Soccer: Arper's three goals lead South Kitsap to victory

Finding quality players rarely has been an obstacle for South Kitsap’s boys soccer team.

Depth within the program has been strong enough that coaches have said in recent years that they feel junior-varsity players could be standouts at other schools.

Enter Austin Arper.

The senior was stuck behind star forwards Justin Moore and Brent Ricigliano during the Wolves’ Class 4A state championship season a year ago and only played half the season on varsity. But Arper continued to show his capabilities as he scored three goals to help South to a 4-0 Narrows League win Tuesday at Lincoln.

“This year is my year,” said Arper, who now has 12 goals. “It’s my time to shine.”

But he said it is a lot easier for him and his teammates to be successful on the offensive end with the return of senior Nico de la Cruz. The Seattle University-bound midfielder played his first match of the season after undergoing surgery on his left knee. He fed Arper with passes for goals in the 36th and 43rd minutes.

“He can fit the ball he can fit the ball through any space,” Arper said. “It makes it 10 times easier to be able to play in there and get the goals and opportunities.”

Coach James Ritchie was excited to have de la Cruz back.

“That was the big story of the day,” he said.

Arper scored his final goal in the 48th. The Wolves (5-1-1 overall, 4-0-0 league) scored their first goal in the 33rd on a penalty kick shot by Boyd Shelby.

It was a different scenario than last year when Lincoln goalkeeper Jose Talavera shut out South, 0-0, at Joe Knowles Field. Arper said the Wolves simply took advantage of their opportunities against the Abes (1-4-0, 1-4-0) this time.

“We played great,” he said. “We were able to bury it.”

Ritchie agreed. The Wolves had not played since their 2-2 tie in a nonleague contest against British Columbia’s Robert Service on March 27, and he wondered how the layoff would affect his team.

“I’ve been dying to get them back on the field,” Ritchie said. “I thought the boys played their best soccer of the year today.”

Goalkeepers Nick Henry and Quintin Harris combined for their second shutout of the year. But Ritchie also praised the play of defenders Ian Jose and Gavin Klein.

Perhaps the only concern of the match came late in the first half when a Lincoln player knocked de la Cruz to the ground. The match was stopped momentarily before de la Cruz gathered himself and returned.

“I thought it was a bit naughty,” Ritchie said. “But they’re big boys and they can handle it. It’s always good to test how he bounces back and reacts to it.”

South Kitsap 4, at Lincoln 0

First half: 1, South Kitsap, Boyd Shelby (penalty kick), 33rd minute; 2, South Kitsap, Austin Arper (Nico de la Cruz), 36th.

Second half: 3, South Kitsap, Arper (de la Cruz), 43rd; 4, South Kitsap, Arper, 48th.

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