Spartans see four hurdles on road to state threepeat

September 7, 2010

By Staff

Skyline midfielder Madi Barney jostles with Eastlake defender Jamie Marzano to control the ball last fall. File

Soccer Preview

From the hint of concern in head coach Don Braman’s voice Sept. 2, the sole aim in 2010 for the Skyline High School girls soccer team is to make it through the final week of the regular season.

If the defending back-to-back 4A state champions carry their confidence and energy into that final week, they stand to compete against the four teams Braman expects to lead the KingCo Conference this season: Eastlake, Issaquah, Woodinville and Redmond.

“That last week you could go from first to last, from last to first, or something,” he said before practice Sept. 2.

From what he’s seeing on the field, Braman said the team (18-4 in 2009) is shaping up well to defend its title. The Spartans have 13 players return, including goalkeeper Tina Vargas, forward Michelle Bretl, midfielders Madi Barney and Madi Christ, and defenders Brittanee Randle and Dom Randle, who were all instrumental in the 2009 state run.

“Things have gone pretty well,” Braman said. “The biggest challenge is that the league is just going to be so strong again.”

Vargas, who found her groove in the 2009 state playoffs, returns as a junior, ready to lead with captains Brittanee Randle, Bretl and Barney.

“Tina is ready to have a breakout year,” Braman said.

Vargas made key penalty-kick saves to help the Spartans beat Issaquah in the 2009 state final.

“Tina Vargas just was absolutely out of her mind. She is able to go to a place, mentally, that very few players I’ve ever had are able to go to,” Braman said after the victory. “She is just absolutely dominant in penalty-kick situations.”

Vargas will look to compete as one of the top keepers in the league, along with Issaquah’s Brooke Miller.

“My goal is to make them scared, and I know that when I make them scared, that makes me better,” Vargas said after Skyline won the title match. “When they look me in the eye, that’s when I get them intimidated.”

Skyline is looking to the experience up front and a new sense of overall cohesiveness on the field, Braman said. That will potentially lead to higher-scoring games and greater margins of victory.

“There are a lot of players who really know the game, but they have to relearn how to play together,” Braman said.

He said Skyline is speedy this year and plays with a lot of composure.

“The key for us is playing with some urgency,” he said. “We had a lot of really close games last year. The challenge for us is to end the debate and get after teams earlier in games.”

Eagles hope to reload

Issaquah High School coach Tom Bunnell must be pretty good at jigsaw puzzles.

Last year, he put all the pieces together for a team that came within a goal of the state title. Bunnell began the season with a team that wasn’t supposed to be good, at least to Issaquah standards. He had to replace 10 players who graduated.

Well, 10 seniors graduated from last season’s 17-3 team that won the 4A KingCo Conference championship, too. Can the Eagles make another run at the title?

“Last year, we weren’t expected to do anything. By the end of the year, we were the best team in the state except in the finals, where we just couldn’t finish it,” Bunnell said. “They were the best team I’ve coached as far as the way they came together. They were so dedicated. If we can do anything close to that team this year, we will have a successful season.”

Among the key graduation losses were KingCo scoring champion Kristin Maris, who now plays at Western Washington University, and defender Lindsay Stoll, who plays at Washington State.

Issaquah still has plenty of scoring punch in forward Margaret Rauch, an all-KingCo first-team selection, who scored 12 goals and had nine assists last season; forward Dayna Talley; and midfielder Audrey Thomas. Promising freshman forward Rachel Wheeler is expected to make a big impact, too.

The Eagles have experienced defenders in Laura Kasser and Sarah Leland. Freshman Tara Eisman is a promising defender.

Back to defend the goal is all-league, first-team goalkeeper Brooke Miller.”

“We return a lot of key components from last season,” Bunnell said. “This could be one of those years where we won’t know what we have until we get going.”

Issaquah plays a rugged nonleague schedule, facing defending 2A and 3A state champions early in the season.

New coach leads Patriots

The Liberty High School girls soccer team is ready for a new year with a new coach.

“Soccer has been my life and I love it,” head coach Malia Arrant said.

The school hired Arrant earlier this year to replace former coach Darren Tremblay and move the program in a new direction. Tremblay now coaches the boys team.

Arrant, who played soccer at the University of Washington and for the Seattle Sounders women’s team, is the coaching director for Dos FC in Kent. She spent the past six years coaching at Eastside Catholic High School, but she said the long commute from her Kent home to Eastside Catholic ultimately led her to take the job at Liberty.

“I’m really excited. I think it’s a great program,” Arrant said. “Support from the school has been tremendous.”

The team began its season Sept. 7 at home against Skyline High School. Next, the team will face off against Issaquah High School on the road at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 and Mount Si High School at home at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14.

The team lost five graduating seniors last year, but returning are key players sophomore forward Kailiana Johnson, junior forward Cassidy Nangle and senior midfielder Kimi Fry.

Last year, Johnson and Nangle led the team with five goals each. Johnson also had three assists, and Nangle had two assists in addition to a whopping 33 shots on goal. Fry had two goals and three assists last year.

Arrant said senior midfielder Sara DuVall also looked particularly strong in the preseason. Each of these players will likely improve, she said.

“There are a lot of really talented kids,” Arrant said. “I can tell the girls are working very hard.”

She said the junior varsity team is sure to be a threat as well.

“It just says a lot about the future of the program,” Arrant said.

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