Take a look around at the summer soccer leagues across Washington. Many of them have rosters filled with college players looking to stay in shape and get on the pitch with skilled players to keep sharp during their break from school.
For others however, such as Alex Hernandez, it’s simply an opportunity to reconnect with the sport for which they have a passion.
Hernandez, who starred at Kingston and graduated in 2016, attended Olympic College after high school, which cut its men’s and women’s soccer programs in 2015. With really no other options for college soccer on the Kitsap Peninsula, he never got the chance to play at the next level.
But chances are, if you’ve attended a game at Gordon Field over the past few summers, you’ve probably seen Hernandez showing off the speed and ball-handling skills that made him a standout for the Bucs.
“[It’s] my passion for the game,” Hernandez said. “It’s still pretty fun, especially having all these guys coming out from their colleges to play.”
Hernandez caught on with the Kitsap Pumas for what turned out to be their final season in Bremerton and showed the ability to play in the Northwest Premier Soccer League. He also playing in an indoors league during the winter.
When the club folded during the offseason, it looked as if Hernandez might be without a team come the summer time.
Fortunately, the Oly-Pen Force came calling to fill the void of developmental soccer in Kitsap.
Hernandez was a stalwart for the Force this season, which was largely made up of players from Pacific Lutheran University and Tacoma Community College. Without them, it would have been less likely that the local players would have had the chance to play.
“We don’t have many local guys that play, so we’re fortunate to have them come here and have them play with us,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez wasn’t the only local player on the Force. In fact, he wasn’t even the only member of his family as his twin brother, Leo, played in the final game against Spokane Shadow.
South Kitsap’s Grant Larson was also a regular for the Force this season. And Gabriel Threadgold, a player for the Sounders Academy who attended Central Kitsap High School, also turned up for a couple of matches.
As long as there’s a team to play for, it’s likely you’ll continue to see Hernandez line up at midfield for them.
“That mentality is there,” Hernandez said.
Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.