South Kitsap once went more than a quarter century between wins against Bellarmine Prep.
And while the Wolves did not notch another upset victory against their Class 4A Narrows League rivals during their 1-all tie Tuesday night, coach Cory Vartanian expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance afterward.
“The last three years it seems like with Bellarmine we come out to play,” said Vartanian, whose team earned a 2-1 victory against the Lions on April 30, 2013, that was their first in the series since 1987. “Hopefully, for our team it’s a confidence booster in that we can play with the top of the conference.”
South (1-3-2 overall, 0-2-2 league) led at halftime behind a goal by junior forward Dylan Peterson in the 22nd minute on a cross.
“That’s what Dylan is,” Vartanian said. “He’s a great finisher. That’s why we have him as a striker up top.”
But Bellarmine (5-1-2, 3-0-2) responded in the 45th. After sophomore goalkeeper Alex Hutchison dove left for a deflection, junior midfielder Paxton Reunanen collected the rebound for an uncontested goal.
“Alex deflected the ball and the defender wasn’t there to clean it up,” Vartanian said.
That miscue prevented Hutchison from earning his second consecutive league shutout — the Wolves played Stadium to a scoreless draw March 26. Hutchison has maintained the job on a full-time basis as junior Kees Metselaar has been sidelined with a knee injury throughout the season.
“He’s improved game by game,” said Vartanian, referring to Hutchison. “It’s a confidence factor — getting used to his back line. He’s holding it down for us.”
While Hutchison has done that, South has searched throughout the season for consistent midfield play. In an effort to gain a different perspective, assistant coach Lee La Deaux observed most of the match from the press box.
“It’s a second pair of eyes for me and we’re on the same page as far as the management of the program and the game,” said Vartanian, adding that he and La Deaux made similar observations on adjustments throughout the match. “He’s just kind of giving me some advice as far as our spacing and whatnot.
“We’re trying to figure out what meshes. We definitely kept track of how many passes were intercepted by the opposing team, how long midfielders were holding onto the ball and defensively if our midfielders were out of shape. Just like any other team, our midfield has to be our heart.”
Vartanian was pleased with his team’s possession and ball movement during the final 25 minutes. Junior midfielders Isaac Sterling and Kristian Hernandez narrowly missed goals that would have enabled the Wolves to claim a victory against the Lions in each of the last three seasons. South will have another opportunity to accomplish that May 7 at Bellarmine.
“It’s good to get away with a point,” Vartanian said. “If we’re capable of playing with this team, we can play with any team in the conference.”
Now, he just wants the Wolves to play as if every opponent were the Lions.
“This team is capable of so much,” Vartanian said. “It’s just a matter of finding those pieces and meshing. When we play together as a team — and when there’s unselfish play — we can compete with the top of the conference.”
At South Kitsap 1, Bellarmine Prep 1
First half-1, South Kitsap, Dylan Peterson (Isaac Sterling), 22nd minute.
Second half-2, Bellarmine Prep, Paxton Reunanen, 45th.