Sports

2002 Boys Soccer Preview

Gators set to defend state title

The Decatur High soccer team doesn’t have to rebuild from last year’s state champion team. It’s simply reloading.

The Gators return 15 of the 22 players from last season’s roster, including nine of their 11 starters.

“We’re returning a lot of kids in all positions,” said assistant coach Gary Arnts. “All are very good soccer players and very good kids. And they know what they’re doing.”

Leading the way for the Gators on the offensive end is South Puget Sound League Most Valuable Player Alex Chursky, a forward who led the league in scoring. The Gators, coached by Jim McAlister, also return all four starting defenders and goalkeeper from a team that never lost a game and allowed only five goals the entire season.

Decatur has the same high expectations this year.

“We need to let them know that starting this year, our record is 0-0,” Arnts said. “We have 16 games to get through before we start talking about state. Every season is different — we were very fortunate last year not to have injuries or academic problems. Bad calls or bad bounces can go against us. There’s a lot of things outside our control. The approach we take is we like to have fun. We tell the guys that winning state is a privilege. Even getting to state is a privilege.”

The Gators are the odds-on favorite to repeat as SPSL champs, and many expect them to win the state championship again this season.

“I think the only team that can beat Decatur is Decatur themselves,” said Federal Way coach John Heimbigner.

Federal Way is looking to be competitive again this season after making the West Central District playoffs last season. The Eagles graduated 11 seniors, but new players are stepping up and filling the roles.

Federal Way is anchored by senior goalkeepers Ryan Davis and Jackson Dovey, who will split time in the net and as field players.

“We’ll count on them to get us through the rough times and look to them for leadership,” Heimbigner said.

For scoring, the Eagles will lean on Kevin Popich, a two-time all-league player.

“I’m excited for the new season,” Heimbigner said. “I’m optimistic. If we win the games we should, we should make the playoffs. It’s a great bunch of kids, with great attitudes and an eagerness to succeed.”

The Jefferson soccer team is looking to improve from last year with new coach Darin Sawatsky. Sawatsky, a 1991 Jefferson graduate, is happy to be coaching his former team.

“There’s no other high school in the state I’d rather be coaching,” Sawatsky said. “For me, it’s a homecoming.”

Jefferson is led by junior forward Chris Sanders, a second-team All-League selection last year. Henry scored four goals in the team’s pre-season game.

“He’s a natural leader by example,” Sawatsky said. “He’s not one of those rah rah guys, but he’s a good leader for the younger guys. He’s willing to work as hard as anybody.”

Other top returning players for Jefferson include junior midfielders Steve Mohn and Chris Henry.

“From early on, we’ve developed good chemistry,” Sawatsky said. “They’re willing to work hard for each other. For a young team, that’s important. Playing against older teams like Decatur, it’s important these guys work together.”

Jefferson has a young team this season, which includes five ninth-graders. Sawatsky said the player making the biggest impact of the group is Sulaiman Sulaiman.

“He’s a raw talent, just a natural player,” Sawatsky said. “His future looks really good.”

Federal Way

Coach: John Heimbigner, fourth year

Last year’s record: 8-6-4, Fourth place in SPSL South. Beat Tahoma 3-2 in SPSL playoffs, Lost to Central Kitsap 2-0 in West Central District playoffs.

Strong returners: Seniors: Kevin Popich midfielder; Ryan Davis, goalkeeper; Jackson Dovey, goalkeeper; Derek Chan, defender. Juniors: Devin Loughlin, midfielder; Brian Koo, midfielder; Matt Young, forward; Todd Hoover, midfielder.

Top newcomers: Vadim Afickuk, sophomore; Boris Sinbirsky, junior. Freshmen: Garet Salisbury, Ryan Nendick, Chris Ranch.

Team strengths: Good leadership from the returners and good, hard work ethic.

Team weaknesses: Lack of experience and size.

Coach’s quote: “It’s going to be an exciting year. We have a good core of returners complemented by some eager newcomers. We may not have the size but we play with a lot of heart.”

Decatur

Coach: Jim McAlister, second year

Last year’s record: 21-0-1, state champion

Strong returners: Decatur returns 15 of last year’s 22 players: Alex Chursky, William Craig, DJ Faris, Christian Scholze, Zach Norwood, Nick McCluskey, Kyle Colbath, Frank Walton, David Klein, Jason Bressler, Matt Baker, Justin Ross and James Craig.

Top newcomers: Ryan Ford, senior forward; Mike Gilpin, junior midfielder; Paul Brokaw, junior midfielder; Taylor McCluskey, freshman goalkeeper.

Team strengths: Returning players in a lot of positions.

Team weaknesses: “Coaching,” said assistant coach Gary Arnts.

Coach’s quote: “The approach we take is we like to have a lot of fun,” Arnts said. “We enjoy being together, in practice or on the bus. The kids get along. Although we won state last year, our record is 0-0 this year.”

Jefferson

Coach: Darin Sawatsky, first year

Last year’s record: 6-6-5

Strong returners: Chris Sanders, junior forward; Steve Mohn, junior midfielder; Chris Henry, junir, midfielder.

Top newcomers: Sulaiman Sulaiman, freshman. Raiders have five ninth-graders this year.

Team strengths: Good chemistry, work hard.

Team weaknesses: Youth.

Coach’s quote: “The team is willing to work hard for each other. That’s important.”

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