Kickers won’t stress about losing star

Spartan forward Kenji Queva heads the ball away from O’Dea’s Chris Bean. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Spartan forward Kenji Queva heads the ball away from O’Dea’s Chris Bean.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Spartans feel the team will be that more dangerous in the Metro League.

Everything was going wonderful for George Vukic this season.

The second-year head coach had several players returning from a soccer team that just missed out on making it to the state tournament last season and was looking forward to having senior midfielder Dylan Tucker-Ganges, his top player, around for possibly the entire season as his select team lost in the state championship a few weeks ago.

But one phone call last week from the state’s most prestigious soccer program changed all that.

“He had all the best intentions,” Vukic said. “He wanted to play here, no doubt about it. He had a lot of fun here.”

Now, Tucker-Ganges, a UW recruit, is playing for Crossfire Academy in Seattle, the top select soccer program in the state, and Vukic has to figure out how to make up for the loss of his top playmaker and captain.

“He was pretty choked up about it,” Vukic said when he informed everyone of his decision. “He was a great captain. He had a lot of experience and everyone looked up to him.”

But while he’ll miss what Tucker-Ganges brought to the table (“It was a line drive,” Vukic said of his last goal scored from midfield to force a 2-2 tie against Nathan Hale last Thursday), he’s confident that the team can redo the settings and make everything look just as pretty.

“We have a deep roster,” Vukic said. “We have a lot of talented kids, we have a lot of kids with experience, we’ve got a lot of physical strength, we’ve got a lot of athleticism – we’re a team that has resources.

“It’s going to be a different character of team without Dylan and our brand of soccer will change... but we still feel (that) we’re a team where our goals won’t change.”

The Spartans went 7-8-2 last season, losing to Mercer Island in a winner-to-state game.

Though they lose several players from last year, many are back to help keep Bainbridge going strong.

Key among them are senior co-captain and defender Johnny Baggett and senior midfielder Max Aussendorf.

Also returning are seniors Clay Goodhue, Colin Gremse, Logan Connor, Sam Freedman, Alex Oechsli and Dana Olsen along with juniors Sam McAllister and Kyle Scoble and sophomore Jimmy Baggett.

“Instead of focusing our game onto Dylan, I think we’re focused on spreading the field,” Johnny Baggett said. “I think we’re going to be even more dangerous.

“There’s no real plan of attack; we’ll just attack from everywhere.”

Several newcomers to the team that Vukic expects to contribute are junior defender Tom Elliot and junior forward Kenji Queva.

Johnny Baggett feels that sophomore Ben Van Drunen and junior Peter Pettersen will help contribute on defense.

“Both of them are neck and neck for playing time,” he said.

Bainbridge has already gotten off to a good start this season.

Along with the tie against Hale, Bainbridge also tied North Kitsap 2-2 on March 10 (thanks to goals by Van Drunen and Olsen), then defeated Chief Sealth 1-0 and O’Dea 2-0.

Aussendorf scored unassisted goals in the 30th and 55th minutes against the Irish while Connor got the shutout in goal.

While both Johnny and Vukic feel that Prep will be the biggest hurdle to overcome, Vukic also feels they can’t overlook anyone.

Still, Vukic expects the team is eager to make up for Tucker-Ganges’ loss.

“This is a group that knows what they want,” he said. “They know where I’m at, they know what they’re capable of... there’s not a lot of insecurity.”

Johnny Baggett agrees.

“I think we’re going to be more unpredictable,” he said. “I think we have a lot of unknowns that are going to come up and shine.”

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