Bremerton ready to step up

Knights expecting tight Olympic League battle.

The Bremerton girls soccer team lost some talented players from last year. But so did everyone else.

That has the Knights and coach Lance McCoy optimistic about his team’s chances in what will be his final season after 35 years coaching the sport.

“It should be a wide open and entertaining league this year,” McCoy said. “I think the senior graduating class from last year left some big holes to fill for many of the teams, so the league may be pretty balanced this season.”

That could mean big things for a Bremerton team that McCoy believes can pick up right where last year’s Knights left off.

“It is always very difficult losing quality players from year to year, but that is the nature of high school athletics,” he said. “Yes, we lost some fine players from last year, but our returning players are all highly capable athletes in their own right and are going to step up to the challenge.”

Plus, one of last year’s standouts, Naomi Abad, is back helping coach the Knights while she attends Olympic College. She’s not the only new face on the staff either.

“We have a very nice coaching staff in place that the girls are going to like,” McCoy said. “Returning is longtime assistant coach Michele White and two new volunteer assistant coaches, Colette Lyons and Naomi Abad. Each of these ladies brings a wealth of knowledge to our Lady Knight program and we are delighted to have them helping out this season.”

A strong core of Knights are back to build on last season’s 6-9-1 season, somewhat of a disappointment for the team. The Knights did go 4-4-0 in league play, but missed the postseason by a half game. Leading the charge back are team captains Sarah Streutker, Kelsey Johnson and Hannah McCoy.

“All bring years of experience to our squad,” McCoy said. “Each has been a key player for the Lady Knights for three years, so I am leaning on their high work rate and senior leadership for the 2008-09 season.”

Other key returners include Vanessa Friday, Nataly Smith, Breezy Robison, Vanessa Richardson, Angelique White and Brooke Erickson.

The core is complimented by newcomers and freshmen Julie Belden, Abby Neil, Sabrena Cohan and Rachel Pratt, as well as sophomores T’Lea McLeod, Megan Arriola and Jessica Martindale.

Each of these players is skillful with the ball and ready to meet the challenge of a tough varsity season,” McCoy said. “We also have juniors Kristy Wood as our new staring goalkeeper and defender Callie Wilson.”

The biggest change to the league is the loss of Peninsula, who edged the Knights for the final playoff spot a year ago, to the South Puget Sound League, and the addition of North Kitsap, which dropped to 3A after competing in the Narrows League.

“North will be tough to beat this season I believe,” McCoy said. “Bremerton may surprise more than a few teams as I expect a consistent passing game to continue in our program.”

Two seasons ago, the Knights appeared poised to make a deep postseason run, coming off a school-record 12-win season. It’s that potential McCoy again sees in his squad.

“Well, I am hoping that our hard work over many years will be enough to get into the playoffs,” McCoy said. “Last season was disappointing for other reasons. This year, we believe that the playoffs are within reach and the girls

will need to believe in each other throughout the course of the season.”

In Bremerton’s season opener Tuseday at home against North Mason, the Knights battled the Bulldogs (1-0-1) to a 1-1 tie.

North Mason struck first, with Megan Beisley finding the back of the net in the 28th minute. The Knights even the score however when White connected for a goal on an assist from Erickson in the 79th minute.

Bremerton hosted South Kitsap in a non-league match Thursday, but results were unavailable at press time. The team is next on the field 7 p.m. Monday against Central Kitsap at Silverdale Stadium.

McCoy said he hopes this season will be a memorable one, particularly Oct. 23, the Knights’ final home game of the regular season.

“After 35 years of coaching, I will be retiring from the sport,” McCoy said. “It has been so much fun being a part of the Bremerton/Olympic Peninsula soccer community and I want to thank all my coaching colleagues, friends, former teammates and high school players for allowing me the honor of sharing the game of soccer with all of you.”

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