BATTLE GROUND – The Battle Ground boys soccer team jogged toward its fans, arms raised in triumph.
Adulation from the District Stadium bleachers rained down like the showers that fell Friday evening.
It is a scene the Tigers enjoy, especially since they had gone so long without it.
Battle Ground did not win a match last season. But with Friday’s 3-0 win over Skyview, the Tigers are now 6-2-2 and 2-0-1 in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
“We’ve got motivation and we’ve got desire,” senior forward Alexandr Suyarkov said. “We’re just killing it.”
The league season is young, but the 4A GSHL has a surprise leader. Behind first-year coach Bobby Clark, Battle Ground is playing with an enthusiasm befitting its relatively young roster. Ten of 19 players are sophomores or freshmen, including six of 11 starters Friday.
Yet, the Tigers are also playing with poise. They have surrendered just four goals over the past nine matches.
“Our defense is rock solid right now. That’s all Coach Clark,” Suyarkov said. “He worked on that defense. He picked out players, set us up, and we’re killing it now.”
Senior captain Brandon Palmateer put Battle Ground ahead with 12 minutes left in the first half. He leapt high to head in a corner kick from sophomore Carsyn Lundeen.
Less than two minutes later, senior Casey Morgan doubled the lead when his low shot from 15 yards bounded inside the left goalpost.
That was more than enough offense for the Tigers. But they added a third goal in the second half when Todd Karlsen scored on a counterattack.
Coming off a winless year with a roster that’s half underclassmen might not seem like a recipe for success.
But sophomore Jacob Kemp said the team has two crucial ingredients – confidence and discipline.
“Our coach instills that confidence in us,” Kemp said. “He’s very commanding in practice. We stick to what we know. Everything we do on the field is purely what he tells us to do. We just follow that.”
Kemp said this team’s goal is to reach the state playoffs for the first time since 1992. He said the underclassmen want to set that foundation for the future of Battle Ground soccer.
And for seven seniors, elevating the program to a winner couldn’t be sweeter.
“It’s my last year, so I’m leaving it out on the field every single game,” Suyarkov said. “This means a lot to me.”
BATTLE GROUND 3, SKYVIEW 0
Goalkeeper saves – Thomas Ewert 4.
Goals (assists) – Brandon Palmateer (Carsyn Lundeen), Casey Morgan (unassisted), Todd Karlsen (Alexandr Suyarkov); Goalkeeper saves – Taun Roadifer 3. Coach’s standouts – Lundeen, Palmateer.
Halftime – 2-0.
JV – Skyview 5-0.