Ranger men look for right combo

Young team making early gains in NWAACC.

Kris Lowry knew it’d take more than a year to turn around the men’s soccer program at Olympic College.

So while Lowry enters his second season at the helm, it really feels much more like his first, especially since he was hired late into last year.

“I really consider this my first year,” the Poulsbo resident said. “We got good recruits. We have some good kids this year.”

And while he’s not concerned about the talent of his players, he knows the challenge will be speeding them up to soccer at the collegiate level.

“The main thing is we have a really, really young team this year,” he said. “The main thing isn’t getting these guys in, it’s getting them up to speed. It’s a two-year process.”

But it’s a process he feels he’s building now.

“Community college is a huge step up from what any kids on this team have played at,” he said.

As a result, he looked for a certain kind of recruit this year.

“I just went and grabbed as many kids as I could who could play,” Lowry said. “That was fine. But this year when I went out to recruit, I recruited kids who were good soccer players who would make that two-year commitment to school. It’s the student part in student-athlete.”

Four sophomores were lost thanks to a chemistry-related snafu as they took a class ahead of a necessary chemistry perquisite, thus hurting their grades to the point of academic ineligibility.

“That was a little frustrating,” he said. “But I’ve got some good kids.”

Adam Wade is the team’s lone remaining sophomore, as the Bainbridge Island grad has developed into a leader on and off the field.

“He’s really done the work,” Lowry said. “His game has come a long way. He’s done all the things we’ve ever asked of him.”

Polson, Mont., transplant Andy Manley is another who’s risen to the challenge early this season.

“He’s a great kid, great attitude,” Lowry said. “And he does have the skill set to be a great player. It’s just making that jump.”

Dustin Gressang is in goal this year, as the former Californian also has been vocal.

“He’s a real leader,” Lowry said. “Being a goalkeeper, that’s what you want.”

At 0-3-1 early this year in Northwest Athletic Association of Community College West Region play, the Rangers are still looking for a regular lineup. That’s kept players with a lot of potential, like Bremerton alum Francisco Garcia, from getting into a rhythm early.

“He hasn’t scored yet this year, but we’re still tinkering with the lineup,” Lowry said of Garcia, who led the area with 17 goals. “He just wants to step in and help anywhere he can.”

Several local players adorn OC’s roster, including Central Kitsap’s Kevin Barnes and Ivan Gomez.

“(Kevin’s) been a huge asset for us. He plays the ball really well,” Lowry said. “(With Ivan), you can see the skill there.”

South Kitsap grads Preston Bennett and Gilbert Campos are playing for OC this fall, as is Bainbridge grad Alex Jungnitz, Olympic’s Scott Breeding and Klahowya’s Joel Hansen.

But perhaps the biggest Kitsap local making a splash for the Rangers early is Kingston’s JJ Gilson. Lowry talked about Gilson’s goal against Highline in an 8-1 loss as an example.

“It was all him,” Lowry said. “He won the ball, distributed it, got down field, got it back, beat two guys then beat the keeper.”

Aside from local recuits, the team also includes North Mason’s Jereme Hoesche, Quincy’s Juan Guerrero and Marvin Ortiz, Skyline’s Jordan Kaatz and Tahoma’s Derek Martinez and Tyson Ellis.

While recruiting Ellis, Lowry found Martinez when Ellis recommended him to his then-future coach.

“He’s a phenominal athlete. The kid’s just a worker,” Lowry said of Martinez. “I’ve got a core bunch of kids who are really, really good.”

And they want the community to realize that too.

“They’re trying to get involved in the community,” Lowry said. “We really want to get into it.”

OC hosted Tacoma Community College Thursday, but results were unavailable at press time. Today, the Rangers host Everett at 2 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

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