Peninsula soccer team aims for playoff berth

of the GatewayMarch 13, 2014 

Peninsula senior co-captain Noah Hanks leads a Seahawks team that is shooting for a top-four league finish and a playoff berth this season.

JON MANLEY — Gateway photo

In Brian Lawson's first year as head coach of the Peninsula boys soccer team, the Seahawks finished fifth in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League, just out of reach of making the playoffs. In his second year, Lawson expects better results.

“We have aspirations to be in the top four,” Lawson said. “Obviously, top three would be wonderful. We fell short of expectations last year, and this year we have our sights set on making the playoffs and going as far as we can.”

The Seahawks lost Matt Myers, Nate Jackson, and Donovan Hobson to graduation, but return senior captains Noah Hanks and David Rodriguez. Hanks, a forward, said the team was plagued by off-the-field issues last year, and it's been a point of emphasis to eliminate those.

“It's all about sportsmanship (this season),” Hanks said. “We had bad things happen off the field last year. So we want to keep track on what we're doing and just always work hard. The school has really enforced it, the coach has really enforced it a lot, and especially the players that were on the team last year know, so we're really pushing it on the younger guys to know, 'You have a commitment to the team, and you gotta stick to it.'”

With a relatively small senior class—only three on the varsity squad—and a plethora of talented underclassmen, the Seahawks are hoping to change the culture, eliminate the off-the-field issues, and grow as a team. Despite their youth, Lawson thinks the team can have success this year because of their work ethic and commitment to the game.

“They're hard workers,” Lawson said. “We're going to be very young, but at the same time, we have a stellar group of young players. Our freshmen class is phenomenal this year. They are hard, hard workers. They're very intelligent soccer players, and paired with that hard work, we're going to be successful.”

Hanks, who was a second-team all SPSL 3A player last season, is aiming for first-team honors this year.

“If I can go second team, then I can surely go first team,” he said.

His leadership, along with fellow senior co-captain Rodriguez, will be vital to the team's success, but because of their youth, younger players are going to have to step up, in a hurry.

“We should be able to use them (the underclassmen) and their playing ability, because most of them played club,” Hanks said. “We just have to be able to play strong and big, because they're going to be playing guys who are older than them, but I'm really excited for this year.”

Rodriguez has his sights set higher than just competing for the league title.

“We just gotta shape up, I want to see us get to the state championship and I want us to win this whole thing,” he said.

Rodriguez said he believes the team's youth will only contribute to their success.

“It's going to be a good year because all the young players have a lot of talent,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of young people that can move the ball. We're mainly a midfield team, so I think with the ball movement skills that we have, we can get the teams running and get them frustrated.”

Lawson said the team is doing all the little things right so far this year.

“I think it's their commitment to daily improvement,” Lawson said. “I think it's their coach-ability. They respond well, if I ask them to do something, it gets done. It's their accountability as a team, too. They hold one another accountable. They look to one another to meet those expectations.”

Peninsula opens their season at home against Fife on Monday, March 17 at 7:15 p.m.

Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at jon.manley@gateline.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.

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