EAST BREMERTON — It may be summer, but soccer players of the Evergreen Premier League are still hard at work on the training grounds.
The Oly-Pen Force men’s team is off to a 3-2-1 start six games into their nine-game EPL schedule after securing a 5-1 blowout win over, ironically, the Vancouver Victory.
The win keeps the Force in good position to nab one of the two playoff spots out of the Rainier Conference. They are currently tied with PacNW SC for first place and are one point ahead of Washington Premier with three games to go.
The Force play the Seattle Sounders U23 reserves in a friendly as part of Tracyton Night at 7 p.m. on June 25 at Gordon Field in East Bremerton. They play their next two league games on the road before returning for their final regular season game at 3 p.m. on July 13.
“It’s not as serious, but it’s fun,” said former Kingston High School star Alex Hernandez, one of the local players currently playing for the Force. “That mentality is there, though.”
A chippy, physical game went largely in favor of the Force as they were able to take advantage of a couple of Vancouver’s missed assignments.
Rainier Schlekewey connected with forward Joe Sammartino twice in the first half on similar plays. Schelekewey was able to play long through balls right down the middle of the field. The first pass bounced chest-high and Sammartino had to poke it past the keeper with his leg parallel to the ground. The second feed was much cleaner and Sammartino took it on the run past a defender to beat the helpless keeper.
In the 61st minute, Jaisen Zurfluh swung a corner into a good spot in the penalty area for Cole Dobson to get his head on it and flick it into the net to give the Force a 3-1 lead.
Zurfluh scored the final two goals of the game in the last 30 minutes. In the 66th, he took a feed from Eamon Stein and cut across the face of goal and blasted a left-footed strike back against his body to put his team up 4-1. In the 81st minute, he was fouled in the box and subsequently converted on the penalty kick.
Oly-Pen Force women pushed to the brink after dropping a heartbreaker to the Washington Timbers
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Oly-Pen Force women conceded a late goal on a beautiful Timbers cross that puts them firmly in chase mode for one of the Northwest Premier League’s final two playoff spots.
The Force return to action today (Sunday) at 3 p.m. at Gordon Field against Black Hills FC in a game that was postponed earlier in the year. Their regular season finale is on the road next week against Twin City Union in Centralia. Regulation wins in both games could be enough to get them into the postseason.
It looked like the Force were headed for a draw before that shocking late Timbers goal. Former Central Kitsap star Lauren Hudson had tied the match at two in the 68th minute in typical fashion — Hudson won a physical one-on-one battle on a ball in the air, brought in down and fired a rocket into the net.
The Timbers had scored in the second minute of the game, but former South Kitsap player Emily Wilkins knotted the game at one after flagging down a bad outlet pass from the keeper and teeing up a shot from close range.