BREMERTON — After suffering back-to-back losses against two top South Sound Conference teams, Central Kitsap needed a change.
In late September, the Cougars were outscored 11-2 by Gig Harbor, which has won all seven of its league games, and Peninsula, which is currently tied with Central Kitsap for second place.
The formation Central Kitsap was running, a 4-3-3, was not working out, said head coach Vicky Webb. While professional and college clubs can stick with certain coaching philosophies because they can draft and recruit players to fit their specific system, such luxuries are not afforded to high school coaches.
“Coaching high school, you get who you get,” said Webb. “It’s up to us to figure out where to put them to best utilize their skills.”
With a new formation, the Cougars rebounded two days after the loss to Peninsula with a victory over Timberline. Central Kitsap then made it two in a row on Oct. 3 with a 3-0 shutout victory over Capital.
“The roles are more defined and the players are more comfortable with that,” said Webb following the match with Capital. “It gets us more outside assistance we haven’t had. We’ve got some good players on the outside and it also gives us more people in different places.”
Celebrating her 18th birthday, Seattle University-bound senior Lauren Hudson scored twice for the Cougars. Melina Polzin, filling in for regular keeper Alyssa Russell, who was out with an illness, recorded the clean sheet in net.
“We seem like we’ve wanted more than we have in the past few games, everything is kind of coming together,” said Hudson.
It was junior Autumn Mullins who opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Midfielder Grace Anderson won a 50-50 ball at midfield and popped it loose to Mullins, who used her speed to break away from the defenders and score to put the Cougars ahead.
Hudson, whose dominant foot is her right one, scored both her goals in similar fashion with her left foot. Both came off of throw-ins from the right side of the field where she received the ball and was able to separate herself from the defense. With a little space, Hudson unleashed her rocket of a shot past the keeper.
The young Capital squad rarely threatened Central Kitsap offensively during the match, but Polzin was always ready when called upon. A rover of sorts for the Cougars, she usually lines up on defense, but also serves as the team’s shootout goal keeper.
“She’s very tenacious — what she lacks in size she makes up for in determination, and the team has confidence in her,” said Webb.
With a new formation and newfound confidence, Central Kitsap will get an opportunity for redemption later this month. The Cougars will play host to Gig Harbor and Peninsula on Oct. 17 and 19, during which the top spots in the league standings could be decided. Central Kitsap also will play a rare game against small-school power Klahowya on Oct. 9.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Webb. “It’s a good win for us, I’m really pleased with the effort, the intensity and the focus. We brought up a player from junior varsity who filled in nicely, the pieces are falling into place.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.