Grant Larson, shown here playing for the Oly-Pen Force, will soon head back to Idaho for his sophomore season at Northwest Nazarene. (Mark Krulish | Kitsap News Group)

Grant Larson, shown here playing for the Oly-Pen Force, will soon head back to Idaho for his sophomore season at Northwest Nazarene. (Mark Krulish | Kitsap News Group)

Grant Larson is getting used to life as a college soccer player

EAST BREMERTON — Former South Kitsap soccer star Grant Larson learned first-hand this past year about the concept of taking his game to the next level.

Larson, the former Wolves striker, is getting ready to head back to Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, for his sophomore season a little wiser and stronger after a solid freshman campaign.

He saw for himself that moving up through the ranks meant, among other things, the weeding out of lower quality players and the skill and dedication it takes to compete in the college game.

“When you get to college, all the bad players are out of the picture,” Larson said. “So you’re always playing against somebody just as good or better than you are.”

The competition isn’t the only thing that gets tougher. Each and every practice has to be taken as an opportunity to prove yourself to the coaching staff. Considering how much better each individual is at the next level, loafing it in training is a one-way ticket to the bench. There will always be someone to take your spot.

“It’s tough because you’re friends with everybody and you don’t want to take another person’s spot,” Larson said.

But that sort of friendly rivalry, combined with the common goal of winning, can often bond a team. The key to getting so many talented players to pull in the same direction is getting them to accept the role they’re given.

Coming from being the focal point of the South Kitsap attack, Larson made the adjustment to find his own way of contributing to his new team.

“You have to learn to play a role within the team,” Larson said.

Larson appeared in 18 games for the Nighthawks, who play in the Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, scoring one goal and adding one assist in a substitution role.

The team struggled as a whole, finishing with a 3-9 conference record (3-14-1 overall), but Larson called the season a great learning experience and a good start to his college career.

“Personally, it was great for me,” Larson said. “As a team, not so good.”

This summer, Larson laced up his cleats for the Oly-Pen Force, a Bremerton-based development team in the Evergreen Premier League, appearing in a few matches, as well as an exhibition against the U23 Seattle Sounders reserves. It served as a way to keep in shape and get some touches on the ball while away from Nampa.

But before he knew it, his summer “break” was nearly gone and it was time to ramp back up and head off to school.

“I leave early August, right back at it,” Larson said.

Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.