By AARON MANAGHAN
Olympic boys soccer coach Steve Haggerty is no stranger to tough competition. In fact, that’s exactly why Olympic has started the 2008 season winless at 0-3-0.
After Oly fell 3-0 in the season opener last Monday against rivals Central Kitsap in the Battle of Bucklin Hill, the Trojans fell 5-0 to a strong South Kitsap squad. Against North Kitsap Saturday, the Trojans nearly snagged a win but fell 3-2.
“The games we have played were against 4A competition and against teams that I expect to be very competitive in the Narrows League,” Haggerty said. “I expect South to do very well at the 4A state level. That being said, all three teams we played played at a higher level of play than we did.”
That will need to change if Oly wants to challenge for another Olympic League playoff berth.
“We will need to raise our level of play in order to compete in the Olympic League,” he said. “Our overall team speed and ball control is not where it needs to be yet in order for us to be successful.”
Haggerty said Peninsula comes into the season as the frontrunners, with each of the league’s 3A teams battling for the top two spots.
“In the league I see Peninsula as the team to beat,” he said. “Bremerton will be much improved and should battle PA and us for a playoff spot. I think that Sequim and Port Townsend should be very competitive and will battle with the top 3A teams for the overall league championship.”
Olympic will certainly be strong too, led by senior Cody Clark, the team’s scoring leader, a year ago. Along with senior Arturo Urquieta, the Trojans have a strong combo for both scoring and leading.
“Cody Clark and Arturo Urquieta are captains and have been setting a standard on how the team is expected to perform,” Haggerty said. “We will depend on (Cody) to score goals for us again this season. Arturo is back in midfield and we are looking at him to be our playmaker in (the midfield).”
Derek Conway-Newton will again be Oly’s dominating defensive presence as a junior. In fact, Haggerty said his role will likely expand this season.
“He is an outstanding defensive presence, we will use him where we need him in the midfield or on defense, depending on our specific game plans,” he said.
Also back are seniors Scott Boekenoogen and Jake Newling as well as juniors Phi Phan and Chris Antonio. Oly graduated nine seniors last year, meaning new players like sophomore keeper Thomas Bryan will be key.
“Based on the number of opposing shots the first three games, Thomas right now is our leading team MVP candidate,” Haggerty said.
With the season still young, Haggerty said Oly is still finding out what its collective strengths are.
“We are still working on identifying our strengths,” he said. “We have been hurt with injury and suspension which have taken two key players. If we can control the midfield and get the ball to Cody in the offensive third we should be OK. We are going to need to improve to a level where we can do that consistently.”
With team goals of advancing beyond districts and back to state, Haggerty said his team needs to step up following its tough non-leaguers.
“Our team is really going to have to raise our level of play if we hope to compete with anyone in this league,” he said. “Right now we are not at the level of play we need to be at in order to be competitive.”
It’s a challenge Haggerty thinks his team will rise too however, particularly its senior core.
“Anytime a player steps out on the field they want to do their best,” he said. “I think Cody and other seniors would like to end their high school careers on a positive note. They are all working hard and setting an example on how the game should be played. It is up to others on the team to follow the example set and raise their level of play.”
In Saturday’s game with North Kitsap, the Vikings built a 3-0 lead with a 70th-minute goal before Oly stormed back late with a goal from Alex Klump in the 77th minute and another from Clark in the 79th.
The Trojans traveled to Bremerton last night but results were unavailable at press time. Oly hosts Port Angeles tomorrow in a 6:45 p.m. contest.