Eagles make a move upward in boys soccer

April 22, 2014

By Matt Massey

They were muddled in the middle.

That was the story of the Issaquah High School boys soccer team a year ago.

Turn the page to 2014, and the Eagles are anything but a middling team, at least, so far.

Under the direction of first-year varsity coach Kyle Tatro, Issaquah is trending upward in the KingCo 4A Conference standings. The Eagles are leading the conference at 5-0-0 and are off to an unbeaten 7-0-1 start overall.

“I think our season primarily has a lot to do with team chemistry,” said Tatro, who took over when Tom Bunnell resigned in the offseason. “This is a good group of boys to come into and we have a good junior class and the senior class is good, tight-knit group.

“We work hard on defense and we’ve been fortunate to be on the right side of the score line in a couple of games.”

Issaquah has already matched last season’s conference total in half season in 2014. The Eagles were 5-5-0 and tied for fourth with 15 points in conference play and finished 9-7-1 overall in 2013 after falling to Roosevelt in a loser-out KingCo 4A tournament match.

Four starters — Ryan Higgins, Josh Zhou, Ben Corman and Jack Figg — are back from last season. But mainly, there’s been improvement and an upgrade in production, which has the Eagles soaring with a 15-3 goals advantage in 2014.

Tatro’s touch has added the right blend so far.

“It’s been a great transition for me to head coach, and being able to help out on the technical aspects of players’ games at training,” said Tatro, who spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the Issaquah program and was a standout defender at Newport. “I’ve stepped in and put my twist on formations and things have been a joy. Working with these players has been great.

“They are smart and hard-working players, and that’s makes it easier.”

The hot starts of senior midfielders Higgins (5 goals, 1 assist), Alex Kane and junior midfielder Conner Hughes (4 assists) has been key. The 6-foot-2 Higgins has signed to play at Seattle Pacific University next fall.

“Ryan Higgins is a very smart, physical, very technically gifted player and he’s having a great year for us,” Tatro said.

A tougher defensive mindset has led to five shutouts in eight outings as Corman and Figg help anchor the back line along with new starting goalkeeper Saif Kerawala, a 6-3 junior.

Kerawala has been part of five shutouts for the Eagles.

“A lot of players have, not surprised me, but shown better than I thought they would,” Tatro said of the turnaround this season. “I knew they were talented players and that the whole squad was capable of achieving what they have so far.

“They are making smart plays and hustle plays on both sides of the ball. This is a special team, and I’ve told them that from the beginning.”

Tatro, a 2004 graduate of Newport, knows what it takes to win a state title as he helped the Knights to a 3A state crown as a junior in 2003. He recognizes it’s a growth process.

“Right now, we’re a really strong defensive team and our score line has been kind of low,” Tatro said. “We have a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games, so certainly we can get better on the offensive side of the game.

“We are looking to get a little bit better as the road goes along. Hopefully, we can get into the state playoffs and then anything can happen there. That’s what we’re aiming for.”


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