The boys’ soccer season is about six games in for most teams and there’s plenty to note from the early going. Here are five things I’ve noticed thus far:
1. Lynden’s Nicolas Parris is much improved. And by much improved I mean he might be the best player in the Northwest Conference. He’s had two hat tricks so far and has nine goals in six games. Lynden hasn’t been had the greatest results so far but you have to like the Lions against anyone with Parris manning the attack.
2. Defense is key. The focus on the backline is quite noticeable this season. Maybe everyone is taking note of what Squalicum was able to do on its way to a state title last season or maybe parking the bus and exploiting the counter attack is what many of the NWC coaches believe is the best way to conserve energy over the course of a long season. Either way, it’s made for some hard-fought, physical battles. There have already been 24 shutouts this season.
3. Sehome exemplifies the defense-first philosophy the best. Does this team actually have any desire to go forward at all? The Mariners pack it in and pick their spots. And it’s working fantastically. Aside from a 2-0 season-opening loss to Bellingham when the Mariners were still moving pieces around, the Mariners have only allowed two goals in the past four games and are 3-0-1 because of it. Both goalies are capable and the backline is stout. Speaking of city schools...
4. There’s no clear favorite to win the NWC. The three city schools (Bellingham, Sehome, Squalicum) are all likely to lead the pack in the NWC, but who really is the best among those three. Squalicum is coming off a state title, but allowed three goals to Sedro-Woolley and tied with both Sehome and Bellingham. Sehome tied Squalicum and has split with Bellingham. The Red Raiders laid a dud in the first 40 minutes against Sehome but looked competitive in the second half and turned around and tied Squalicum. I would say the Storm might be the favorite at this point, followed closely by Sehome and a competitive third is Bellingham.
5. Nooksack Valley will turn heads all season long. The Pioneers are fast, competitive and are led by fiery coach Valentin Villalobos. They are very dangerous this season and could make a run for a berth in the state tournament if not possibly win the whole thing. Rigoberto Gonzales has a hat trick already this season but the Pioneers have plenty of capable scorers. They’ve scored 16 goals in five games and have already won more games than last season. Their only loss is to Squalicum and it was competitive throughout. Applaud Villalobos for whatever he’s done with this team since last season because it’s working.