Play Ball: Student-Athletes Compete on Fields, Courts Again

Here are The Beachcomber’s first recaps of school sporting events in more than a year.

  • Thursday, March 4, 2021 7:54pm
  • Sports
Vashon junior midfielder Franki Brown (#7) and freshman midfielder Linnea Heuschert (#5) are team members of the VHS girls’ soccer team (Phoebe Wilke Photo).

Vashon junior midfielder Franki Brown (#7) and freshman midfielder Linnea Heuschert (#5) are team members of the VHS girls’ soccer team (Phoebe Wilke Photo).

Editor’s note: With Nisqually League competitive sports back in swing, The Beachcomber celebrates a milestone: our first recaps of school sporting events in more than a year. Thank you to our community contributors for this front-page news.

By Jenni Wilke and Pat Mulvihill

For The Beachcomber

Girls’ Soccer roars back

Twenty-five weeks beyond when this team would have expected to start their season, the Vashon High School Girls’ Varsity soccer team recently played their first game of the 2020-21 school year.

Hosting Bellevue Christian on Feb. 20, the Vashon stands were scattered with masked family members and fans excited to watch a live game.

“It feels surprisingly normal,” said Remony Harmony, whose daughter, senior Tamsen Henry, plays goalie and is one of the team’s captains. Players, refs, and all coaching staff also wore masks throughout the entire game. Even still, the players were grateful to have a season at all.

Due to a variety of circumstances, this year’s team is made up of only two seniors, four juniors, three sophomores, and 11 freshmen.

With only a week’s worth of official practices under their belts, nerves were running high for this young team at the start of the game. An unfortunate (and questionably off-sides) breakaway led to an early goal for Bellevue Christian by their team captain, Rylee Reese.

This led to a few nervous clearances from Vashon’s defense, which made it difficult to gain momentum down the field. Eventually, Vashon settled into a rhythm and answered the goal ten minutes later with a cross from junior midfielder, Franki Brown, deep on the right side of the field, perfectly placed in front of the goal. Luckily, junior Phoebe Wilke, Vashon’s other team captain playing forward, was right there to tap it in.

Vashon’s defensive line, made up of returning varsity players, sophomores Leah Gross and Myra Butler, worked well with freshmen, Alana Bass and Liv Ormseth in shutting down further breakaway opportunities for Bellevue Christian. On more than one occasion, Alana Bass managed to sweep into the box to regain possession from Bellevue’s approaching offense and play the ball back up the right side.

With the game tied at the half, Vashon’s chances of winning this season opener seemed good. During halftime, the players encouraged each other to relax and to try and take more shots to rattle Bellevue’s goalie.

Although Vashon had several good opportunities in the second half, they were unable to finish on them to score another goal. In the 75th minute, Bellevue was able to capitalize on a corner kick opportunity to score. The ball was initially cleared out of the box, but Bellevue played it back in, and in the chaos in front of the goal, chipped it over Vashon’s defenders and the goalie to lead 2-1. Vashon kept the pressure up for the remainder of the game but was unable to equalize the score. Despite the loss, fans and players found a lot to celebrate and left feeling very optimistic about the rest of the season.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the team traveled to Sumner to face Cascade Christian, who won the Nisqually league last season. Expecting another competitive match, after ten minutes into the game, it became clear that Vashon was the more dominant team.

Retaining possession within Cascade’s half of the field for seventy to eighty percent of the time, Vashon managed to fire off nine shots on goal in just the first half. Entering the second half determined to finally finish on one of these opportunities, freshman midfielder Linnea Heuschert, threaded the ball through to senior forward Payton Venturi, who was ready at the top of the box. Sending the ball in over the goalie’s head, Vashon now led 1-0.

Just five minutes later, Venturi found herself in the box again, beating the goalie to the ball with an offensive slide to put it in the net for another goal. Cascade’s offense struggled to get even get past Vashon’s defensive line, letting the Pirates easily win 2-0.

Two days later, Vashon took on Charles Wright Academy in University Place. Bolstered by their recent victory, the team felt much more confident heading into the game. Once again, Vashon dominated possession in the first half with multiple shots on goal. This strategy of trying to rattle the keeper paid off in the second half.

Sophomore, Rose Peterson, who plays midfield made a connection to freshman midfielder Kate Spranger, who was well positioned just outside of the box. With a strong right foot, Spranger sent the ball sailing beyond the goalie to score. Motivated to score again, freshman defender, Liv Ormseth sent the ball into the box only to almost score as it bounced off the crossbar. Fortunately, sophomore midfielder Vera Moses, was right there to tap it in for the goal. Vashon sealed another victory, 2-0 over Charles Wright.

Besides such a late start to the season, wearing masks while playing, and social distancing requirements for spectators, the pandemic has also impacted the post-season.

Each Nisqually League team will only play eight games in the regular season. Teams will be seeded based on these results and then enter a week of playoffs to claim the title of Nisqually League Champions. Teams will not go on to play districts or state.

Vashon coach, Scott Nicolino, feels very optimistic about Vashon’s chances at winning this title.

“The team has been improving every game as we adopt new teammates and a new formation,” he said. “With such a young team, these incremental improvements from game to game are huge. Our ball control and time of possession is superior to every team in the Nisqually League. I feel like we should be considered the team to beat moving forward, just ahead of Bellevue Christian.” — Jenni Wilke, parent.

Tennis players show grit, promise

The Boy’s tennis season, like most high school sports, got off to an unusual start in 2021. Having missed the traditional fall season, the team faced a challenging transition to a midwinter start and a short season. Compounding the issues, the team had lost eight excellent players from last year’s squad. The team started practices outdoors until the snow shut down even indoor practices at the bubble. A final problem was league play beginning during school break week.

The Pirates start this season with six returning players and six new players who fit right in and show a lot of promise. In the first match against Life Christian, the Pirates were short-handed and forfeited one of their matches. However, led by their strong singles play, the Pirates were able to come back and get a hard-fought 3-2 win to open their Nisqually League title defense.

Evan Kepplar took a strong win at #1 singles 6-1,6-1; Zach VanDusen followed with a 6-0,6-1 win at #2 singles, and playing an unusual third singles match, John Maciejewski dug out of a deep hole to win 2-6, 7-5, and 10- 8 in the tiebreaker. John’s comeback win sealed the overall team win and was a gritty and much-needed lift for the team. In the lone doubles match, Danny Baldinger and Ryder Jones played a great match but fell in two close sets.

On Friday, the Pirates played a strong Cascade Christian team and again earned a close 3-2 win by taking the pivotal tiebreaker. Once again the Pirates were strong in singles. Zach Van Dusen took an impressive 6-1, 6-3 win against a strong Cascade player at #1 singles. Evan Kepplar then took out the CC #2 player 6-1, 6-0.

At #1 Doubles, John Maciejewski and Lucas Schoenberg fell to a sharp and experienced CC doubles team in two sets. Vashon’s #2 Doubles, Danny Baldwin and Finn Hawkins, got a great start, splitting the first two sets but ended up dropping a close third-set tiebreaker. In the longest match of the day and with the score tied, Freshmen Davis Rice /Colin McIntyre (playing their first match) pulled out a win in two tiebreakers 7-6, 10-7. Also getting wins against CC were Hatcher Freda, Ryder Jones and Danny Boyle.

With the win, the Pirates got off to a 2-0 start. Neither win was easy, but somehow this team has been able to pull things out when needed. Next up for the Pirates was Annie Wright on Monday and Charles Wright, coming Friday. After those matches, the team should have a better idea of how they stack up in the league this year. The team was and will be able to practice on many rainy days thanks to the generosity of the Vashon Tennis Club and Country Club. In particular, we are grateful for their extraordinary effort to get the bubble back up and available after the snowstorm. — Pat Mulvihill, Boys’ Tennis Coach

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