A few months ago, before Gabe Weight’s Whatcom Rangers club soccer team played for a state championship, some of his Sehome teammates and him were fantasizing about the possibility of winning a club state title to go along with a school soccer state championship.
“We were talking about how crazy it would be,” said Weight, a senior four-year player for coach John Sylvester’s Mariners.
The Rangers fell 2-1 to Crossfire, arguably the state’s most prestigious soccer academy, but the second half of Weight and his Sehome teammates’ dream is very much alive.
Weight has started at Sehome since he was a freshman, but never has one of those Mariners teams reached the state tournament. But with a 2016 club brimming with talent and 15 seniors, that could certainly change this spring.
This is the deepest talent pool of players Sylvester has ever had at Sehome and certainly the most experienced.
Whenever we have talks, the coaching staff and players, we seem to agree, ‘Yeah, this is our strength. We can do that, and this will work out.’ Everyone is on the same page.
Sehome coach John Sylvester
Most of the players have logged minutes as freshmen or sophomores and not only for school soccer. A large portion has created camaraderie at the club level, too.
“If you added up all the minutes played by these guys you would have a huge number,” Sylvester said. “I’ve had veteran crews before, but never with so much experience and camaraderie. And really this is a special group in that way.”
With so much experience available, Sylvester has the luxury of keeping players fresh and employing a multitude of different lineups to best match Sehome’s opposition. Up and down the Mariners’ roster there are players who can thrive at several positions.
Even at goalkeeper, it’s an every game decision between senior Max Diehl or senior Devin Trueb.
“I would say there is a pretty good balance all around,” Weight said. “We have a lot of diversity. Like myself and Issac DeVange, we’ve both played defense for Sehome, but now we have moved up to midfield. We can take more of our experienced players and throw everyone back and sort of have more experience in the back or move them up top and be more attacking. ... We take out five starters and put in five subs, and we are not losing too much.”
While success has come on the club level, those same winning ways haven’t yet manifested during school soccer for this year’s large senior crop.
Three years ago, during a rebuilding year, the Mariners went 7-8-1 and missed the district playoffs. Sehome two years ago finished 11-4-4 and fell one win short of a state berth before last year finishing 8-6-5 and missing state once more by one game.
In the back of the seniors’ minds, Weight said, anticipation for this spring has always existed, as they knew 2016 would present the Mariners a golden opportunity to reach the state tournament.
“We all realize if we can keep up our effort and whatnot in every game and every practice, we have the opportunity,” Weight said. “(For the seniors) this is our last opportunity, so we want to make it a good one.”
Five players to watch
Nick Parris, Lynden, jr., forward
Last year’s Northwest Conference leading goal scorer returns, and there’s no reason to believe Parris won’t start where he left off last spring. Look for No. 7 to reach or surpass the 14 goals he recorded a year ago.
Issac DeVange, Sehome, sr., midfielder
DeVange was the centerpiece to a Sehome defense last year that allowed only 20 goals in 12 league games, and he used his tall frame to score six goals with two assists. The senior should have a large hand in the Mariners’ potential success this spring.
Ben Peterson, Squalicum, jr., def/mid/fwd
Peterson can do it all for the Storm. The speedy junior can score, anchor the midfield or drop back and defend if Squalicum needs him to. He scored a team-high nine goals last spring, and again should be an integral piece to the Storm’s attack.
Joe Worley, Bellingham, jr, goalkeeper
Worley was a key reason the Red Raiders were statistically Whatcom County’s second best defense last year. Bellingham yielded only 12 goals in 12 league games and recorded five shutouts. The junior backstop could be in line for another big season.
Alan Eyoub, Meridian, sr., forward
With Jake Birnel now graduated, the Trojans need a new scorer to step up, and Eyoub is a prime candidate to do just that. He showed an ability last season with six goals. Expect that number to grow this spring.