If Gig Harbor’s 5-1 stomping of Olympia in the non-league season opener on March 9 was any indicator, the Tides are going to be a tough team to beat this season.
While some of Gig Harbor’s peers in the Class 3A South Sound Conference are dealing with massive roster turnover, the Tides are returning the bulk of last year’s roster — most notably, in the defense and midfield.
Gig Harbor returns last year’s SSC 3A defensive player of the year in senior center back Logan Kinney, as well as first-team defender Nate Jones, now a junior; second-team midfielder Cole Dimatteo and second-team defender Jordan Dowd.
The back line, in particular, should be one of the area’s best, with Kinney, Jones and Dowd all returned, alongside a solid rotation of other players who can fill those roles.
“Returning three out of four players on a back line that only gave up four (league) goals, nine goals in the entire state run we had, that’s a very comforting thing,” said second-year Gig Harbor coach Joe Ross, who was named the league’s coach of the year last spring. “Knowing the experience they have will definitely be a factor for our opponents.”
Kinney said the back line is almost always on the same page.
“It’s good to work with them,” he said. “We play well together.”
Jones, the team’s left back, said he plans to get forward in the attack more often this year. While Gig Harbor’s defense and midfield remains mostly intact from a season ago, the Tides did lose some of their attacking options from last year’s group, including Max Frank and Dylan Horwath.
“We’re rebuilding a bit up top, but our back line is still strong, so we can build out of the back,” Jones said. “It’s easier to build from the back up. And even if you don’t score, if you don’t concede, you’re still going to have a good game.”
That’s not to say Gig Harbor won’t find some new goal goal scorers this year, as evidenced by the Tides’ five-goal effort in the opener against Olympia. In the win over the Bears, Thomas Dean scored twice, while Ben Lazar, Logan Kinney and Nick Lavinder all scored a goal apiece.
“That’s what’s going to be exciting about this year,” Ross said. “We’ve got a lot of speed, and a lot of flexibility in regards to the players attacking on the outsides and my forwards. … Clearly, I’ll have the speed, ability and experience to go with one on top, two on top, may even end up going with three on top in a 4-3-3. That’s the fun part that’s already exciting, just to see what’s going to work best and tactically approach each game.”
Gig Harbor also lost its leading assist-man from a season ago in midfielder Trevin Snell. That creativity from the midfield is the only piece of the puzzle that Ross still feels is somewhat absent.
“That’s the only real piece right now,” Ross said. “The thing that’s different about this team is the depth. There’s virtually no drop-off. It allows me to have four or five utility players that can go back line, midfield or in the attacking positions.”
Last year’s team was one of the top teams in the state, reaching the Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals, where Gig Harbor fell to Garfield, 1-0. This year’s team feels like it could be even better.
“We take a lot of pride in having a high standard,” Jones said. “We have a great work ethic this year. Everyone works really hard every day. Some of the guys don’t play club soccer, but they come to practice, they’re running after practice, shooting after practice. That work ethic will make the team as good, if not better than last year.”
Kinney said this year’s group is as composed as any group he’s seen in his time in high school.
“I think we’re more matured, smarter,” he said. “I think we’ll do well this season. It just feels like people have really stepped up. With last year’s team, we were sometimes too reliant on a few key players. But everyone works well together, everyone does their part.”