SEQUIM — Back and ready for more. That sums up the number of returners and the expectation level for a Sequim girls soccer team that made school history last fall when the Wolves overcame an 0-6 start to Olympic League play to make their first-ever state tournament appearance.
“Pretty excited, actually,” Sequim coach Derek Vander Velde said. “A pretty exciting time to have this group together for so long. “I’ve their been high school coach the entire time and it’s been a lot of fun watching them grow, to watch the connections being made and their understanding of soccer step up to the next level.”
And the team’s goals also have reached that next level.
“Their expectations are higher as well, for league and for districts and state,” Vander Velde said. “What I really want them to accomplish is I would like them to go far, but if they are growing as individuals and growing their soccer knowledge, we are doing well.
Virtually the entire team returns from last year’s state tournament run, but the program’s overall turnout isn’t huge.
“We have a [retty small squad this year unfortunately, our numbers aren’t that great,” Vander Velde said.
But this is a talented, scrappy Sequim side, with the confidence gained from both a state soccer run and a state basketball run for many players on the roster.
Sequim Wolves (Class 2A)
• Coach: Derek VanderVelde, fourth season.
• Last year: 10-9-1 overall, 5-7-0 fourth in Olympic League; won district championship, advanced to state tournament for first time in school history.
• Player to watch: Hope Glasser (sr., F)
• Returners: Jessica Dietzman (sr., M) Eden Johnson (sr., F/MF); Gabby Happe (sr., D); Natalya James (jr., MF); Abby Schroeder (jr., MF); Mary McAleer (jr., D); ; Kristina Mingoy (sr., D); Olivia Hare (jr., GK); Autumn Hilliard (sr., MF); Alexis Smith (sr., MF/F); Hannah Wagner (soph., MF/F)
• Newcomers to watch: Amara Sayer, jr., def.; Rileigh Van Dyken soph., MF.
• Outlook: Vander Velde is focused on continued improvement for his squad.
“It’s a tough league and I want the girls to go out and be better than we were last year,” Vander Velde said. “We started 0-6 which was difficult. The way they finished was so great that we are hoping to start off on the same foot that we left on.”
He said Port Angeles, Olympic and North Kitsap will field quality teams.
“I think Olympic and North K are going to be tough teams again,” Vander Velde said. “PA will be a tough team, that rivalry is always tough, they have good quality players.
“I think the level of play on the Peninsula in general is getting better and better. I know Sequim and PA we’re here battling it out so we can rival the North K’s and the Olympics.”
Port Townsend Redhawks (1A)
PORT TOWNSEND — New head coach Rob Cantley said the Redhawks are putting in the foundation this season.
“We feel like we are in a building process,” Cantley said. “We are looking to build on fundamentals and change the way Port Townsend has played in the past. We want to focus on possessions and passing and building from the ground up again.”
The Redhawks also will play varsity games against tough squads such as Port Angeles and Sequim, rather than playing JV teams like in recent years.
“If we are going to be able to field a JV we would like our varsity to play their varsity teams,” Cantley said. We know they are good teams but the best way to learn is to play against better teams.”
Cantley said the young team doesn’t lack for leadership.
“Sorina Johnston has a really positive attitude about everything, encourages the younger girls and provides us with good leadership,” Cantley said.
Aurin Asbell, a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and runs track, will be counted on.
“She’s a naturally talented athlete that learns quickly. I think she can develop into a really good player.
Savanna Hoffman, a sophomore track athlete, will play up top at forward.
And Emma Kane, a sophomore, returns as goalkeeper.
“She was kind of thrown to the fire last season, but I appreciate her taking on the position and continuing to improve,” Cantley said.
• Coach: Robert Cantley, first season.
• Last year: 1-13-0 overall, 0-6-0 in Olympic League.
• Player to watch: Nylah Garling, jr., MF/F;
• Returners: Sorina Johnston, jr., MF/D; Emma Kane, soph, GK; Aurin Asbell, soph., MF/D; Savanna Hoffman, soph., F.
• Newcomers to watch: Kaylen Pray, fr.; Isabel McCracken, Fr.; Leah Harrison, Fr.
“We have a trio of freshman that play club soccer in Kitsap and look like real natural players and will probably be starting on the varsity,” Cantley said.
• Outlook: A rebuilding year with multiple sophomore and freshman starters for the Redhawks.
“We want to see how much we can progress this year with working on the basics,” Cantley said. “Clean touches, working to defend without the ball.”
Forks Spartans (1A)
FORKS — Tracy Gillett grew the turnout to 22 players in her first season as head coach last year and the numbers are up again this season — to 25, enough to field a junior varsity team.”
“We had success not only in recruitment but with two wins,” Gillett said. “We re-created the environment, work ethic, support and culture for the team. Most of the girls consider the team their second family.”
The squad boasts some talented athletes in players like Iesha Johnson and newcomer Aspen Rondeau, a big part of the Forks’ softball team’s state run last spring.
“We are working towards strengthening our team and understanding for the sport, as well as encouraging continued community support,” Gillett said.
“In changing our soccer culture we had a co-ed camp this summer to encourage our girls and boys teams to play as one. We know that to have a strong soccer team you need to have a strong soccer program, in general. Two of our managers play on the boys soccer team in the spring and have contributed their skills and expertise.”
• Coach: Tracy Gillett, second season.
• Last year: 2-9-0 overall, 1-3-0 in Evergreen League.
• Returners: Jeidi Ahilon, soph.; Lindsey (Raven) Edwards, soph.; Eugenia Elena, soph.; Yareli Hernandez, soph.; Isabella Perete, soph.,; Litzy Recinos, soph.; Candida-Rose Sandoval, soph.,Cristina Udave Ramos, soph.; Kiona Claggett, jr.; Lucy Franklin, jr.; Mercy Franklin, jr.; Iesha Johnson, jr.,; Miriam Martin, jr.,; Elizabeth Jackson-Cruz, sr.,
• Newcomers to watch: Annhelica Wells, sr.; Yulissa Hernandez-Beltran, sr.; Vanessa Avila, frosh.; Areli Cendejas, frosh;
Leslie Hernandez-Beltran, frosh; Tanya Olivera, frosh; Myranda Walsh, frosh; Brynley Ponton, frosh.; Rhianna Dreher, soph.; Mynoa Owens, soph.; Aspen Rondeau, soph.; Saramichelle Tabor, soph.
• Outlook: “It’s hard to say how the league will shake out but we know that we will be up against many other strong teams with very talented athletes,” Gillett said. “We look forward to playing them and learning from each other while building sportsmanship for a mutual passion in soccer. I am grateful for the opportunity to coach these girls and so thankful for the support from our coaches, managers, parents, co-workers and community during this adventure.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]