By Miles Crossen
Special to the Journal
According to Friday Harbor High School’s boys soccer coach Andy Duke, “Soccer’s popularity with elementary age children has continued to grow on the island and the quality of players coming through the league continues to improve.”
Duke added this year’s team is an example of that continued improvement.
“One thing is for certain, with all the enthusiastic young talent entering high school in the next couple of years, the future is bright for soccer on San Juan Island,” Duke said.
The team has ten returning players from last year, while 11 left the team. Two exchange students returned home and nine graduated as seniors.
“We currently only have four returning starts from last year’s state finals team,” he said. “However, we are loaded with lots of young talent and a few key experienced players.”
According to Duke, there will be a steep learning curve this year for all of the players. The entire team will be learning new systems and position which he hopes will solidify the lineup.
“Will Christison, Danil Sonjaya and Nick Armstrong are returning seniors who will be instrumental in helping the younger players adapt to the high school game,” Duke said. He noted everyone involved is happy with the work the younger players have put in over the summer with the older players to prepare for the fall season.
Adding to that, Duke said, “Several alumni from last year’s squad worked out with them over the summer to help them develop their game.”
This year’s team has 16 regular season games including Mt. Vernon Christian, the undefeated state champion last year.
“We lost two well-contested matches with them last year and always find them to be a challenging opponent,” Duke said.
This year’s first three games will be decided on San Juan Island. FHHS went up against Mt. Vernon Christian High School on Sept. 12 and lost 2-1. The next match will be against La Conner High School on Sept. 17. The following Saturday the team faces off against Shoreline Christian High School.
“Our hope for the first three games is to develop the young players and build a cohesive unit that continues to improve,” Duke said. “The hope is that all the pieces will begin to fall into place and the players recognize their roles in the system. It should be a very exciting year of growth and hopefully we peak as we did last year as the playoffs approach.”