SEATTLE — To find top soccer prospects, University of Washington coach Dean Wurzberger sometimes takes the recruiting road to distant places.
Often, though, he needs to look no further than his own backyard.
Wurzberger’s team, which saw its season end with a 3-2 overtime loss to Santa Clara in a second-round NCAA tournament game Nov. 15, is comprised largely of players from the state of Washington, with 12 of 23 varsity players hailing from the greater Seattle area.
That total includes five who attended Western Conference high schools, three of which are starters. They are Kevin Forrest, a redshirt junior forward from Edmonds-Woodway High School and the UW’s leading scorer; sophomore midfielder George John of Shorewood High School, who is fourth in points; and redshirt freshman goalkeeper Rylan Hawkins of Shorecrest High School, who has five shutouts this season.
Forrest, Hawkins and John were all named to the first-team Pac-10 All-Academic Men’s Soccer Team. Forrest (3.47 grade point average), is majoring in business administration as is John (3.66 GPA) while Hawkins, who is majoring in computer engineering, boasts the team’s highest GPA of 3.95.
Two other Wesco alums play more sparingly. They are defender Stefan Tangen, a junior defender who attended Cascade High School, and Taylor Cochran, a redshirt freshman defender from Snohomish High School.
That kind of in-state representation “is kind of a point of pride for us,” said Wurzberger, who is finishing his 15th season at the UW. “We want to put a team on the field that is (largely) from the state of Washington.
“We also have to look at top talent from out of state,” he said. “But we think there’s always going to be enough good players in Washington. We have excellent youth programs here, and one of our goals is to make sure we recruit the best this state has to offer.”
Likewise, area players say they are delighted by the chance to stay at home and still be part of a program that is one of the nation’s elite. The Huskies are making their 10th NCAA tournament appearance in the past 12 years and the 18th in school history dating back to 1968.
“Coming out of high school, I got recruited by other schools in California,” John said. “But I wanted to stay here. (Going elsewhere) is kind of like being a traitor, so to speak, and I think that’s one of the reasons so many guys from the Seattle area come to the UW.”
“And it’s just such a good deal,” said Forrest, the son of former UW and Seattle Sounders standout Ward Forrest. “You’re already from here so naturally you want to stay, but then there also happens to be a great program and school here. So it works out nicely for the local guys.”
The Huskies started their season in late August and immediately ran off eight straight wins. They stumbled a bit once the conference season got under way — in men’s soccer, the Pac-10 consists of Washington, Oregon State, California, Stanford, UCLA and San Diego State — losing four straight and five out of six.
But with an NCAA berth in the balance, Washington won three out of its last four, including a 2-1 overtime victory against Oregon State Nov. 3 — Forrest scored on a penalty kick in the 98th minute — that essentially clinched a spot in the tourney.
That goal was the 13th of the season for Forrest, who also has one assist. His 27 points in 17 games (he missed two games with a knee injury) give him a 1.59 per-game average, which ranks 21st among NCAA Division I players and No. 1 in the Pac-10. Eight of his goals this season were game-winners.
“He’s added things to his game this year,” Wurzberger said. “Before he got in at the end of stuff. He cleaned up on chances. But now he’s developed his game and become more of a one-on-one player. He’s not just finishing crosses and being lucky on the spot.
“He’s a constant threat to score. No question, when Kevin is on form, we’re a threat as a team.”
John, meanwhile, “is one of the best central midfielders in the Pac-10,” Wurzberger said. “He’s got it all. He can drive forward on the dribble, shoot, and his passing skills are outstanding. He’s having a great season.”
And Hawkins “is coming into his own for one so young. He has the potential to be one of the best ever produced out of Washington, second only to Kasey Keller (an Olympia native and the longtime goalkeeper for the U.S. national team). He still has a long way to go to get Kasey’s standard, but he’s sure off to the start you’d hope for,” Wurzberger said.
Though Washington has been to the NCAA tournament many times, the team has reached the third round just once and that happened after a first-round bye. Never have the Huskies won two games in a single postseason.
Rich Myhre writes for The Herald in Everett.
Forrest named Pac-10 Player of the Year
Washington junior forward Kevin Forrest was named the Pac-10 Men’s Soccer Player of the Year, and seven Huskies were named to the all-conference team, Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen announced Nov. 9.
Forrest, an Edmonds-Woodway grad, also was named to the All-Pac 10 first team, along with senior defender Ty Harden and junior forward Ely Allen. Sophomore midfielders George John, a Shorewood grad, was selected to the second team, and red-shirt freshman goalkeeper Rylan Hawkins, a Shorecrest grad, and sophomore midfielder Jo Jo Katz were honorable mention honorees.
Forrest led the Pac-10 in every offensive category, finishing the regular season with a conference best in shots (97), shots per game (5.71), points (927), points per game (1.59), goals (913), goals per game (0.76) and game- winning goals (eight). He also ranks nationally in goals per game (11th) and points per game (21st). His 13 goals this season are the most since 1998. The first-team nod for Forrest is the second of his career, as he also earned that honor as a sophomore in 2004.