By AARON MANAGHAN
Cougars don’t have short memories. That’s something that should help the Central Kitsap boys soccer team.
CK, coming off last year’s disappointing season-ending 1-0 shootout loss to Lincoln, returns a deep squad loaded with 10 seniors, keeping the memory fresh.
“I think so,” CK boys soccer coach Christopher Floro said of using the loss as motivation. “I think they realized at times we pressed a little bit.”
But with as deep a squad as Floro’s ever had, also including eight juniors, the Cougars are ready to leave their mark on Narrows League competition.
“We have talent across the board,” Floro said. “Sometimes it’s tough making the decision between who’s starting and who isn’t.”
A problem the coach enjoys having.
So far, CK (2-1-0) is off to a solid start in the 2008 campaign, knocking off Olympic 3-0 in the Battle of Bucklin Hill last Monday.
“It was a good way to kick off the season with the Battle of Bucklin Hill,” Floro said. “They were fired up. And the came out in the first half and showed it.”
CK controlled much of the game, Floro said, a trend that continued when the Cougs took down Mount Tahoma 6-1 last Wednesday.
“We controlled the first half, but we didn’t finish as effectively as we should have,” Floro said. “We turned it on when we needed to.”
And even with Saturday’s 5-0 loss to perennial powerhouse Bellarmine, Floro feels like the Cougars can compete with the league’s best this season, citing a questionable red card and spotty officiating in the loss.
“Last year we had a couple near misses with those guys,” Floro said, also referring to tough Narrows teams like South Kitsap, Wilson, Gig Harbor and Olympia. “We’ve got the firepower up front to take on those guys.”
With so many seniors back, the Cougars have much more depth than they did in falling 1-0 last year to the Wolves, Bears and Tides.
“Again, I’m pretty confident this year,” Floro said. “The powerhouses will be the typical powerhouses. But I feel good about this team. We have excellent depth.”
That depth has allowed CK to do a few different things this year.
For example, last year’s full-time keeper senior Zach Pendt is now helping anchor the defense thanks to the strong play of goalie Grant Rico, whom Floro said has improved greatly this season. CK also has Jan Pecha back in the net, an exchange student from The Czech Republic.
“Zach is just stalwart,” Floro said of adding him to the defense. “He’s solid back there on defense.”
It also allows Zach to line up on the field with his brother Lee, also expected to be a big player in CK’s successes this season.
In turn, that’s allowed senior Kane Williams to move up from defense, helping lead the charge on the attack. Williams had a key goal to break a 1-1 halftime tie in the 6-1 blowout against the T-Birds last week.
Ryan Hough, who along with Niles Stirrett made the CK varsity as freshmen last year, is looking even stronger as a sophomore.
Adam Cronin, Lee Pendt and Andrew Kitchen help shore up the midfield along with senior Ivan Gomez, whose found a scoring knack early this season. Also returning are key contributors Colin Barry, Drew Blaisdell, Colin Flynn, Chase Ichiki and Patrick Triggs.
But even with so many returners, Floro also had some surprises, as last year’s varsity forward Jeff Eagleson opted to play golf this spring.
“I was a little surprised there,” Floro said.
With so many guys playing together on CK’s team last year, Floro said the Cougars have been able to advanced quickly thanks to solid team chemistry.
“These guys have faith in each other,” he said. “I feel confident we can do that against the best in this league.”
CK hosted Lincoln last night in a rematch of last year’s NL playoff contest. Results were unavailable at press time. CK travels to Bremerton tonight at 7 p.m.