In past years, it’s been almost a slam dunk for the boys soccer team to make the state playoffs – and almost as great a certainty that they wouldn’t go beyond the first round.
This year – the Spartans’ first in Metro, which co-captain Adam Brenneman terms “the best league in the state” – the reverse is likely to be true: Just making the playoffs will be a formidable task, but once there the chances of advancing at least to the second round appear favorable.
That’s because the Spartans must get by at least two of four of the state’s top programs.
Both Lakeside and Blanchet performed well at state the past two seasons. The Lions were second last year and fourth in 2000, while Blanchet beat the Spartans two years ago in the first round and advanced to the semis. In addition, O’Dea suits nearly 100 players at various levels, according to coach Alex von Reis Crooks, and Seattle Prep is consistently good.
Playing in Metro this year is somewhat of an ascent into the unknown.
“In the Olympic League, we always knew most of the players on the other teams and we had some great rivalries,” said von Reis Crooks. “‘Who are they?’ is how we think of Metro.
“There’s even more of a disparity in team strengths than there was in the Olympic League,” he continued. “Some of them have a hard time scratching together 11 players, while others are real powerhouses.”
The Spartans face each Metro team just once, rather than the Olympic League home-and-home series. A season-ending tournament among the top four teams determines the three that move on to State and their respective seedings.
Another change involves the timing of many games: most of the away games start at 3:30 or 4 p.m, and fans accustomed to 7 p.m. starts will have to adjust to five of the eight home games beginning at 5:30.
“The city teams want to play right after school,” he said. “But that’s a big letdown for us. Not as many people come to watch.”
As a result, they’ll see what Brenneman calls “the strongest team I’ve played on since I’ve been here.”
Von Reis Crooks adds that “This team has potential. We had a lot of good juniors last year, and didn’t lose many seniors.”
The season (and home) opener will offer a quick evaluation of the team’s talent level, as the Spartans face Mercer Island, last year’s State runners-up, on March 12.
Von Reis Crooks and JV coach An Tran were confronted with some difficulties in selecting their respective rosters.
“We have 55 turn out for 36 slots,” said von Reis Crooks. “It was a really hard job cutting fellas we just didn’t have room for. That’s a tribute to the great youth soccer programs we have on the island.”
Von Reis Crooks sees the team’s core in a quartet of “really good” Premier-1-level players: junior midfielder Kaj Hauschulz, senior mid and co-captain Mitka von Reis Crooks, plus senior defenders Calder Just and Brenneman.
“They’ve all played together on their P-1 team and all played varsity last year,” he said.
Three other seniors – forward Lawrence Ream and mids Kris Ley and Andreas Lund – also played varsity last year.
Senior defender Daniel Sackett has been promoted from JV to varsity.
And fellow senior David West – also a mid – is out for his first varsity season after what von Reis Crooks considers a coaching coup.
“I finally managed to drag him out here and do something besides bagging groceries after work,” he said.
Junior midfielder Emmett Adam “returns from a year of testing the waters of lacrosse,” said von Reis Crooks. “We’re glad to have him back.” Michael Gore, another junior mid, played JV last year.
Sophomores include the team’s goalkeeper Eric Smith, who was unavailable last year due to a broken thumb, and defender Jeff Oldenkamp, who accumulated some late-season varsity experience. Forward Kyle Johnston and defenders Rudi Peterson and Bill Bruns all played JV.
Alex Campos is the lone freshman to make the team.
The JV roster includes juniors Tom Armitage, Michael Braun, Drew Keller, James McAllister, Nate Patmont and Justin Thorpe. Sophomores are Brian Ream, Jeries Eady, Marlin Gonda, Taweesak Porkpoon and Garrett Roe.
Aaron Berry, Jordan Droppert, John Grue, Zack Mallove, Colin O’Keefe and Zack Tucker-Gangnes are the freshmen.