Soccer solid and deep

By Matt Phelps' email='

Most coaches want quality over quantity when it comes to tryouts. Mercer Island High School boys soccer coach Steve Newman has a lot of quality this season.

"We have a lot of talent," said Newman. "I don't usually know who I want until the second week of practices and I know who I want now."

A lot of that confidence in his varsity came from last season. With just four players who graduated from last year's team, the Islanders have few holes to fill. "We are looking towards the KingCo title," said Newman. "We are setting our sights high."

Earning that 3A KingCo Championship will be different than in years' past.

Instead of winning a postseason tournament, the Islanders will have to earn the best record during the regular season to put up a banner in the gymnasium. "It's all about tradition," said Newman. "After we select the team, we go into the gym and look at the banners. We know that we should and can be there, too."

An advantage the team has is the tradition of Newman at the helm. In 11 years of coaching boys soccer at Mercer Island, Newman has had multiple winners and guided the team deep into the state playoffs.

When he's been healthy, senior Cameron Galloway is one player that has been a big force on the field.

"I think it is a family tradition," said Newman, who also coached Cameron's older brother Ethan. "He can get hurt stepping up on the curb. But he has been injury-free in his premier league. He can be a really explosive player."

But the injury bug shouldn't hurt the Islanders as much as in years' past with the depth that Newman foresees.

"We are going to run people into the ground," said Newman. "Fresh legs win games."

The varsity team will carry 19 players, two more than Newman usually has.

The program had 61 players turnout. That is low compared to the 65 or 75 that the coach is used to. But the difference is the quality.

The biggest strength of the team last year was its defense, which led the team to a 5-5-3 record and a playoff berth. Newman thinks the defense can be even better this year.

Another strength is the team's overall quickness.

"We have a lot of speed," said senior Phil Spitzer. "We have to come out for every game and not expect anything."

Senior Body Clarke, who reminds Newman of former MIHS soccer player Duke Biggers, is new to the varsity team this year.

"He just works hard," said Newman. "He's got the desire and nose for the game."

The Islanders' biggest test this season could come from rival Newport. The two schools seem to be the in the mix every year for boys soccer. Issaquah could be a dark horse after narrowly defeating Mercer Island in the playoffs last year. Mercer Island's first game of the year will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 21 in Islander stadium.

Info box Head coach: Steve Newman, 11th year at MIHS, eighth as head coach (89-37-20 at MIHS). Assistant coaches: Peter Mertel and Bill Hanson.

Last year's record: 5-5-3 (lost in the second round of the postseason)

Key athletes: Sr. Cameron Galloway (forward), Sr. Taylor Nelp (defender), Jr. Adam Jacobson, Sr. Phil Spitzer, Sr. Rich Irving. and So. David Hill.

Top newcomers: Sr. Peter Cohen, Sr. Bodie Clarke, Jr. Chuck Vallieres, Jr.

Michael Wang, Jr. David Addison.

Key losses: Taylor Odegard (forward), Dax Borges, Bennett Addison and Andrew Parker (Goalkeeper).

Key games: Issaquah and Newport.

First game: 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 21 vs. Inglemoor.

Key to a good season: Cohesiveness and the willingness to work hard.

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