4A KingCo soccer teams ready for another jam

March 15, 2011

By Bob Taylor

Issaquah, Skyline hope to challenge for first place

The 4A KingCo Conference boys season could be headed for another traffic jam. Last year, the league was bumper to bumper, just like Issaquah’s Front Street on a Friday afternoon.

When the regular season ended, just two points separated the first-place team from the sixth-place team. Three teams tied for first place and two were just one point behind the leaders.

Issaquah High School coach Jason Lichtenberger said he believes it could be another close race.

“From top to bottom, I believe KingCo is the toughest league in the state. I fully expect another close race,” Lichtenberger said. “I think there are some quality teams in the league again. There are two or three teams that could be a bit stronger than the rest, but almost every team has a player who can change a game.”

Lichtenberger said he believes Skyline, one of last year’s tri-champions, and Eastlake and Newport, both with experienced teams, could be the frontrunners. Garfield, one of the tri-champions last spring, might be another contender.

Issaquah has aspirations of continuing its success from the past two seasons. However, the Eagles lost eight starters from last season’s team that finished just one point out of first place. Lichtenberger pointed out that the Eagles have talent and the potential to be among the top teams.

In 3A KingCo, Liberty had a disappointing season in 2010, but has some outstanding players returning who have hopes of moving the Patriots in the standings.

Eagles show promise

Lichtenberger said he was concerned about the Eagles after watching them in preseason practices. However, he was feeling much better about the team after it fought Mount Si to a 1-1 tie in the March 11 opener.

“We played extremely well against a talented Mount Si team. It was a good challenge for us,” Lichtenberger said.

Senior James Garcia scored the game-tying goal at the 69th minute for Issaquah. The goal came after a cornerkick. After near misses on headers by Alex Shane and Michael Roberts, Garcia slid in through a scramble in front of the goal and lifted the ball up into the net.

Lichtenberger had relied on Garcia to direct the defense. However, Garcia was just where he needed to be at the right moment.

“It was hard work. James just wanted it more than anyone,” Lichtenberger said. “He did a fantastic job for us. He really played well defensively.”

Garcia, a midfielder and defender, did not start last season but is one of the key experienced players for Issaquah.

The Eagles’ returning starters are Nathan King, a goalkeeper; Roberts, a midfielder-forward; Shane, a forward; and Cory Jenneskens, a defender. King earned second-team all-KingCo honors last season.

Issaquah has some players who tasted success in the off season. Shane and Evan King, no relation to Nathan, won a state club championship with the Eastside FC U16 Storm. Roberts won a club state championship with the Eastside FC Kovats.

Lichtenberger said he believes Shane, a sophomore, could emerge as one of the more dangerous goal scorers in the league.

“He loves to get the ball and attack the goal,” Lichtenberger said. “Alex has a ton of competitive fire and wants to be the guy we look to for scoring in front of the goal. His desire to carry the offensive load speaks highly of his maturity and the impact he could have.”

Roberts should be another scoring threat.

“He is great with the ball and an excellent distributor who looks to pass first,” Lichtenberger said. “But he is also a very good goal scorer.”

Other probable starters include defenders Taylor Wyman and Christopher Baer, and midfielders Drew Tacher, Zach Lawless, Akash Ramachandran, and Tyler Bask.

Freshman defender Ryan Higgins and Derek Culver, another newcomer, could be impact players, too.

Spartans look like contenders

Lichtenberger said he believes rival Skyline is one of the favorites for the title.

“They have a lot of experience and should challenge for the championship again,” Lichtenberger said.

Skyline, under longtime coach Don Braman, went 7-3-1 in league action last year. The Spartans later lost to Garfield in the KingCo tournament title game before advancing to the state playoffs. Skyline’s season came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Lake Stevens in the quarterfinals. Braman said after the loss in the quarterfinals, the season felt incomplete. This season, he said the Spartans’ goal is to win the league championship.

The Spartans have offensive standouts returning in forward Braxton Griffin and midfielder Travis Strawn. Both seniors have a chance to set new school career records this season. Strawn, an all-league first-team selection last season, is tied for third on the all-time scoring list with 39 points. He needs just four points to take over the top spot. Strawn is also third in goals scored. Griffin is fifth in points with 37 and fourth in goals.

But the Spartans have other dangerous scorers, too. Forwards Kyle Olmstead and James Molyneux-Elliot, and midfielders Pedro Miola, Jake Bechtel and Cole Calaboro should be threats. Freshman Jason Twaddle should add even more firepower.

Skyline, which always prides itself on strong defense, has solid experienced defenders in Evan Kamber, Mikey Stoddard, Travis Burns and Geoffrey Enos. Steven Pankiewicz is the goalkeeper.

The Spartans got off to a promising start March 11, when they defeated host Mercer Island, 3-0, in a nonleague game. Olmstead, a senior, scored two goals. Twaddle tallied his first varsity goal, too. Pankiewicz recorded the shutout.

Patriots look improved

Liberty went just 3-7-2 in the 3A/2A KingCo Conference last year, but the Patriots figure to be much stronger this season.

Some of the returning seniors experienced success as members of a U-19 team that won the Challenge Cup. Sophomore defender Jared Bales, who made the Seattle Sounders Developmental Team, figures to be one of the league’s top players.

Among the other probable starters for Liberty are forwards Josh Muttart and Aaron Potoshnik; midfielders Blake Kessler, Danny Dapper, Riley Mackey and Alex Velasquez; and defenders Nick Turner, Joe Dapper and Alex Botello.

Top newcomers include defender Grant Lockhardt, midfielder Oliver Janders and forward Eric Warlick.

Bob Taylor: 392-6434, ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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