Gig Harbor High 2014 grad Mark Sluys was a captain and starting catcher for the Tides baseball team. His steady presence behind the plate eventually earned him a spot on the Brown University baseball team.
But his younger brother, Jack, didn’t care for the slow pace of baseball. So he took up soccer instead.
“It’s a game where you don’t have to wait for the ball to come to you, you can go get the ball,” Jack said. “That’s mostly why I did it. The game keeps moving.”
Sluys, a junior center back for the Tides, is the first junior team captain since 2003 graduate Tally Hall, who has gone on to play professionally in Major League Soccer. Growing up, soccer was always one of the sports Sluys played. His father’s family is from Holland, so soccer — and the color orange — are a big deal in the Sluys house.
Like his brother, Sluys leads by example. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the team isn’t practicing, Sluys is usually still at the high school, working on drills.
You like to have those kids who set the example of what you need to do when no one is watching.
Todd Northstrom, Gig Harbor coach
“He wants to play at the next level,” Gig Harbor coach Todd Northstrom said. “You like to have those kids who set the example of what you need to do when no one is watching.”
In addition to his obvious talents — quickness, speed, skill on the ball — perhaps the most important thing Sluys brings to the table is his calm manner and mature approach to the game.
“He’s calm, patient,” Northstrom said. “He can get out of sketchy situations. It’s a demeanor thing. You have to have a calmness in the back. He brings that.”
For Sluys, commanding the back line is all about keeping things in perspective.
Soccer is a simple game. It’s only complicated if you make it complicated.
Jack Sluys, Gig Harbor junior defender
“I keep it simple and smart,” Sluys said. “Soccer is a simple game. It’s only complicated if you make it complicated. Always one-two touch, move the ball fast, just keep it simple.”
With the graduation of Gig Harbor’s massive class of 17 seniors from last year’s team, Sluys will step into more of a leadership role this season. But losing that group of seniors doesn’t have the coaches or players worried.
“I think we’re just as loaded as last year,” said senior goalie Travis Peyton. “We have a lot of seniors coming from JV, and the JV squad was great last year. I think it’s a really strong team. I think we have a lot of compatibility with each other. I have high hopes for this team this year.”
Reloading — not rebuilding — is just the way the Tides do business.
“We’re going to gel and we’re going to compete,” Northstrom said. “I think a lot of people think we’re not going to compete because we lost all those seniors. But our expectations are always to be top three. Maybe we’re not as deep as we were, but I think we will be. Once we get on the same page, these guys’ soccer IQ will take over. They weren’t on varsity because they weren’t good ... we were just so stacked.”