These Spartans can be dangerous.
“We learned that our offense can strike from anywhere,” junior forward Preston Fekkes said of his assessment after the first week of the season. “We learned that our defense can really hold. And we learned that we have to get back up and keep fighting after a tough loss.”
The Stanwood boys soccer team is off to a solid start, going 1-1-1 last week with five goals. Last year, the Spartans scored their fifth goal of the season in their ninth game.
“I think we have a lot of energy right now,” Fekkes said. “We need to keep that going.”
The Spartans opened their season with a 4-3 home victory March 12 over Oak Harbor. They followed that up Thursday with a 1-1 draw against Archbishop Murphy and capped the long week with a 5-0 nonleague loss to 4A Mariner on Saturday — the Marauders’ season-opener.
“They fought extremely hard against Archbishop,” head coach Steve Brown. “It was an emotionally and physically draining game with two overtimes.”
Archbishop Murphy scored 15 minutes into the match, and it remained 1-0 until 5 minutes to go when freshman Abdi Maier poked home a throw-in that bounced its way through the box to the back post.
Two days earlier against Oak Harbor, the Spartans also connected on a few set plays. Stanwood’s first two goals came off corner kicks — TJ Rowley (2nd minute) and Christian Steiner (20th minute). Oak Harbor answered each score by feeding a through-ball between Spartan defenders leading to a breakaway opportunity for a Wildcat striker and a 2-2 tied a half.
The Spartans tightened their back line in the second half and better controlled the ball. Christopher Daniel (62nd minute) and Ben Dahlberg (66th minute) pushed the lead to 4-2 in the second half before surrendering a late Wildcat goal on a ricochet off the keeper.
Stanwood Boys Soccer win 4-3 congratulations to our Adrenaline Fundraising North Sound Physical Therapy POG Ben Dahlberg pic.twitter.com/njePXd0x24— TCSN Sports (@TCSNNet) March 13, 2019
“The big focus is defense,” Brown said on this week’s practices. “Secondly, it’s possessing the ball better. … I feel like if we do those two things, we should be able to get goals with our forwards.”
Those points of emphasis will dominate team walkthroughs as his club faces another week with three matches.
“It’s all league games from here on out,” Brown said. “We’re still rotating some guys around, but I think they’re good to go.”
The Spartans also will soon get back a few players who were out due to illness, including forward Shintaro Wilcox — a “huge offensive threat,” Brown said.
“We’re excited” Fekkes said. “We’re a more offensive club than last year. Our defense plays up a lot, but they have the speed to get back for all the runs. If we keep up that speed and energy we’ll be good.”
Down 4-0 in the bottom of the second, the Spartans began to battle.
“I really like how they responded to being down,” head coach Matt Brennan said. “Just continuing to work, trusting things will turn around.”
Amid a backdrop of a boisterous dugout and large home crowd, Stanwood scored in the next four frames to take a 7-6 lead over Snohomish in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Then things unraveled.
“We were in it,” junior Preston Pierce said. “It just got away from us in the end. I like how we battled back, though.”
The Panthers tagged the Spartans for six runs in the top half of the sixth to win 12-7. Though it was a subdued ending, Stanwood has plenty to build on.
“We’re a young team but it’s a good environment with a lot of energy,” Pierce said. “We need to keep working on the little things.”
Stanwood opened their season with a doubleheader March 9 in Bellingham against Sehome. The Spartans dropped the first game 6-0, but they took the nightcap 6-3.
“We had some timely hits in that game,” Brennan said. “We got on base. Once we get on base, we can put the game into motion. We have good team speed. We want to force the action on other teams.”
Darren Smith (two RBIs), Aidan Carter (two RBIs) and Nick Johnson (one RBI) came up big at the plate. Lefty pitcher Carter tossed two shutout innings, and Jake Cleary added three solid innings to help seal the victory, Brennan said.
“Overall, we’re giving teams too many extra outs — walks, hit batters, errors,” he said. “And that’s all you need to take advantage of a game in high school ball. We need to cut down on errors. If we do that and get baserunners on we’ll be fine.”
However, the high team energy and a deep bullpen are solid building blocks this early in the season, Brennan said.
“You should see some good things coming up,” he said.
“I think we’re ready to take the next step,” Pierce concurred. “We’re deeper in pitching than we thought, and the younger kids have really stepped up.”
Stanwood takes on Marysville-Pilchuck in a three-game series this week. The Spartans will travel Tuesday and Friday to face the Tommies, and they will host them Wednesday. The Wednesday and Friday games will be broadcast on TCSNsports.com.
The Spartans suffered a trio of losses last week, but they showed some pop at the plate.
Stanwood fell 16-9 to Squalicum on March 11, 23-5 to Lakewood on March 12 and 13-0 to Anacortes on March 14. Those came on the heels of a jamboree where the Spartans topped Squalicum 11-10 the week before.
“We had a great jamboree — minimal errors, good at-bats,” head coach Cherlynn Schander said.
In the season-opening loss to Squalicum, Shaye Martin went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Paige Almanza hit a solo homer. Morgan Saunders and Anna Foster each collected a hit. Anna Foster and Paige Almanza split pitching duty.
Against Lakewood, Saunders blasted a pair of homers to account for all five Spartan runs.
“(Freshman) Paige (Almanza) has been a nice surprise,” Schaner said. “She’s hit really well and done great in the circle.”
Overall, the team is trending in the right direction, she said.
“We have a lot of young kids new to the team who just have to learn to play together,” Schander said. “They’re already getting more confidence in the batting box — that’s the next big step.”
The Spartans host Burlington-Edison at 4 p.m. Tuesday (listen at TCSNsports.com), host Cascade at 4 p.m. Wednesday and travel to Mount Vernon on Friday.