"Kickers will miss Olympic rivalrySimilar intensity, more thumping going on for Spartan boys this year. "

"The Spartan boys soccer team has made the state playoffs the past four years, and coach Alex von Reis Crooks doesn't see that changing.What will change, of course, is the move to Metro League next year.We'll miss all the old rivalries, von Reis Crooks says. Many of those rivalries are heightened by the somewhat parallel universe of select soccer teams, in which island players associate frequently with fellow Olympic League players as teammates and opponents.For the Spartans' last year in the Olympic League, von Reis Crooks sees a good-looking group.If all the pieces fall into place, this could be one of the best teams in years, he says. We have depth on our bench and a good JV team.On the eve of last night's season opener at Klahowya, von Reis Crooks wasn't sure of all the pieces as several factors could result in changes in his projected roster. But with eight players returning from last year's varsity, he hopes to improve on last year's fourth place in the Olympic League and 10-7-1 overall mark.Returning players include * Senior Matt Dick, in his third year on the varsity and the team captain. * Senior Jed Ballou, a midfielder with a ripping good shot.* Senior Nick Martin, a solid defensive player who spent much of the off-season working out at the gym and has more strength on his frame.* Seniors Brian Oldenkamp and Alex Ruder, who work well together as mids.* Junior sweeper Adam Brenneman, who's tall and strong, a real mature, calm player.* Junior Kaj Hauschulz, a premier league player who's fast down the wings.* Junior Mitka von Reis Crooks, a starter since his freshman year.Newcomers include* Senior Christian Gibbs, in his first year of high school soccer after playing baseball. But his father is Norm Gibbs, coach of the Tenacious girls' age-group soccer team and a long-time soccer player. He's always been around soccer, says von Reis Crooks, and we're glad to have him.* Senior Steven Suraci, a JV as a sophomore who missed last year.* Junior, Chris Ley, an outside right mid.* Junior Calder Just, a defender with a great right foot and a fast, hard tackler. * Sophomore Tristan Traywick, a good quick fellow who'll be on the field a lot.Two juniors will share the crucial goalkeeping duties. The level of intensity is similar to the premier leagues, but there's a bit more thumping going on, von Reis Crooks notes. Last year's goalie Kyle Twitchell would agree. He suffered a violent collision that sent him to the hospital for 19 stitches.Ollie Ludlow is our first junior keeper tough enough to do the job, says the coach. He'll be joined by Richard Scheiflinger, an exchange student from Germany.Olympic is the team to beat, von Reis Crooks believes. Last year's undefeated Port Angeles team graduated most of its players, who had been together for a number of years. They'll be smaller and faster, but probably not as good as before, von Reis Crooks says.He'll have a chance to find out a week from tomorrow as the Spartans host the Roughriders in a 7 p.m. game. The home opener is tomorrow against Sequim, also at 7 p.m. "

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