(Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)
Boys soccer primer
TIMBERS PLUNDER: This is the second season that players who participate in U.S. Soccer developmental academy programs will not play high school soccer because of the year-round academy schedule - a policy that is unpopular with high school coaches. Eleven players from Clark County are currently on the Portland Timbers Academy rosters. Camas, with four players in the Timbers Academy, tops the list of local schools represented in that program.
RETURN OF THUNDER: Mountain View returns six starters and 12 players from the team that reached the Class 3A semifinals last season. Senior forward Rylan Berriman and senior midfielder Marshall Hartley, junior midfielder Michael Beauchamp and junior goalkeeper Christian Asivido are among the leaders for the Thunder.
KONKRIGHT LEADS JUMP: Ridgefield senior Tanner Konkright is a two-time first team all-state selection at Class 1A - and the only member of last season’s Columbian all-region boys soccer team playing high school soccer this spring. He will lead the Spudders’ jump to a competitive Class 2A GSHL after reaching the 1A semifinals last season. Ridgefield opened league play on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over defending league champion Hockinson.
EXPERIENCED TITANS: Union is the defending champion in the 4A GSHL, a title that was overshadowed by Skyview’s run to the state title. The Titans are led by four fourth-year varsity players: Tyler Shadix, Nathaniel Cheney, Pasha Hashemi, and Mitch Wheelon. Not back is goalkeeper Collin Partee, a Timbers Academy player.
CAMAS CHALLENGE: As with many other sports, Camas’ debut in the Class 4A GSHL figures make the league even more competitive and renew the rivalry between the Papermakers and Union that was born when both schools were at Class 3A. Camas is without veteran midfielder Roldan Alcobendas, who injured his knee in preseason.
For team-by-team coaches’ reports, click here.
Let's get this point across right away: The 2013 Skyview boys soccer team isn't defending a Class 4A state championship.
Sure, the Storm came on late in 2012 to capture the Class 4A boys soccer state title, the first for a Clark County school since Mountain View was a dominant program in the 1990s. Then six senior starters -- the whole midfield and the core of the defense -- graduated, leaving coach Jenn Johnson with a junior-dominated roster this season.
But those graduated leaders left the Storm with something more than a trophy. Their legacy includes heightened expectations -- both for the players' commitment to each other and for rewarding results.
"At the start of last year, people were here more for fun," junior midfielder Austin Horner said. "Now that we know that we have the ability to make it to the state finals and to be state champs, everyone is putting in extra work every week because we know we can get there."
Some might question whether a team with three seniors on its roster can compete for a league title -- something Union, not Skyview, won last season -- much less make a deep playoff run.
But Jenn Johnson noted that many of the juniors who will lead this team played significant minutes as sophomores during last season's playoff push. For example, Carter Johnson scored twice in the 3-2 win over Central Kitsap in last season's state final. Austin Horner, who is now playing in midfield, had a goal and assist in that victory, and junior goalkeeper Evan Laws made six saves as a sophomore in the championship match.
"I would say the expectations that I have of them and they have for themselves are very high," she said.
The preseason results were encouraging. Heading into Tuesday's league opener at Camas, Skyview was 6-0. Carter Johnson scored 11 goals this preseason, and the defense posted four shutouts.
Johnson said his early scoring success is a reflection of his teammates -- particularly how quickly players have adapted to new roles and understood the possession-oriented game the Storm want to play.
Carter Johnson said the plan is "to possess the ball and to have a real team buildup to get a goal. We play as a team. I finish them when the balls get to me.
"We really do have a tremendous team here. My teammates know how to play the game and they know how to pass the ball to my feet -- and I just keep scoring."
It also helps that they know each other well. Many of these Storm players have been teammates on the same Vancouver Timbers club team, including Johnson, Horner and central defender Tim Teipel.
These Storm understand that they will be the team everyone else wants to knock off.
"We have a big target on our chest, so we have to come out here and mentally be prepared for every game and every practice to prepare for the next opponent," Teipel said.
"I think it's going to be a challenge for all of us this year, especially since we're a younger squad. It's going to be fun going up against the best senior players in the area."
That outlook reflects the vision the leaders of this Skyview team have for their season. They insist that they have as much to prove as any team, given their youth and the fact that they didn't win the 4A Greater St. Helens League last spring.
"I think everyone's got a chance in this league," said Bobby Hutchin, a defensive midfielder and one of the three seniors on the team. "Like we showed last year. We didn't even win our league, and we ended up winning state."
If the Storm have any edge on their GSHL rivals, it is that last spring's state title run was proof that hard work and teamwork can create special results.
"We weren't really picked to win anything last year," Carter Johnson said. "I feel like we're still kind of the underdogs and have to prove ourselves, to show everybody that it wasn't a fluke. It's just a lot more focused and a lot more serious than it was last year."