By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Drenching, sideways rain driven by a bitter March wind reminded everyone at Marysville Getchell’s soccer practice last Friday night that it is still winter in the Northwest.
Players on the boys team didn’t seem to notice much, however, as they gleefully laced shots on goal at the close of practice. Each shot that got past goalkeeper Anurag Cheema knocked water off the net at the back of the goal. No one was tired or taking it easy.
The Chargers can’t wait to kick off their inaugural season and they looked and talked the part Friday.
During the 2011-2012 sports season at Marysville’s newest high school, there has been a lot of excitement around athletics but not many wins. Six boys and girls sports (excluding swimming, wrestling and cross country) have a combined five wins between them, and three of those belong to the girls soccer team. It posted a 3-9-3 record and finished seventh in the nine-team Wesco 3A league.
Members of the boys soccer team think that they may have what it takes to not only surpass the girls’ win total, but to also be surprise contenders in the very competitive Wesco 3A.
“It’s kind of a big thing because it’s the inaugural season for us, so we are just excited about building the tradition and everything,” junior center midfielder Arshdeep Cheema said. “(The other sports) have been unsuccessful, so we are also trying to be the most successful team in Getchell history. … We want to set a good name.”
One big reason that the boys soccer team may post better results than the other MG teams that compete in ball sports is its player base. The Chargers picked up some talented players who were on Marysville Pilchuck’s roster a year ago but opted to play for Getchell instead of stay with the Tomahawks.
Most notable among those who played who on the MP varsity a year ago are Jesus Valenzuela and Erik Kundu, two of MG’s 11 seniors this season.
Valenzuela was an honorable mention All-Wesco selection at forward for MP in 2011, and both he and Kundu had the choice to play across town this year. Instead they stuck with coach Geoff Kittle, who also moved from MP to MG.
“I just want to start a new tradition and start strong, so players would want to come here,” Valenzuela said. “They are going to have the choice to go to MP or Getchell (in the future). If we leave our footprint here and if we do good this year, that will make other players want to come over here. That would be nice to see.”
In addition to soccer, Kundu already was set in one of MG’s four unique learning communities, which divide the campus academically. The senior midfielder attends what’s called the International School of Communication.
“I wanted to stay here and start a new tradition … to be part of the new legacy,” Kundu said.
The former MP players have the luxury of playing in the same system as they did a year ago due to Kittle’s move. The coach, who had a fantastic run at MP during four years, including the 2009 fourth-place state run that featured the team’s first-ever district and league titles. Kittle chose MG because he teaches Language Arts at one of the other learning communities — School of the Entrepreneur.
“It was kinda tough for me to leave MP,” Kittle said, but noted that he is excited about continuing the tradition of success he started across town. “It’d be nice to kinda do the same stuff here. Build history here.”
Another asset in Kittle’s favor is the team’s four senior foreign-exchange students from Mexico, Belgium, Spain and Czech Republic. They were drawn to the International School of Communication.
“I didn’t really anticipate having all these players,” Kittle said.
The transition for the foreign students has been easy — especially for the Spanish-speaking players since about half the team already speaks Spanish.
“It’s been pretty fun, because their sense of humor is a lot different and a lot of what they say is pretty funny,” said Arshdeep Cheema, who along with Valenzuela, is a team captain. “Everyone’s gelling pretty good.”
Regardless of their team unity, the Chargers will find Wesco 3A a difficult challenge. The league features perennial power Shorecrest; Glacier Peak, which was the 2010 state-champ and finished third a year ago; a strong Shorewood team; and a surging Meadowdale.
“We know that a lot of them are good,” Cheema said of the rest of the league. “People will underestimate us. They’ll probably think, ‘Getchell? Where’d they come from?”
Kittle doesn’t expect his team to struggle the way the other MG schools have.
“I’m not really used to losing,” he said. “I expect to win. I haven’t had a losing team since I’ve been a head coach.”