Junpei Tsuji’s leadership earns player of the year honors

June 1, 2010

By Bob Taylor

A soccer player doesn’t always have to score a ton of goals to get noticed by opposing players and coaches.

Junpei Tsuji

Sometimes, just his leadership qualities on the field are enough to earn praise. Certainly, 4A KingCo Conference coaches were impressed by Issaquah High School senior Junpei Tsuji’s inspired efforts this spring.

While Tsuji was a scoring threat, it was his leadership that led to his selection as the league’s Player of the Year.

“When you consider all the outstanding players in the league, this was a great honor for Junpei and great recognition for our program,” said Issaquah coach Jason Lichtenberger. “I think he was probably surprised by the honor.

“Yet, when coaches talked about a player who played hard in every game, Junpei was the guy they talked about,” he added. “They said what a great leader he was on the field. Junpei was always encouraging his teammates.”

Tsuji, a midfielder, helped the Eagles be a contender for the league title this season. Issaquah finished just one point out of first place.

“He is a talented player. He makes a lot of things happen. He does a good job of getting the ball to his teammates. More than anything, he just worked his tail off for 80 minutes in every game,”

Lichtenberger said.

In practice, teammates always compared their shirts to see who worked the hardest.

“Junpei always had the sweatiest shirt,” Lichtenberger said.

Tsuji is bound for Whitman College, where he will play soccer with Issaquah teammate Mike Axelson next year.

Issaquah, with back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in several years, has had the league’s MVP the last two years. Quinn Grisham, a senior, was selected as the league MVP last year. Grisham, despite missing some games this season because of injuries and illness, joined Tsuji on the all-KingCo first team.Joining the two Eagles on the first team was Skyline midfielder Travis Strawn, who helped spark the Spartans to the state tournament.

Other members of the all-KingCo first team were defenders Chris Perkins and Reid Shaw, of KingCo champion Garfield; goalkeeper Shane Lervold; defender Ryan Schroeder; midfielders Yordan Rivera and Alan Villavicencio, of Bothell; forward Renato Bandeira, of Eastlake; forward Balin Larson, of Ballard; goalkeeper Logan Richards; defender David Surdyk, of Woodinville; defender Conor Duggan; defender Brian Whitney and midfielder Cornelius Ieremie, of Newport; defender Cameron Veres, of Lake Washington; forward Tolga Dilek, of Roosevelt; and forward Thomas Jacob, of Inglemoor.

Local second-team selections were goalkeeper Nathan King and defender Conner Holmes, of Issaquah; and defender Ben Molyneux-Elliot, midfielder Mitchell Kim, forward Giancarlo Santoro, and forward Braxton Griffin, of Skyline.

Don Braman, of Skyline, was selected as the league’s coach of the year.

Earning honorable mention were Brandon Bergfalk, Carter Mitchell and Michael Roberts, of Issaquah; and Jake Bechtel, Pedro Miola, Steven Pankiewicz and Michael Stoddard, of Skyline.

Dean Byron makes all-KingCo 3A

Liberty defender Dean Byron earned 3A KingCo all-league first-team honors for the second straight year.

Defender Jay Haberman and midfielder Kevin Baretto, of Liberty, earned second team honors.

Receiving honorable mention from Liberty were Blake Kessler and Riley Mackey.

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