixon at the top of the penalty box and lofting it over South Kitsap’s keeper for the score. Lopez plays for South Kitsap coach James Ritchie’s Kitsap Pumas Youth Academy in the offseason.
“Marco’s a great player,” Ritchie said. “I don’t think he’s ever scored a goal for me, mind you.”
The game was a tough test and early season barometer for both sides. South lost much of its 2009 championship team to graduation, and star midfielder Nico de la Cruz is out with an injury. The Vikings also have not lost a game at the North Kitsap Stadium since joining the Class 3A Olympic League two years ago.
“I was expecting a very tough match,” said Ritchie, who is in his first year as the Wolves’ coach. “We’ve got the title of state champs, which to me is more of a target than a title. They came out and gave us a hell of a game.”
North normally plays schools smaller than South, and is trying to cement a young lineup this season.
“Frankly, our guys knew when we scheduled this game that it was a big challenge game,” North coach Chris May said. “We scheduled hard games early. We play these games hard, and we play these games tough, and later on in the season when we get into the same kind of tough game in our league, it’ll pay off.”
North begins its Olympic League schedule Tuesday at Port Angeles. The Wolves enter league play at 7 tonight at Olympia.
South Kitsap began Monday’s game on the offensive, controlling the ball for much of the first 10 minutes of play. The Wolves had a trio of scoring chances early, including a shot in the ninth minute that ricocheted off the right goal post. The Vikings’ defense held strong, along with sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Hadden, who had six saves on the night.
“Jordan was well under control on all the shots,” May said. “And in general they (the defense) maintained their shape.”
After Lopez’s goal, North began to control the ball more steadily. Lopez had a chance for a second score in the 17th minute, when teammate Nick Tedford flicked a header past the Wolves’ defense. Lopez, alone in front of the keeper, slammed a shot from 15 yards out, but hit the crossbar. He and the Vikings offense finished the game with six shots on goal.
“We gave it all,” Lopez said. “Our coach, he tells us every game, ‘Play with passion.’ ”
South eventually regrouped for a couple more chances near the end of the first half, but was unable to make good on any opportunities.
“The boys are still coming together as a group,” Ritchie said. “We’re still sort of feeling each other out. I didn’t come here just for an exercise. I came here to try and win the game. And we didn’t reach that today, but the boys are hungry, they’re ready to go. Anything you see from our teams will be a lot of effort, a lot of work, a lot of heart. And that’s the only thing I really demand from the lads, is effort.”
Possession was evenly distributed during the remainder of the game. Both sides had promising chances in front of the net in the second half, including two near-goals from South on a corner kick in the 77th minute. Neither defense broke down.
“Morale-wise it’s good to start the season with a win, rather than a loss,” May said. “And a big win like this should carry us.”
At North Kitsap 1, South Kitsap 0
First half: 1, North Kitsap, Marco Lopez, 10th minute.