A New Reality

Heartbreak. Sometimes it disguises itself as a quiet, anticipation filled day.

9AM, Saturday, May 19th. Members of the boys soccer team begin to trickle into the locker room, a long day ahead of them. For the second round of the state tournament, the Wildcats have drawn Columbia River, located in Vancouver, WA, a three hour drive from Archbishop Murphy.

At 9:30 the boys load onto the buses, ready to hit the road after a quick stop at the local Albertsons for snacks. Two hours later, they stop for a bathroom break at a rest stop just outside of Olympia. Energy levels are low, mainly because it’s still morning and sitting on a bus for two hours isn’t the most exciting. The boys go back to relaxing or napping for the last hour of the trip.

Around 1:30, the buses pull into the parking lot of the middle school where they’ll be playing in a few short hours. No one can seem to figure out how to get down to the field without dragging the gear down a huge hill– which everyone agrees they don’t want to do. Some consideration leads to the decision to hit up the selected lunch spot–Jimmy John’s–and hope easier access to the field is available closer to game time.

Lunchtime is quick. Jimmy John’s does well on holding to their promise of “So fast you’ll freak,”, a slogan Coach Bartley finds funny. With the arrival in Vancouver and some more nutritious food in their systems, the boys’ spirits are high. Perfect for a quick trip to Target to finish killing time before the game.

By the time they arrive at the field, however, the post-lunch and 3 hour bus ride slump has kicked in, and most of the boys are slow moving, some even taking the extra time before the pre-game meeting and warm ups to take a nap on the field. Columbia River, who is 20-0 so far in the season, starts warming up and hour and a half before game time.

5PM. Game time.

I could give you a full game rundown, minute by minute of how Saturday’s game went down. I could tell you when the goals were scored, who had more shots, when each team subbed. However, telling that detailed of a story wouldn’t do the AMHS boys soccer team any justice. Because the truth is, they played their hearts out on Saturday. The boys came out harder in the second half than I’ve seen all season.

Despite that, the Wildcats lost 1-3 on Saturday against Columbia River, eliminating them in the quarter finals of the state tournament. And frankly, it was heartbreaking. Watching those boys stand in shock as the final whistle blew, watching them hug each other and their parents, taking all the gear back to the bus for one last ride. It was devastating.

But this is the new reality for the Wildcats. Winning state is no longer going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a fight. The Wildcat soccer team from the past three years, the team that won three state championships, they were incredibly unique. They came to AMHS already having played together, already having a chemistry that the new Wildcats haven’t developed yet.

That isn’t to say though that this new group can’t develop that chemistry. That the Wildcats will never again be state champs. That would be ridiculous. The team is still over flowing with talented players. Take Max Henderson for example, the team’s rock of a center back this season, and an obvious choice for team captain next year. Cole Lovell plays fast in the middle, and will become a threat in the air if he gains a few more inches in the next two years. Sully Hupp, who took over as goalie this year, has shown incredible potential. So have outside back Zach Sievers and winger Bryan Borque. That’s the benefit of having a young team. There’s so much room for growth.

Watching the Wildcat boys soccer team has been a huge part of my high school experience. And as much as it hurt to watch them lose this past Saturday, I’m incredibly proud of how hard they’ve worked this season, and the past four years. I can’t wait to continue following them even when I’m away at college.

 

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Player Profile: Gabi Koch

In a district game against Liberty High School during the 2016 season, Wildcat’s assistant soccer coach Mike Boswell turned to Gabi Koch and said two words: hammer down. “I knew exactly what he meant,” Koch remembered, “That’s my absolute favorite soccer memory hands down.”

This season, Koch, a junior, is a captain hoping to get her team back to the same place they were at when last season concluded by leading through example. “This season I want to help my teammates on and off the field so that we can get right back to the final four of the state tournament,” Koch said.

Koch started playing soccer when she was only 5 years old, but it didn’t become her main sport until she was 8. Now, along with playing for the Archbishop Murphy varsity team, she plays for the Greater Seattle Surf team in her age division. For both teams, she plays center attacking midfielder her “absolute favorite position.”

Koch’s motivation for continuing to better her game is truly inspiring. “My biggest motivator would be my close family friend Jake Eastwood,” answered Koch. At age 13, Jake was forced to have one of his legs amputated due to an osteosarcoma. “He’s still one of the most athletic and uplifting people I know,” Koch added, “Knowing him and his story will always inspire me.”

Watch Gabi Koch take the field with the Wildcats at home this season at Terry Ennis Stadium.

A Championship Weekend 

The sun continues to set over the horizon as the team is presented with their trophy for the third year in a row. Everyone has been in the heat for hours, but no one cares; the smiles on the player’s faces, the energy of all the students, it all makes it worth it. Who cares about sunburnt cheeks and growling stomachs when your school’s soccer team has just one it’s third consecutive state title? 

This season, even more than the past two, has been one for the AMHS boys soccer record books. And Saturday was the perfect end to the season. 

After a slow start Friday evening during the semi-final game against Cedarcrest, junior midfielder Sam Johnson was happy to start things off with a bang in the championship. “To get things started in such a big game gave us all the momentum. Throughout the entire state tournament, we’ve scored first, and in the semi-final that didn’t happen, so it was good to get back to our style of play,” he said. His goal came within the first 3 minutes after kickoff, a beauty from inside the right corner of the box. 

The next goal came shortly after from senior Jensen Crisler. What everyone thought was going to be a close game, was already looking like it could be a blowout. 

Goals continued to be made minutes after each other; Matt Williams, the Wildcat’s leading scorer, netted two and Crisler added another before half. 5-0 at halftime in a championship game? That wasn’t what anyone was expecting. 

The second half continued in similar fashion; Williams, Crisler, and Diego Rios all added goals to the scoreboard for the Wildcats. Every single rostered player stepped on the field, and at the end of the game, Coach Bartley returned all his starters to the field to finish their season together. 

That was the beauty of Saturday’s game. Seeing the core group of players who have grown together over the past 3 years finish their careers at Murphy, seeing the new talent that the team has for the upcoming seasons, and seeing all of us, as an Archbishop Murphy family, celebrating with each other. 

“It’s been a really awesome experience getting to play alongside the guys I did for the past few seasons and getting to lift the trophy with them one last time,” Williams, who was one of the team’s three captains this year, commented. For him, yesterday marked the last time he’ll play competitive soccer, as he does not plan to continue playing in college. “It’s still a bitter pill to swallow, but I don’t think I’d want to end my career any differently,” he told me. 

After this championship weekend, other players are also looking towards the future. Even though we have a ton of seniors leaving, I still have 100% confidence that we will be state contenders next year,” sophomore goal keeper Daniel Mycroft believes. Johnson, one of next year’s captains, however, knows that next year will be a whole new team. “It’s gonna be on myself and the other upperclassmen to bring the younger guys up to speed,” he said. 

There’s no doubt next year will be different. But for now, basking in the glory of 3 state titles is enough to focus on. 

Wildcat Soccer Team tops Greyhounds in 1st Round of State

On a gray afternoon, the Wildcat boy’s soccer team took on the Grandview Greyhounds for the first round of the 2A state tournament. Parents, siblings back from college, and classmates packed the stands in what turned out to be a typical AMHS boy’s soccer game for this year: a blowout. Every player on the roster received playing time, and the Wildcats won the game 6-1.

The first goal for the Wildcats came from junior Sam Johnson off the right side of the field, 6 minutes into the game. This was quickly followed by a goal from Isaac Feeney, also  a junior, in the 11th minute. The only other action in the first half came in the form of 2 yellow cards; one for a Greyhound and one for senior Mitchell Lovell.

The second half provided more action.

Only a minute after kickoff, senior Chase Whittaker volleyed in a beautiful goal from the top of the D-ring. In similar fashion to the first half, 5 minutes later (46′) Matt Williams (sr) bypassed 2 defenders to add one more to the scoreboard. 4-0. The next 2 goals came from Grandview, however only 1 of those goals was for their team. In the 52nd minute, Williams took another ball up top to the Greyhounds’ goal and, after shooting it, a Grandview player helped finish it into the goal. The Greyhounds did put one of their own in the AMHS net though in minute 52 after a free kick and some confusion in the box, keeping it from being another Wildcat shutout. The final goal of the game was an absolute laser by Feeney from the 20 yard line to the bottom left corner of the goal.

With a 6-1 win, the Wildcats advance to the 2A State Quarter-Finals for the 3rd year in a row.

The Wildcats are currently undefeated and have a goals for to goals against ratio of 18 to 1. That’s phenomenal, in case you were wondering.

 

Player Profile: Jensen Crisler

Jensen Crisler is a four year varsity member of the Wildcat soccer team. Playing forward, he’s been a crucial piece of the team, especially the past two seasons. A leading scorer, Crisler has also taken on a new role this year as a senior, one which he has embraced fully.

Crisler’s times as a soccer player started long before his freshman year at Archbishop Murphy. “My dad wanted to coach me,” he said about the start of his soccer career. Coming from a big soccer family, he put on his first pair of cleats when he was only three years old. He’s played hundreds of games since then; including, of course, Archbishop Murphy’s two state championship games.

This year, Crisler has taken on a new role as team captain. Selected last year by teammates, he, along with fellow seniors Matt Williams and Ryan Henderson, have been tasked with being role models both on and off the field.  When asked about what his personal goals for the season are, he humbly replied, “I don’t have any personal goals. I just like to help the team achieve our main goals which are: one, win league, districts, and state; two, allow only 5 goals against us all season; and three, stay focused until the season is over.”

As the number of games he has left with the Wildcats winds down, Crisler says he wants his teammates to be able to remember him as a leader and someone who was, and still is, like family to them. “What I’ve learned from high school soccer is that your team is your family. We’d do anything for each other and we all look out for each other,” he added.

Having played soccer for 15 years now, Crisler has decided to hang up his cleats after his time with the Wildcats is done. “I want to focus on school. I plan to play many intramural sports to make up for not playing soccer though,” Crisler says of his college plans.

Catch Jensen Crisler and the Wildcat soccer team in their last home conference match and Senior Night this Friday, April 28th, at Terry Ennis Stadium against Cedar Park Christian. Game time is 6pm.