SEQUIM — A senior-dominated defensive back line has quietly gone about its business this season for the Sequim boys soccer team.
And business has been good.
The Wolves (15-1-2) have returned to the Class 2A state tournament for the second straight season in part due to a defense that has yielded just 15 goals all season while scoring 63.
Sequim hosts Woodland (12-4-2), another team making a return to state, tonight at 6 p.m. at Wally Sigmar Field at Peninsula College.
The quiet nature of the Wolves’ defensive unit — many teams defensive units take pride in consistent, loud communication between players — is reflective of the group’s comfort level together.
Led by a trio of seniors in center backs Rudy Franco and Brandon Benson and right back Chris Morgan, the group has achieved a level of familiarity through years of experience together on the field on club and school teams.
“They’ve played together a lot on various different teams and in high school,” head coach Dave Brasher said. “They know each other well and because of that they can lean on each other as well. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
“There is a good level of understanding between the back line,” he said. “We can kind of read what we are doing and when we are doing it, so we know where we need to be. There’s not a lot of direction [that needs to be given], so it’s more quiet.”
And Franco said the volume of the defense is really a game-by-game situation.
“I feel like in some games where we are dominating we are quieter, but in games with higher levels of intensity, like PA, we are talking,” Franco said.
Brasher respects the commitment to the sport shown by his senior defenders.
“For Rudy and Chris, they just love playing the game. They are two of the first guys out to practice and to get taken out of the game they would have to have a broken arm,” Brasher said.
This toughness was displayed when Franco hurt his foot at a recent practice and kicked a goal post out of frustration and also to try and get ready to take part in a final drill. Whatever he did worked, because Franco stayed in the session and completed the practice even with a noticeable limp.
“Brandon has always been a little aloof, those guys know that, and they accept him and he fits in real well and does well for us,” Brasher said. “I appreciate all of their love of the game.”
The trio also has mentored the younger members of the defensive line like freshman Brandon Wagner.
“At the start of the year I wasn’t sure where to put them — it kind of evolved into Rudy and Brandon work pretty well together as center backs and Chris and Eli [Gish] play their roles on the outside,” Brasher said.
“[Freshman] Brandon Wagner has been able to fill in for those two and for Mike [McAleer] as defensive center mid and learned a lot from them I think and he’s also done a nice job.”
Franco said it’s been important to bring along Wagner.
“B-Wag as we call him, I’ve tried to show him what I know, what I’ve learned from four years of high school,” Franco said.
The Sequim defenders also let the midfield group do the talking while staying organized defensively.
“Those four guys in the back are all kind of quiet by nature and what it has evolved into is they are real communicative with each other and midfielders Sean [Weber] and Adrian [Funston] and even Mike McAleer are the more vocal players, the guys you hear on the field,” Brasher said.
“The senior guys in the back have almost — they communicate on their own level and look to the midfielders to be the loud guys.”
And the three seniors aren’t worried about their back-line partner, sophomore left back Eli Gish.
“Eli Gish is the wild card in there at left back,” Brasher said. “He’s really versatile, he can play up front and in the midfield.”
Morgan said he has learned from the sophomore.
“Eli knows what he is doing,” Morgan said. “He has it down. If anything, I played center back most of my life and switching to right back this season I’ve had to watch a lot of what Eli does to even understand how to play the position.”
Franco said a winning mentality has gotten the team this far.
“We treat each game like the championship,” Franco said.”We have to because every game is lose or go-home. ”