Skilled underclassmen step up to fill empty ranks

  • Sun Mar 11th, 2007 4:00am
  • Sports

The Falcons soccer team practices dribbling during a skills drill as part of the focus on physical conditioning this year.

When 60 prospective players showed up for soccer on the first day of spring practice, second-year Falcons Coach Joel Gerlach was pleasantly surprised.

“After 12 seniors graduated last year, I was a little concerned but this crop of players has demonstrated better skills, though as a group they’re not as big,” he said.

After necessary cuts were made Gerlach has placed 16 on varsity, 16 on junior varsity and the balance on the “C” team.

“Best looking C team we’ve ever had,” Gerlach said.

Gerlach wants his younger players to know they are being watched. “It’s important to give those guys some playing time.”

Whether someone plays depends on the situation on the field, the competition and a player’s general attitude, he said. “They have to demonstrate they’re showing up on time, paying attention and working hard.”

Junior Dylan Fate is the designated varsity goalkeeper, Ian Marsanyi for JV and three sharp freshman on the C squad — Jesse Brass, Keegan Harshman and Jonah Jolley. Gerlach was also pleased that Malaysian exchange student Faisal Hassan joined the team.

“He shows great promise and may provide an extra dimension for us,” Gerlach said.

Senior Ethan Low had a few thoughts on this year’s team.

“There are only three returning members of the varsity so we’re filling in a lot of holes,” he said. “The new volunteer coach, Marvin Moreno, was on the Costa Rican national team and he knows things.”

Gerlach has instituted a new emphasis this year on fitness, strength and cardiovascular training so when several days were lost to snow, the team was able to maintain a quality practice schedule.

Returning veteran Dino Michaelides has noticed the change.

“The team seems to have a different ‘vibe’ this year,” Michaelides said. “Last season’s team was kind of laid back.”

“Yeah, I think we’re working a lot harder and smarter,” Low added.

And that’s the point, according to the coach.

“We’ve stepped up the physical aspect quite a bit, while making sure game basics aren’t ignored,” Gerlach said. “Everyone on the field recognizes the value of getting the most out of every practice, especially in bad weather when the surface is unusable.”

Gerlach noted that field conditions are much improved; South Whidbey Parks & Rec groundskeeper Tom Fallon made major inroads at the Intermediate School and upper park practice fields.

“It’s a huge help to have good traction,” Gerlach said.

Coaches and players are determined to better last year’s 8-2-6 record and hope the switch down to 2A classification helps.

But Gerlach is realistic. “Last year we beat everyone once and lost to everyone once, a cycle we want to end.”

Kings and Coupeville are the new guys on the Cascade Conference block but Archbishop Murphy and Granite Falls will provide the real test.

The boys are on the road for their first three contests, then welcome league opponent Kings on March 27, at Waterman Field.