The experience Brandon Gonzalez and Keegan Dolan gained playing with the Seattle Sounders FC Academy could prove valuable for Auburn Riverside as the Ravens aim to get back to the state tournament and prove they belong there.
AUBURN —The experience Brandon Gonzalez and Keegan Dolan gained playing with the Seattle Sounders FC Academy could prove valuable for Auburn Riverside as the Ravens aim to get back to the state tournament and prove they belong there.
Auburn Riverside gave up two late goals to drop a 3-2 overtime loss to Interlake in last season’s Class 3A state semifinals in Gonzalez’s second season with the team. Now, Dolan is the new addition.
The pair give Auburn Riverside a dynamic duo.
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Five Teams to Watch
1. Garfield — The only thing that could have made the team’s history-making season any better would have been a victory in the Class 3A state championship match. The Bulldogs (16-4-2) advanced past the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history, but fell 1-0 to Interlake in the 3A final.
2. Lakeside — Just two seasons removed from winning its first Class 3A state title. Many young players on that team are juniors and seniors now, which means the Lions are experienced and battle-tested.
3. Archbishop Murphy — Team returns five key players, making the Wildcats a possible candidate to repeat as Class 2A state champions this spring.
4. Snohomish — Coach Daniel Pingrey might have his most difficult challenge in getting back in contention for the school’s third Class 4A state championship in a row. The Panthers, who went 19-2-1 and beat Central Valley of Spokane 3-1 in the 4A title match, lost seven key seniors to graduation.
5. Hazen — Came close to knocking off eventual Class 3A state champion Interlake in the first round of state in 2015 and finished 14-5-1. The Highlanders, who lost that match 1-0, retain eight starters and some strong motivation to finish stronger in 2016.
Five Players to Watch
1. Connor Seed, Glacier Peak, Sr., MF — The fourth-year starting central midfielder should make a big difference, but not until he heals from a torn meniscus in his knee. He had six goals and five assists for the 15-3-1 Grizzlies in 2015, helping them to the 3A state quarterfinals.
2. Eric Jones, Snohomish, Sr., D/MF — The versatile player who opens as a defender this season will play a big role if the Panthers are to string together a third consecutive 4A state title.
3. Matt Williams, Archbishop Murphy, Sr., MF/F — The Wildcats’ first-team All-Cascade Conference selection and team captain will be the key to any postseason success for the program after last year’s top player, Brady Henderson, opted to join Seattle Sounders FC Academy.
4. Paul Rothrock, Lakeside, Jr., MF — The Lions’ central midfielder supplied four goals and five assists on last season’s 3A state quarterfinal team, but he means much more than that to the team. Rothrock enters his third year as a starter in the program and he’s their heart-and-soul as a hard-working distributor.
5. David Postma, Bellevue Christian, Sr., GK — The Class 1A all-state first-team goalkeeper returns for a team that went 18-1-1, thanks to his 0.52 goals-against average.
“I see myself more as a leader this year and learned from experiences the years before,” said Gonzalez, who had to stop his involvement with the Sounders to become eligible for high-school play last spring. “I’m definitely taking it more serious this year and wanting to be ‘the guy.’
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“I played high school as a freshman. Then, my experience with Sounders [Academy] was definitely great. I learned a lot, you’re around so many talented players and coaches. It’s so much different, the environment. Here in high school you look forward to it the whole year.”
Still, the sting of last season’s incomplete season carries over this spring. The Ravens were in the semis for the first time in school history and were up 2-1 with less than a minute to play.
“It was heartbreaking to lose, and none of us wanted to lose,” said Robyn Saarenas, in his 14th season as the Ravens’ coach.
“I cried. The whole group [cried]. I think the initial emotion was just disappointment. I think when I was standing in front of [the players] and I showed my emotions, what I noticed is I wasn’t alone. And, it made me realize how much they cared about winning.”
The loss left the program, which returns seven starters, with unfinished business.
Back in the fold in prominent roles leading the 2016 campaign to erase the disappointment is Gonzalez, a senior who put up 16 goals and eight assists last season.
“Last year was definitely the highlight of my soccer career,” Gonzalez said.
“Our goal is to make it back one step farther than last year. We’re all like family here and we work super hard for each other.
Saarenas is confident that she has the talent and the hunger to make a run at a state title, led by Gonzalez.
“He’s a guy I’d come watch play if I wasn’t coaching,” she said.
“He’s just a gifted guy on the ball. He looks like he’s having so much fun. He’s got a smile on his face while he’s breaking your ankles [with his moves].”
Dolan, a junior, will be playing his first season of high-school soccer.
Leading the defense is senior Corey Brinkman, who moves from a defensive midfield role to leader of the back line at center back.
Brinkman will team with returning junior goalkeeper Andy Starkel to lock down opponents.
“That [semifinal loss] has just brought us all together,” Brinkman said.
The Ravens must get contributions from many players to replace the now graduated playmaking combination of forward Jordan Loomans (22 goals) and midfielder Adrian Correa (10 goals, 6 assists).
“I feel like we are contenders and will have a shot at the goal we missed last season,” Saarenas said.
“We are a hungry team as the season ended short of our goal last year. I think we had the talent to win it all. It left us with a taste to go back and get the job done.”
The Ravens led 2-1 with under a minute left when Interlake forward Isaac Reed then slipped in a goal to tie the match at 2-2 late in regulation.
It was less than a minute into overtime when Reed tallied an open-netter and the Saints stole a 3-2 victory.
“Everyone who walks out on this pitch feels like we have a job that’s unfinished,” Saarenas said. “We all wanted that game back. We can’t wait to get going on the journey to return.”