POULSBO — There is something to be said for peaking at the right time, although there are some Vikings that believe even greater heights can be reached in the coming weeks.
North Kitsap closed the season with three consecutive victories, including a 1-0 win over North Mason on Senior Night and a 2-1 victory over 3A Central Kitsap, finishing the spring with a 3-0 shutout of Port Angeles.
Though they have plenty of soccer experience, the players lacked familiarity with one another at the outset of the season. Scoring goals has occasionally been a struggle — they finished fourth in the Olympic League with 29 goals in 12 league games, well behind Kingston, Sequim and Port Angeles — but the offense was firing on all cylinders against the Roughriders, and it may be a sign of things to come.
“I think it’s just taken our team a little longer to find that hot spot,” forward Nate Blanchard said.
While Port Angeles dominated possession for the first 10 minutes of the game, the Vikings got an early opportunity to take the lead and converted.
In the 14th minute, North Kitsap made a run down the field and Wyatt Murphy crossed a ball in from the left wing. The cross missed its intended target, but Port Angeles failed to properly clear the ball and it was flagged down by Blanchard, who stepped up and put the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Blanchard has been a key ingredient to the North Kitsap offense lately. A late-season tactical change moved him into more of an attacking role and he was in the thick of things once again against the Roughriders.
“It really created a big spark,” Vikings head coach Greg St. Peter said.
But the offense coming together has been a season-long process. One that has begun to bear fruit and will hopefully be sustained through the postseason.
“I think it’s just a change of mentality,” Blanchard said. “High school soccer is such a short season that for some teams, it takes time to really start figuring that stuff out.”
About 13 minutes after Blanchard’s tally, senior forward George Beddoe turned a Port Angeles mistake into another goal. As the Roughriders keeper rolled the ball back into play, a defender quickly turned over the ball to the Vikings. Beddoe did not get much mustard on his off-balance shot, but the goalie was still out of position near the top of the penalty area and the ball slowly rolled into the net.
Set pieces were another strength for North Kitsap in the regular season finale and it finally scored on one in the second half. Race Schultz’s corner kick was put in the perfect spot for Ben Harrel, who bulled his way through and went up and over the defense to head the ball into the net.
“It’s nice to end the season on a winning streak, we’ve been playing really well,” St. Peter said. “The timing is perfect. Our seed being third is not bad at all. It’s up to us if we want to get to state and the guys are doing all the right things. We’re starting to come together as a team at the right time. It took a while, but they got it.”
After the game, North Kitsap still had the opportunity to move up to second place in the Olympic League, but Sequim defeated Bremerton on Tuesday night, 5-1, to lock in the Vikings at No. 3. They will take on the fourth-best team from the South Puget Sound League 2A on at 2 p.m. on May 5 at Franklin Pierce High School.
“Whoever we play, whenever we play, we’ll be ready,” Blanchard said.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.