Sports

Soccer | Bainbridge's deep roster brings new formulas to the pitch

Bainbridge sophomore Connor Winship challenges O
Bainbridge sophomore Connor Winship challenges O'Dea's Jack Ryan for the ball. The Spartans went on to win 8-1.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Review

For the first time in George Vukic’s four-year tenure as BHS head soccer coach, the Spartans boast a roster full of upperclassmen.

“This is a pretty old team,” Vukic said. “It’s not been my experience. It’s definitely the oldest team I’ve coached here, making my job a lot easier in that regard because they do bring a lot to the table.”

Vukic has coached many of the players since they were freshmen.

“With some of these people it’s like picking up where you left off,” Vukic said. “The focus is still there but a little bit higher. Now there’s enough of it in there that it filters through to the younger ones. It’s beginning to feel like an organic growth process.”

Vukic has 11 seniors on the squad that was 3-0 as of Thursday afternoon.

“It’s nice because we have a lot of old guys who have been around so they can set the tone,” senior Jimmy Baggett said. “That’s a big difference I’ve seen. We seem more focused this year than previous years.”

Bainbridge has defeated Issaquah 3-0, Lakeside 2-1 and O’Dea 8-1.

“We’re not really under any illusion – we won games by many goals,” Vukic said. “If you’re not keeping pace with us we will continue scoring.”

With a wealth of leadership from key returners like first-team All-Metro selections Baggett and Ben Van Drunen, Vukic is confident in the Spartans’ depth.

“We have a lot of options,” Vukic said. “We have a lot of experience and ability. It gives me a number of different approaches, possible schemes and systems to play with.”

Four-year letter-winner Baggett has had an amazing start to the season, Vukic said.

“Jimmy Baggett is just playing unbelievably well right now,” he said. “He’s like two men. He really is like two men. He’s as good as two players.”

Van Drunen always leads by example, Vukic said.

He played “center back in the trenches last year,” Vukic said. “You can play him anywhere. He’s just big strong, physical, committed. He’s just scary to play against, plain and simple.”

Vukic also points to Sam Mutty and Charlie Von Reis as key leaders.

Sophomore Conner Winship currently leads the team with five goals.

“He’s no everyday player,” Vukic said. “He’s creative and a persona on the field.”

Freshman Michael Crowley has also made an immediate impact at forward and midfield, Baggett said.

“We have a lot of good talent,” said Baggett, who was named the Metro League’s MVP as a sophomore. “I knew we’d have a good team but I didn’t think we’d actually look as good as we have been. I see a lot of promise in the team.”

With such depth, however, comes the challenges of trial and error to find the winning combination.

“It’s a bigger responsibility,” Vukic said. “It’s easier to coach teams where only one formula works for you. In this case, you have to prioritize out of context and figure out, this is what we need. You don’t have a long season. You have to come up with a formula you like based on what you’ve seen in the past. That’s really the moving target.”

The Spartans are deep at every position, Vukic said, which will allow the Spartans to stay fresh for the post-season.

“A big part of it is preserving energy for those critical games,” Vukic said. “In league play you want to win your division somehow and you want to have a deep enough roster so you can pull kids off on occasion to let them recoup. Whether or not that’ll be possible, or whether or not I’m willing to do that in the context of games, is another story.”

The Spartans currently lead the Mountain Division with only eight Metro games remaining.

“The league play sets you up for playoffs, but really it’s about having all your questions answered come state tournament time.”

Bainbridge lost in the first round of the state playoffs the last two years, and is shooting for the Metro League title.

“There’s been a lot of winning, so they feed off of it,” Vukic said. “Everyone knows in order to go further, everything has to be elevated.”

Baggett, who has received offers from the University of Hawaii, Montana State University and Great Falls to play soccer, feels added pressure in his fourth year with the team.

“There’s definitely a hunger there,” Baggett said. “We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to in basketball and this is kind of a last chance. There’s definitely that passion that I want to get something done.”

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