Sports

Soccer teams gearing up for new season

The onset of spring also heralds the beginning of a new soccer season.

At Kingston High, the Buccaneers are looking to return to the state tournament after missing out last year. The Bucs ended their 2009 season with a 2-1 loss to Steilacoom in the district playoffs, one game shy of a state berth.

Kingston opens the 2010 season Wednesday at Bremerton before playing a pair of games against its Nisqually League neighbors. The Bucs will host Eatonville Thursday and travel to Steilacoom March 20 for a rematch with the Sentinels.

“It’ll be good to get back at them,” Kingston goalkeeper Spencer Miele said of Steilacoom.

Kingston Head Coach Craig Smith said playing against teams outside the Olympic League’s 2A division allows the Bucs to see what they might face in the postseason and improve their level of play.

“I’m looking forward to those non-leaguers,” Smith said.

This season’s non-league schedule includes a match against the always-tough Bainbridge Island Spartans. Last year, the Bucs opened their season at Bainbridge, where they were shut out, 6-0.

“It really opened our eyes for the season,” Miele said.

The Bucs used the loss as a learning experience. By the time Kingston played Olympic League champion North Kitsap midway through the season, the Bucs had improved significantly. Kingston ended up with a close 1-0 loss to the Vikings. This year, the rematch will happen on Kingston’s home turf.

“It’ll be a hard game and it’ll take the best from both teams,” Kingston midfielder Matt Hust said.

Miele, who was accepted this week to play at Montana State University next year, anchor a senior-laden Buc squad. Joining them are forwards Brian Bain and Riley Anderson, along with defender Ian Chaussee and midfielder Juan Chehade. Heading up the junior class are sweeper Juan Ramirez, midfielder Chad Trask and backup keeper Jason Kramberger.

The biggest challenge for the Bucs may be their lack of depth on the bench. Smith said he has barely enough players to field both a varsity and junior varsity team.

“The thing we don’t have is the numbers,” he said. “We can’t afford any injuries this year.”

Another concern for the Bucs is the health of their coach. Smith suffered a serious heart attack in January and had to be revived by paramedics.

“I died twice that day,” he said.

Smith said while his heart was stopped he heard an old friend beckoning him to the soccer pitch. Then the shock of a defibrillator jolted him back to reality.

“I was angry at the guy that just saved my life,” Smith said with a laugh. “I got over it pretty quick.”

Smith is now taking heart medication and walks daily. He doesn’t think coaching will be a problem.

“There’s good stress and bad stress,” he said. “Coaching is a good stress for me.”

The North Kitsap High boys soccer team returns this year with a sophomore-heavy roster.

Last year, the Vikings did two things they hadn’t done in more than two decades: they won a league title and played in the state tournament.

This year, North is looking for new leaders to help them repeat that success.

“We lost several key players to graduation, but we have a strong sophomore class and some good freshman prospects, so who knows,” North Kitsap coach Chris May said in an email. “It will all depend on senior leadership and who steps up on the pitch.”

Spencer Black, the team’s top defender, leads the seniors this year. Marco Lopez anchors the junior class, and Nick Tedford heads up a large group of sophomore talent.

The Vikings open the 2010 season Monday with a tough home game against the 2009 Class 4A state champion South Kitsap Wolves. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the North Kitsap Stadium.

“That should be a real challenge for us,” May said. “We’ll see how we stack up.”

Look for coverage of the Vikings’ season opener at www.northkitsapherald.com.

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