For the first ten minutes of Gig Harbor's Tuesday evening soccer game against the visiting Bellarmine Lions, Gig Harbor looked shaken and rattled. The Tides were understandably excited, battling the rival Lions in a key game at the top of the Narrows League 4A pecking order. Players were out of place and blowing assignments, and Bellarmine very nearly scored on an corner kick. But the Tides settled down and found their groove, scoring a barrage of goals in the first half en route to a 4-0 win.
“I think everyone was trying to do too much,” said junior midfielder Ike Northstrom. “Once we figured out we could just pass and do what we've been practicing, it came together.”
Gig Harbor head coach Todd Northstrom said the Tides need to find a balance between too relaxed and too panicky. While the 11th year head coach prefers to let his players figure things out on their own early in games, he pulled a couple of them aside early and told them to settle down.
“Once they kind of calmed down, we started playing our game, we weren't trying to force it, we were just possessing the ball and moving the ball side to side,” Northstrom said. “They've got to learn to do that on their own though. That's what we're working towards.”
Ike Northstrom was the biggest factor in the Tides' turnaround. The talented junior headed in a goal for Gig Harbor's first score at the 20 minute mark, and then just two minutes later, delivered a perfect cross for Jon Brown, who sent it to the back of the net. Just like that, the Tides went from looking lost early to up 2-0. Northstrom received high praise from the head coach, his father.
“The one thing that he has and has always had is the aggressiveness,” Todd Northstrom said. “He's gonna try to win balls, he'll get a head on the ball. He's fundamentally sound. I saw him go up and it just went off the back of his head (on the header goal), but you put yourself in the right spot, good things are going to happen. He continually does that.”
The coach only had one complaint about his son.
“I wish he'd clean his room,” he said.
Brown's goal off the assist from Northstrom was one of his two on the night, the second coming less than five minutes into the second half off an assist from junior forward Edwin Brown. Considerable offseason work has earned Jon Brown increased playing time up top, and he has taken advantage.
“I was just feeling blessed to be up front, because I usually don't play up front,” Brown said. “We were on fire on the second half and I just felt a lot of confidence coming in. I've been practicing a lot, practicing with some college teams, so I've really been getting some good play in and that's helped me score goals.”
Northstrom said Brown is coachable and his offseason work ethic earned him the spot and an uptick in playing time.
“He's a disciplined player,” Northstrom said. “He'll do what you tell him to do. He's kind of like one of those labrador retrievers. You keep throwing it out there, he'll keep going and getting it. He stretches defenses cause he works so hard. He struggled last year with finishing, but this year, just watching at practice, he's dialed in. He worked hard on it in the offseason, and you've gotta reward him with that time and put him up top. He's starting to pay dividends up there.”
Junior forward Cooper Branham was the other goal scorer for the Tides, tapping in a pass from Jon Brown in the 27th minute of the first half. All in all, the Tides look like a team that has found their stride heading into the latter half of the season.
“We feel great,” Brown said. “We don't want to get cocky, but we definitely feel confident right now.”
Northstrom is pleased with where the Tides are at this point in the season.
“In terms of their unity and how they play at practice and how they just get along and go bowling and do stupid stuff, it's a good chemistry that these guys have,” Northstrom said. “The way that they're starting to come together in practice and do what we want them to do, there's nowhere to go but up. We've got three or four weeks to try to build ourselves into a championship team. All signs point towards that.”
Winning is fun, and winning rivalry games is even more fun.
“It's a tough matchup every year, and it's good to come out and crush them this year,” Ike Northstrom said.
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.