For a large chunk of players on the Shorecrest High School boys soccer team, winning is practically all they’ve ever known with the Scots.
The core of this year’s senior class began their prep careers on junior varsity in 2019. They lost their first match that season, falling 3-2 to North Creek’s JV squad.
In the nearly 38 months since, they’ve yet to lose again.
Shorecrest’s 2019 JV team won the rest of its matches that year to finish 15-1. Then after the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, that core group moved up to varsity for last year’s abbreviated season and helped lead the Scots to a 9-0 record.
And this spring, they picked up right where they left off.
Shorecrest wrapped up a dominant regular season earlier this week, finishing a perfect 16-0 with a whopping 60-5 goal differential. The senior-laden Scots cruised through Wesco 3A/2A, capturing the 16-team league title with a 15-0 mark in conference play. And they enter the postseason having won all but one match by multiple goals.
“It’s been a magical season,” said Shorecrest coach Jon Cottons, who was the Scots’ JV coach in 2019. “It’s been one of those seasons that all coaches hope for. These were good kids when I had them on JV back in 2019, … and now they’re all seniors.
“It’s been really cool to see them grow and get better and then crescendo into 16-0.”
For this year’s seniors who were part of the 2019 JV team, they’ve won 40 consecutive matches in Shorecrest’s program. They haven’t lost a high school match in more than three years.
And over the past two seasons on varsity, they’ve gone a combined 25-0 while outscoring opponents 86-7.
“Pretty insane,” Cottons said. “Not a whole lot of programs can say that.
“They got a lot of good experience last year,” he added. “… And now they’ve got the age and maturity this year. It just all came together in a perfect storm.”
The Scots are led by standout senior forward Gavin Vanden Berg, a Division III-bound Connecticut College signee who has a team-high 17 goals and nine assists.
Vanden Berg, the lone Shorecrest senior to play on varsity as a freshman, has been an impact varsity player for all three seasons of his prep career.
As a freshman in 2019, he scored double-digit goals. Last year, he netted a team-high 11 goals in nine matches. And this spring, he’s scored or assisted 26 of his team’s 60 goals.
The Scots, however, are anything but a one-man show.
“We’ve just got talent all over the park,” Cottons said.
Shorecrest’s high-powered attack, which averages 3.8 goals per match, has seen 13 different players find the back of the net.
Among them are six players with at least five goals: Vanden Berg, University of San Francisco-bound senior midfielder Mason Dougherty (seven goals and seven assists), senior forward Ayden Blumhagen (six goals and six assists), senior forward Roland Ngoy (six goals and three assists), senior midfielder Krubelle Tesfaye (five goals and seven assists) and senior defender Ra’ad Salem (five goals).
“As any coach will tell you, the more guys who score, the better it is, because other teams can’t just focus on one guy,” Cottons said. “Gavin obviously has (a lot) of our goals, so teams do focus on him. But danger also comes from other guys. So (we’re) tough to plan for.”
And as skilled as the Scots are on the attack, they might be even better at preventing opponents from scoring.
Shorecrest has surrendered just five goals all season, equating to a mere 0.3 goals allowed per match. The Scots have posted shutouts in 12 of their 16 contests. And they’ve yielded multiple goals in a match only once.
“The defensive unit, they’ve just held it down so well,” Cottons said.
Senior goalkeeper Vito Nith has risen to the occasion as a first-year starter, posting 12 shutouts and allowing just three goals.
“He’s just done amazing,” Vanden Berg said.
And Nith has been complemented by a stout back line that’s kept opponents’ scoring chances at a premium.
“We’ve come up against some good forwards that have made us work for it,” Cottons said. “But we tend to dodge a lot of bullets. And whatever we can’t dodge, Vito’s there to clean it up.”
Shorecrest also has benefited from its depth. With several key players sidelined by injuries at various times this season, reserves have filled in and helped the Scots continue their winning ways.
“There were practices where we had 12 or 13 guys out of a 21-man roster,” Cottons said. “And fortunately most of those injuries happened earlier in the season, so guys have been getting healthy. But the reserves have played well enough to win games.”
Shorecrest is one of the oldest teams around, with 15 seniors on its roster. That gives the Scots a size advantage against many opponents.
“We’re a lot bigger than most teams,” Vanden Berg said. “(We have) the age, the height, the physicality. We’re just way bigger and more tough.”
This year’s team also is a tight-knit group, according to Vanden Berg. Part of that stems from many players being on the same club teams over the years.
“A lot of guys have been playing together since they were young, so we have the chemistry coming in,” Vanden Berg said. “We’re all one. We’re doing team bonding, hanging out.
“And everyone’s just so stoked to be where we’re at right now.”
Due to the canceled 2020 season and last year’s abbreviated season, this marks the first postseason for spring sports since 2019.
So despite being such a senior-heavy team, Vanden Berg is the only Shorecrest player with postseason experience.
The rest of the Scots will make their postseason debut Saturday, when top-seeded Shorecrest faces eighth-seeded Lynnwood in the Class 3A District 1 Tournament quarterfinals.
“We’ve had a great couple seasons, but we still haven’t played one single playoff game together,” Dougherty said. “So we’re super hyped for that.”
The Scots enter the postseason as one of just two remaining unbeatens in the state’s 3A classification. Silas of Tacoma (15-0) is the other.
“We definitely have a big target on our back now,” Dougherty said. “And I think we like that. I think that kind of drives us.”
Shorecrest is aiming to add another deep postseason run to its program’s accomplished history. The Scots have made 28 state tournament appearances and have claimed 12 top-four state trophies, including a trio of state titles in 1976, 2005 and 2009.
“We’re the real deal,” Vanden Berg said. “And we’re gonna prove that in these next coming weeks.”