Dominating Vashon soccer program launches into #1 seed in league play

The Vashon Pirates went undefeated in league play this year.

The Vashon Pirates went undefeated in league play this year, finishing their final game 6-0 against Klahowya on Thursday, May 2.

This puts them at the number 1 seed in the league playoffs, with their next game on Tuesday, May 7, at the Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma, after The Beachcomber’s print deadline. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and, as usual, you can listen in on Voice of Vashon.

“We narrowly lost in the state playoffs to Overlake last year, so we knew that we would be good this year with a lot of young players returning, “ said head coach Scott Nicolino. “Several key midfielders and defenders returned from that team, but we were pleasantly surprised to also get two new attacking threats in Mason Hanes and Joni Respighi.”

Mason has scored 21 times this year while coming off early in most games because the Pirates were so far ahead. Joni is just ahead of him, with 22 goals in league play and friendly competitions. Isaac Newcomb leads the team with 14 assists.

“A lot of players on this team can score,” said sophomore captain Lewis Thompson, who has 12 assists so far this season.

Lewis has been the workhorse central attacking midfielder for the team this year, moving from the striker position last year into the midfield to provide some toughness and creative spark.

Orion Knowler, the other senior captain, said the team has also worked on keeping their intensity up: “It can be hard to keep the focus on quality play when we are winning games comfortably. … Our practices are often as intense as our games.”

Orion has been a consistent starter for the team all four years of his high school career, playing across the back line from outside back to center back.

“We have a couple of dozen players who would start on most other teams in our league,” said John Thomas, an assistant coach who has coached much of the team since they started their soccer journey in the first grade. “It has given us much needed depth at times when key contributors are injured.”

It has been a different kind of season for the JV team. Athletic Director Anders Blomgren scheduled games against 2A and 3A schools to provide tougher opposition.

“The JV this year has been more integrated with the varsity,” said JV coach Brett Owensby. “Quite a few players have participated in varsity games. Not only do those players help our varsity this year, but they are improving faster and will be strong contributors next year.”

Paul Beytebiere, goal keeper coach, also has different challenges this season: “Our team has the majority of the possession and the majority of the chances. Our keepers this year have had to switch the field more than make saves. But they have to be ready at all times to make the saves.”

“Other teams block up so much of our midfield that it is harder to play east-west in that part of the field,” said player Ozzie Tanner, “so I have to make myself available as an option in possession. We typically build from the back and will make short passes inside the box. I am comfortable with it, but it requires a different skill set to that of most high school keepers.”

With Vashon currently ranked second in 1A state, much is expected of this team.

If you can’t make it to the game on May 7, you can listen in on Voice of Vashon. Oscar Lopez has been the play by play caller, with the support of his dad, Jamie Lopez, for commentary.

The team’s final league playoff game will be Thursday, May 9, at the Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood. The state tournament kicks off on Friday, May 17.

Shanti Escovedo is the development director of the Vashon Soccer Club.