Despite new pieces, hopes remain high

March 25, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Boys soccer preview

It might not be realistic for the Skyline High School boys soccer team to repeat their success of 2013, when the Spartans, undefeated in conference, play for the first time.

After all, the Spartans will have to find replacements for several key seniors who graduated, including starting center backs Ryan Shim and Chris Sorenson, and all-state central midfielder Kaleb Strawn.

The Spartans finished 13-3 overall and reached the Class 4A state tournament last season, where they lost 1-0 to Camas in the first round. Head coach Don Braman acknowledges the challenge of finding new stars, but thinks the pieces are in place for similar levels of success.

“It’s hard to replace those kids, but we’re excited about the kids we’ve got,” Braman said. “There’s a lot of work to do in terms of being able to understand how to play together, and that’s where we’re going to be putting our energy, but we’re in a good place to get rolling.”

A new winning formula starts between the goalposts, where the Spartans lost Ben Morgan and Zachary Anselmi, who combined for six shutouts last season. Senior Jack O’Keefe, junior Bryce Escobar and sophomore Alex Appel are competing for the starting goalkeeper assignment.

In front of them, senior Jake Therrien is the only returning defender with varsity experience. But newcomers Nick Christoforou, Fed Rubiolo and Nick Morgan appear to be capable, Therrien said.

“Our back line is pretty good-sized guys, so we’re not worried about that,” Therrien said. “And I think we have a lot of good speed coming on the outside, so I think we’re going to really be looking to get our outside backs up the field and attack.”

Strawn, who provided 10 goals and 13 assists last season, is now playing collegiately at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. The top returning scorer is senior Jason Twaddle (seven goals, three assists), who expects to once again provide hold-up play and distribute the ball to other attackers.

“As long as we work together, we’ll be able to score — not just me but others,” Twaddle said.

Braman is looking to newcomer Nihar Baxi, a senior, to provide goals, and the midfield also has several threats, including senior Armeen Badri.

Badri, Twaddle and Therrien play year-round with an Eastside FC select squad, and having experience playing with and against each other in club soccer should help the Spartans.

“A lot of our seniors graduated,” Badri noted, “but one good thing was we had a lot of sophomores and juniors starting last year, so a lot of those starting spots are still the same guys playing.”


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