Gig Harbor High boys soccer coach Todd Northstrom believes his team hasn’t played its best through the season’s first three games, but the Tides are getting the results that really matter.
Gig Harbor is the only team to earn a full six points through two matches in the Class 4A Narrows League, and Friday’s 3-2 victory over visiting Bellarmine Prep was the Tides’ first against the Lions since a playoff game on May 8, 2010.
Senior forward Bjorn Brynestad scored twice, including the game-winning goal in the 58th minute, as the Tides (3-0 overall, 2-0 league) responded to every challenge Bellarmine (2-1, 0-1) threw their way.
Both teams are working with revamped rosters. The Lions have only three seniors after 14 players graduated last spring, and the Tides often have six sophomores on the pitch together.
Northstrom said his young lineup didn’t always play poised, especially in the final minutes when the Tides had some “jittery” defending, but the coach was pleased with the victory and felt it could be a confidence-builder.
“Overall, when we’re moving the ball and we’re possessing the ball, we’re pretty dangerous,” Northstrom said. “I think we generated a lot of opportunities today and, overall, it’s a good win, but we can definitely do better.”
Gig Harbor had the ball for much of the first half and threatened to score on long-range shots from Tanner Stepp, Edwin Brown and Elliott Duea.
But the Tides didn’t have anything to show for their efforts until the 36th minute. Brown, a speedy sophomore forward, beat his defender down the left side and sent a short pass into the 6-yard box, where sophomore Steve Horwrath finished an easy tap-in.
“I saw Edwin just making a run and beating all his people,” Horwrath said, “so I tried to pinch in and juke some people, and I just happened to be there to finish it.”
The lead lasted only a minute. The Lions sent a long pass into the Tides’ box, and the ball bounced to a wide-open Drew Barker, who slammed it in from 12 yards away.
However, the Tides answered just before the halftime whistle. Defender Jon Brown lofted a free kick into the box and Brynestad deflected it in, using his size to shield Lions goalkeeper Jacob Hilyer from the ball.
Northstrom didn’t make any major changes at the half, Edwin Brown said.
“We just kind of shut off after we scored,” he said. “(Northstrom) told us to just keep on going and don’t give up, keep our heads in the game.”
Bellarmine picked up the pace as the second half started and tied the score again in the 46th minute. Brendan Hartley muscled his way past a defender in the right corner, then crossed the ball to Eric Musica, who beat Tides keeper Matt Stephens from five yards.
The momentum shifted back to Gig Harbor after that. In the 55th minute, a yellow card to Lions defender Connor Thompson set up a dangerous set piece, and Stepp launched a shot off the crossbar.
Three minutes later, the Tides regained the lead as Brynestad stole a pass along the back line and raced in alone against Hilyer, slotting the ball low to the far post.
Brynestad, who has a team-leading five goals through three matches, is a possession-based threat, but he can surprise opponents with his speed. He’s also showing why he’s a team captain.
“He brings me up,” Horwrath said. “When I get down on myself, he just keeps me motivated, and he’s a good teammate.”
The Tides didn’t give up many chances after Brynestad’s second goal, but Stephens made a clinching save with three minutes to go when he dove to stop Barker’s 25-yard blast.
“He did great in goal; I’m really proud of him,” Edwin Brown said. “We really needed that. He kept his head in the game.”
The Tides were scheduled to host Stadium Tuesday after press time. They’ll travel to Central Kitsap at 3:30 p.m. Thursday before they return home for a match against Olympia at 3:30 p.m. Monday.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.