The Fife High School boys soccer team made it look easy last season.
Loaded with talent, the Trojans cruised to a 21-0 record on their way to capturing the school’s first Class 2A state championship in soccer.
Things likely won’t be quite as easy this season, as Fife lost nearly its entire roster to graduation. That reality isn’t lost on this year’s squad.
“We know we’re not as good as last year so we just have to adjust and learn how to play as a team,” said junior center midfielder Edgar Garcia, one of the few returning starters.
Garcia — a force in the middle on offense and defense, who scored the winning goal in the state semifinals last year — has embraced the role of being a more vocal team leader and helping younger players adjust to their role in the system.
“It’s a challenge,” Garcia said. “I’m always into challenges.”
But the fresh faces this year come with a wealth of soccer experience. A large chunk of the Fife roster is made up of players who have years of local club soccer experience.
“I’ve never had this many club players,” said Fife coach Tony Crudo, who’s entering his seventh year.
The new crop of players also bring with them a deep love of soccer — something that has been cultivated for years on local fields in Fife during marathon pickup games every day of the week.
“I tell other coaches, ‘It’s really not fair, you guys get 10 (practice) days before your first game. I get 11 months and 20 days,’” Crudo said. Of his players, he added, soccer is “what they do. It’s their life.”
And while those players are coming into a system that has lost just one game over the past two seasons, Crudo routinely preaches that his system is not about the outcome — more about how his team plays the game.
“I’ve always told the guys the word ‘win’ or ‘lose’ doesn’t come up,” he said. “It’s not part of our discussion. We play with speed, creativity, passion and skill. If you play with those things every game, you usually win.”
While recent history — and the return of all-league junior goalkeeper Ulises Zepeda — has to give the edge to Fife as the favorite to claim the SPSL 2A title, White River and Steilacoom also are expected to contend this year as well.
Steilacoom lost just three players to graduation, and the Sentinels have a strong core of returning starters under second-year coach Kyle Johnson, a former University of Puget Sound standout.
“The boys are hungrier and they believe in themselves more” than last year, Johnson said.
PREP SOCCER PREVIEW
Team to watch
No school has won more Class 4A state boys soccer titles than Jefferson (seven) — and the Raiders are loaded for a run at No. 8. Their entire front line returns, but they also get back premier goal-scorer Isidro Prado-Huerta and goalkeeper McKay Owsley. With their firepower, the reigning SPSL champions likely will see opponents play them with 8-9 players behind the ball.
SPSL North — Jefferson. SPSL South — Federal Way. Narrows 4A — Stadium. SPSL 3A — Bonney Lake. Narrows 3A — North Thurston. SPSL 2A — Fife. Evergreen Conference — Aberdeen. Nisqually 1A — Seattle Christian.
Player to watch
Jefferson’s Isidro Prado-Huerta left after two seasons with the Seattle Sounders Academy to get his grades up — and has decided to turn out for the high school team as a senior. The goal-scoring machine is powerful with quick feet, and will see lots of attention near the penalty box.
Other top players
Class 4A: MF Drew Barker, Bellarmine Prep, jr.; MF Jacob Beardemphl, Stadium, sr.; D Garrett Brewer, Federal Way, jr.; F Bjorn Brynestad, Gig Harbor, sr.; F Mac Henderson, Mount Tahoma, sr.; F Alex Lewis, Federal Way, sr.; F Branden Madsen, Jefferson, sr.; MF Spencer Nakamura, Rogers, sr.; F Luis Alvaro Osornio, Jefferson, sr.; GK McKay Owsley, Jefferson, sr.; D Connor Thompson, Bellarmine Prep, so.; D Isak Visser, Puyallup, sr.
Class 3A: D Jordan Geissinger, Timberline, jr.; D Caleb Gwerder, Enumclaw, sr.; MF Kenny Heo, North Thurston, sr.; D Matt Meyers, Peninsula, sr.; MF Dalton Ogden, Bonney Lake, sr.; MF Evan Pichette, Wilson, so.; D Sam Shea, Peninsula, sr.; D Spencer Smith, Decatur, sr.
Class 2A: F Edgar Garcia, Fife, jr.; F Zak Morris, White River, sr.; MF J.J. Schmeck, Orting, sr.
Class 1A : MF Gubidxa Gutierrez-Seymour, Charles Wright Academy, jr.