Sports

Decatur ready for another title run

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Decatur Gator boys soccer program is just one year removed from winning two straight Class 4A state championships — finishing undefeated both seasons.

Last year, the Gators and their coach, Jimmy McAlister, had an “off” season. Decatur finished in third place in the South Puget Sound League South Division with a 12-3-3 record and lost in a shootout to the Gig Harbor Tides at the West Central District tournament. The Gators other two losses came to league champion Jefferson.

“We should be a solid team this year,” McAlister said. “But people like to beat Decatur in soccer.”

The Gators are well on their way to reestablishing their stranglehold on the South Puget Sound League South Division, as well as the state. Decatur might have the best all-around soccer player in Washington — and he’s only a sophomore. Forward Ciaran O’Brien led the Gators in scoring a season ago as a freshman and recently scored a pair of goals for his club team, FC United, to win the state championship.

“I think he is the best soccer player in the state,” McAlister said. “But I’m kind of biased. I coach Decatur. But with everything he brings to the table, he does things that are spectacular.”

McAlister also has a couple spectacular players in goal — senior Kyle Bressler and junior Taylor McCluskey.

“They are as tough as any goalkeepers you are going to see,” he said.

Bressler will see a bulk of the time in the goal and was the starter on both state championship teams.

“He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” said McAlister, who played 14 years of professional soccer. “He just works harder than anybody else. He’s won four state championships both in team and individual sports (wrestling) and he was an all-state linebacker in the fall. He can’t get his letterman’s coat out of his locker.”

The Gators will also be counting on sophomores Josh Norwood and Brad Reid, as well as seniors Marty Klingebiel, Travis Hoeft and Nick O’Day.

“We were good for so many years that it was tough for young kids to make our roster,” McAlister. “So we don’t have a real deep team.”

Jefferson and Curtis look like the teams who will compete with Decatur for the SPSL South championship and Beamer is a team that might surprise, McAlister said.

The Gators open their season today at 11 a.m. against the Stadium Tigers at the Stadium Bowl in Tacoma. They will take on Jefferson Tuesday at Federal Way Memorial Stadium in a non-league contest.

Jefferson

The Jefferson boys soccer program has a rich tradition — to say the least. The Raiders have won a handful of state championships since the mid-1980s and Darren Sawatzky seems to have brought some of that tradition back to the Jefferson campus.

“TJ will always field a competitive side and 2004 is no different,” Sawatzky said.

But the Raiders will have to do it this year with a lot of new faces. Jefferson lost eight players from its 14-2-1 league championship team, including all-everything forward Chris Sanders. Sanders started during the fall at the University of Portland.

Back for the Raiders will be forward Ricky Getchell, who will be playing college soccer next fall, defender Brandon Sprague and midfielder Calvin Walsh.

The Raiders will come right out of the box against their chief rival. Jefferson will play Decatur Tuesday night at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

Federal Way

New coach Jason Baumgardt takes over a team that finished with a 8-8-1 record in the rugged South Puget Sound League South Division a season ago.

The record was good enough for the Eagles to earn a berth into the postseason as the fourth-place team from the South, thanks to a late-season run. Federal Way lost 4-0 to Auburn Riverside in the first round of the SPSL Tournament. Baumgardt hopes to build on that success.

“This should be a fun and exciting year with a young, talented team,” Baumgardt said.

Federal Way returns center midfielder Chris Ranch, a senior, and junior forward Garet Salisbury. The Eagles will also be counting on newcomer Alex Alonso, a senior midfielder, and a pair of freshmen — Derek Paulino, a midfielder, and Randal Ventura, a left defenseman.

“We have a composed team,” Baumgardt said. “We are tough.”

The Eagles play a non-leaguer Friday at Auburn High School.

Beamer

The Beamer Titans soccer team is going to surprise some teams in the SPSL South, according to the three other Federal Way district coaches. The Titans have a very young, but very talented roster led by several freshmen.

First-year coach Adam Kulaas’ ninth-graders are led by center midfielder Sean Davis, defenders Ricco Sanchez and Brennen Hall and a pair of goalkeepers, David Tyler and T.J. Young.

“They have a love of the game and a desire to improve,” Kulaas said. “They have an eagerness to play and a work ethic.”

The Titans will, most likely, go through some early-season growing pains, but will be helped by the SPSL South’s schedule, which includes six non-league games right off the bat. Beamer’s first league game isn’t until April 7.

“We are a young and talented group of boys with the desire to make a name and set the standards for Todd Beamer soccer,” Kulaas said.

The Titans open up their season Tuesday with a non-leaguer at Auburn High School.

Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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