South Kitsap’s Eliza Villarma and Central Kitsap’s Camryn Castro battle for possession of the ball. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

South Kitsap’s Eliza Villarma and Central Kitsap’s Camryn Castro battle for possession of the ball. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Cougars, Wolves battle to a draw

EAST BREMERTON — A rare Sept. 4 matchup between South Kitsap and Central Kitsap saw two girls soccer teams on similar paths battle to a scoreless draw.

The keepers were solid and the offensive touches in the final third of the field weren’t quite as sharp as they will be a couple of weeks from now as the two squads get more reps on the practice field. Like many other teams in Washington this last month, they spent about a week working out in the gymnasium rather than the pitch due to unhealthy air quality.

In some ways, the two teams are mirror images of one another. Both the Cougars and the Wolves are forging new identities with a young nucleus of talent, and both are playing their first season without a four-year star — Lauren Hudson for Central Kitsap and Savannah Foster for South Kitsap — each of whom served as their respective team’s captain and offensive catalyst.

It was the first game of the 2018 season for a Cougars team that features only three seniors on the varsity roster, though a number of the younger players did see varsity time last year.

Central Kitsap’s best offensive chance came in the 43rd minute when senior Autumn Mullins nearly put the ball past the on-rushing keeper for what would have been an easy empty-net goal. But South Kitsap keeper Megan Nail came off her line to smother the opportunity.

“It was a good start for us; it would have been nice to get one in,” Central Kitsap head coach Keith Sargent said. “They had their opportunities. We had some opportunities as well. It was a pretty even game.”

Marielle Arnold got off a good shot toward the net in the 33rd minute but just sent it wide. The junior midfielder surprised her defender by cutting toward the net from near the corner flag and ripped a left-footed strike that did not miss the net by much.

“You saw some good chemistry going on,” Sargent said. “The center-mids were doing a good job. Naomi [Gutierrez], Marielle and Camryn [Castro] were holding the center down pretty good. It was a good showing for the first game out.”

South Kitsap is off to a 1-0-1 start, having won its opening game, 2-1, against Peninsula. Head coach K-Lee Haynes said she is still looking for the right combination of players on the field. During Tuesday night’s game, senior Teanna Lathum, normally a forward, lined up as a center back.

“I think they’re handling it well,” Haynes said. “The girls I’m rotating in the midfield in the center are doing really well. They still need to be a little better communicating as far as giving direction and passing the ball.”

In the 65th minute, sophomore Lily Lutovsky drove a shot from 25 yards out that forced Central Kitsap’s Kiley Hall to make a diving save to her right. Moments later, Eliza Villarma got another opportunity from in close, but Hall cut down the angle and made the save.

The Wolves also had a near-miss in the first half. A corner kick by Villarma connected with the head of Celina Madrid, who sent the ball just over the net.

Haynes was pleased overall with her team’s performance once its energy picked up. The coach believes her team has the talent to score in bunches once they jell.

“They’re magic when they can find feet,” Haynes said. “No one can stop them when they find feet.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com.

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