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Soccer: Wolves eagerly anticipate rematch against Stadium
South Kitsap did not win the Narrows League championship.
But the Wolves still have an opportunity to win the league tournament title.
South defeated Wilson 2-0 on Wednesday in the opening round of the Narrows tournament and plays at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against undefeated Stadium at Mount Tahoma High School.
The Tigers (13-0-0) won the previous meeting between the teams, 1-0, on April 29 at the Stadium Bowl. It was the first time the Wolves (9-3-2) were shut out in league play this year. The only other time they were held scoreless was during the March 15 season opener when they suffered a 1-0 setback at North Kitsap.
“They’ve got a massive home-field advantage,” said South coach James Ritchie, referring to the Stadium Bowl. “Their field is almost unplayable with 1980s- or 1990s-style carpet and the track that extends onto the field.”
The Wolves will not have to deal with that in the rematch, but Ritchie said his team will need to play almost perfect to upset Stadium.
“They go away from home and win as well,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of fantastic players ... and it’s an older team.”
Getting there might have been more challenging than some anticipated — South defeated Wilson 6-0 in the previous match between the schools on April 20 — but Ritchie said he expected it to be more difficult.
“I think we surprised them a little bit with how good we were,” Ritchie said. “I had a feeling that they were going to try and condense the field and make it difficult for us to play.”
Despite that, the Wolves again were able to rely on senior forward Austin Arper, who scored two goals to give him a Kitsap County-high 19 for the year. Arper took a pass from Dixon Hammer in the 42nd minute to score and added another in the 78th from Diego de la Cruz-Aceves.
Even with Arper’s success, Ritchie has not run out of superlatives to describe him.
“The lad is playing out of his skin,” he said. “He’s absolutely fantastic.”
Ritchie felt the offense performed better in the second half, but said he believes it still can be more explosive with better passing. He said Arper’s second goal particularly was important because it ended the possibility that the Rams could put the match into overtime.
“There’s always a danger of them sneaking one up there,” Ritchie said. “But we kept our concentration great in the back. Gavin (Klein) and Ian (Jose) were fantastic in there with the other defenders.”
Ritchie also is pleased with goalkeeper Nick Henry, who signed to play next year at Olympic College. Henry split halves in matches for most of the season with Quintin Harris, but Ritchie expects him to retain the full-time position for now.
“Nick is playing really, really well,” he said. “I didn’t want to change it too much.”
If Henry and his teammates are able to shutdown the Tigers, they could play for the tournament championship next week, likely against Bellarmine Prep or Gig Harbor. But first, Ritchie is focused on Stadium.
“That’s going to be a great battle,” he said. “The boys are excited.”
Narrows League Tournament
At South Kitsap 2, Wilson 0
First half: None.
Second half: 1, South Kitsap, Austin Arper (Dixon Hammer), 42nd minute; 2, South Kitsap, Arper (Diego de la Cruz-Aceves), 78th.