POULSBO — Thirty-eight Vikings soccer players laced up their cleats, pushing themselves through soccer drills with Vikings head coach Pat Stickney shouting words of encouragement and instruction during the second day of girls soccer practice Tuesday. Despite having just 38 players in attendance, Stickney said he feels confident that the Vikings will perform well in Narrows League play this season. Last year, North Kitsap High School had more than 60 players turn out for the team in August.
“I am excited. Our team is composed of a bright group of people,” Stickney said. “It’s delightful working with them.”
Stickney said the Narrows League churns out some of the best soccer players in Washington.
“We play in a fairly competitive league,” he said. “Last year, we went to the playoffs and we expect to go back again this year. We play against a lot of powerhouses. We play against programs who have teams full of premier one players.”
In order to win against schools on the other side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with more experienced players, North will have to do the little things right.
“Our team is going to be balanced,” Stickney said. “We have strength and quickness and will build our team from the defense outward. We will play together and keep building our team camaraderie.”
Two players spearheading this task include midfielder/defender Karina Hoogstede and midfielder Stephanie Skelly. They’re the undisputed leaders of North’s soccer team.
“Stephanie has made all league two years in a row,” Stickney said. “She’s stepped up into that leadership role and is doing what is required of a leader. Stephanie is a powerful goal scorer and has been the engine of this team for the past two years.”
Stickney said senior defenders Ashley Tobin and Sarah Stephens figure to forces in the defensive backfield as well this year.
Senior co-captain Hoogstede is ecstatic the soccer season finally has arrived.
“I love it. We have been preparing for this soccer season all summer,” she said. “It’s going to come all together this year for us. It’s going to be a rewarding season.”
Hoogstede said togetherness and team spirit will be the key to success this year.
“The goal is to learn to play together as one unit,” she said. “I am very optimistic about our chances. We have some great talent on our roster. We’re going to grow was a team and that’s extremely important.”
Fellow senior co-captain Skelly said the Vikings soccer squad began laying the groundwork for the 2007 season in July.
“During the summer Karina and I ran some (informal) practices for our team. It worked out really good. In past years, we might have only had four or five girls show up, but this summer we averaged more than 10 each time we had a practice,” she said. “It was good for team building.”
North soccer players continued that momentum playing together on an indoor high school team in the summer at the Olympic Soccer and Sports Center in Bremerton that ended up winning its division championship.
“We ended up winning the tournament and beating Central Kitsap’s high school team that had won the tournament for three years in a row,” Skelly said. “It’s a great start for us heading into this year.”
Skelly said North has good mix of experienced players and talented underclassman.
“I think we have a very strong junior class and have a group of talented freshman coming up, too,” she said. “It’s going to help us go far this year.”