By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
A year ago, the Snohomish boys soccer team did not enter the season shooting for the Wesco North crown.
Instead the Panthers had their sights set on the Class 4A state championship — and they looked very much like a title contender with a 16-0-1 record heading into the state playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, a 2-1 loss at the hands of eventual third-place finisher Bellarmine Prep in the first round ended what had otherwise been a special season.
“It was a lesson learned,” Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey said. “We had a really good season, but we were young. We were a very technical team and did a nice job, but when we ran (up) against physical play, it was a struggle for us and that’s what we ran up against.”
This spring, the Panthers are trying a different approach. They still want to return to the state tournament, but gone is The Herald’s 2012 player of the year, Reilly Cross, who graduated. Also not returning is first-team All-Wesco honoree John Magnus, who is prevented from playing high school soccer by being a part of the national academy league.
This year’s Panthers will again be one of the local favorites, but they will be play a different style than last year’s squad, which prevailed in tough, low-scoring games.
“This year we have a different mix,” Pingrey said. “We have some big strong players that can make an impact. It’s a nice mix.”
The offense will be lead by Juan Machuca, Tyler Mayer and Uriel Herrera, who all have impressed Pingrey so far.
“It’s fun to watch,” he said. “In training we look at it and say, ‘Maybe we’ll win a lot of games 5-4.’ But I truly believe that these guys can score.”
Pingrey has challenged his team to shoot for the Snohomish single-season goal record, which the long-time Panthers coach said is 99.
“I threw that out to these guys. I said, ‘99 goals is the record. See what you can do.’”
What Snohomish does likely will determine the Wesco North race, and if the Panthers score 99 goals, it’s unlikely anyone will be able to keep up with them.
‘Finish the job’
The seniors at Archbishop Murphy have one goal this season: The 2A state championship.
In coach Mike Bartley’s first season at the helm of the Wildcats, the team got off to a blistering start. Murphy rattled off 20 victories to start the season — giving up just two goals in the process — only to have everything go wrong in a 4-3 shootout loss to Cheney in the state semifinals.
“Last year was my first year, so it was just try to get as far as we could and play as well as we could,” said Bartley, who also coaches the Murphy girls and has been coaching in the area for years. “Overall that is their goal: to try to finish the job.”
Murphy likely will concede more goals this season after losing its senior goalkeeper and replacing two of four players on the back line. Minding the net is the biggest hiccup on a team that has numerous solid returnees.
“We’re not sure who’s going to get it right now,” Bartley said of the goalie competition between three players. “So, that’s a part we are a little worried about.”
Scoring shouldn’t be a concern in part thanks to first-team All-Cascade Conference honoree Josh Bartley, who just happens to be the coach’s son.
Father and son plan to wipe away the bitter taste of last season’s finish in their final season together.
“I’ve been (to the state quarterfinals) several times and (Josh) understands that to,” the coach said. “We’re both we’re trying to win something together.
“It’s the one thing I haven’t done. I’ve got a lot of thirds and fourths over the years. It’s something we’ve both talked about. We want to do it together.”
Bulldogs return to Wesco
After six years in the Northwest League, the Mount Vernon Bulldogs’ are back in the Wesco 4A — with mixed results.
One team that figures to adjust well to its surroundings is the boys soccer team. The Bulldogs finished 16-4-2 a year ago, losing in the Class 3A state tournament to eventual runner-up Mercer Island. In fact, ending the season against top teams has become somewhat of a habit for Mount Vernon, which lost to the 3A state champions the previous three years.
Bulldog coach Tony Dabbs, who is in his eighth year, was at the helm when the team played in Wesco before and he sees positives and negatives to the change.
“Wesco pretty much every game you play is a big game,” Dabbs said. “Northwest (Conference) there are some teams that aren’t as challenging as others. I think this is going to prep us for postseason probably a little better.”
Dabbs said his team may be one of the smaller squads in Wesco 4A, but the players will make up for the size disadvantage with their field vision, skills and defensive intensity. Despite all those tangible strengths, Dabbs said intangibles may determine how far his Bulldogs.
“The chemistry with this team is better than it has been in the past,” the coach said. “They work hard for each other and our preseason trainings were pretty impressive. The more I said ‘Work’, the harder they worked and that’s not always the case.”
Dabbs would like to know more about his opponents in the new league, but he realizes the uncertainty works both ways.
“I do like that we are somewhat of a mystery to the other teams,” he said.