The Big Questions
Archbishop Murphy's Josh Bartley scoring 15 goals in his senior season is good but not special. In fact his teammate and co-captain Jalen Crisler has 17.
The difference between Bartley and his teammates and perhaps any other local player shows in the other meaningful soccer statistic: assists.
His 19 leads the Cascade Conference co-champion Wildcats by a long shot with no other player even in double figures.
He's had a brilliant career and put on a show for the Murphy faithful so much so that the school's public address announcer has given him a special nickname.
"He's always called Josh the 'Magic Man' because at any moment he can change a game or have a piece of magic," said coach Mike Bartley, who also happens to be Josh's dad.
Last year Bartley was a good player as he led Murphy to an undefeated regular season and into the state semifinals. But this year he's been great.
"This year he's taken the view of trying to set other people up," the coach said. "He's not selfish in the way a striker's selfish. He'd rather go through everybody then lay it off and let somebody else score.
"He can change the game pretty quickly."
What's been the secret to Getchell's turnaround?
The start of Marysville Getchell's season was ugly. The Chargers reeled from five straight losses, a bit of a surprise after they made the playoffs in their inaugural season.
"A lot of the games we lost early, we played some pretty good teams," said head coach Geoff Kittle.
The biggest difference came from a bit of roster shuffling. Kittle started with the team's best, most experienced players on defense. It's a common formula to build a soccer team from the back, but it wasn't yielding enough scoring.
"It was a matter of us shifting things around and finding out where guys fit on the team," Kittle said.
The other difference came in goal where senior Cameron Carter struggled early on but managed all four of his shutouts in the final four weeks of the season.
Kittle has enjoyed the ride this season.
"Even though we were oh-and-five it was still pretty cool to coach this team because they were still out there focused, warming up and ready to go," he said. "They played hard at practice the whole time. There's no real attitudes on our team."
Did late season fade by Snohomish show chink in armor?
The final two weeks of the regular season for the Panthers was quite a slog. A fight broke out in the second matchup of the season with Monroe on April 19 and Snohomish was shut out 3-0 by Mount Vernon in the next game. Sixty minutes into the following game at Lake Stevens the high-scoring Panthers were pushing over two straight hours of play without a goal.
But the less than full-strength team, picked itself up and fought back to beat Lake Stevens and closed the season with a convincing 7-0 win against Arlington, comfortably winning the league.
"We learned some things out of that," Panther coach Dan Pingrey said. "That showed maturity and I'm hoping that's what's going to take us all the way."
A year ago the Panthers were undefeated and nationally ranked. They lost in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
This year injuries and suspensions forced Pingrey to put some players that weren't expected to be starters in the rotation. They thrived. Now the team is healthy and back to full strength and ready to go where last year's team couldn't.
"In the big picture we are getting healthy," Pingrey said. "We are getting everybody back and our depth has been increased, so it's good right now.
"Hopefully it's going to be good for us."
Who are the big soccer powers in NWC?
Though Cascade Conference co-champs Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest have powered through their respective schedules this season, they're far from favorites going into the 2A District 1/2 Tournament.
The favorite may actually be the Northwest Conference champ Bellingham, which is undefeated and has allowed just .50 goals per game this season. At 6-foot-4, goalkeeper Auden Schilder headlines the Red Raiders' defense and has postseason experience as the goalkeeper in Bellingham's 2010 state-title run. Defenders Lars Botterill and Hunter Hadfield are returning starters along the back line, which has helped record 10 shutouts this season.
On offense seniors Brad Dale and Emile Diffley lead the attack, having scored double-digit goals.
Another north power to contend with is Squalicum, which played the Wildcats tough in last year's 2A district title game before falling 1-0. The Storm have won seven straight after starting the season slow, outscoring opponentns 34-3 during the streak. Squalicum averages 3.26 goals per game and is led by midfielder Adam Smiley and leading-scorer Gabe Guidroz.
Beyond Bellingham and Squalicum, there's also Burlington-Edison, which finished third in the NWC, and a scrappy Lakewood team that handed Archbishop Murphy one of its two league losses.
Can Stanwood take down a 3A South team?
Stanwood swept through the 3A North en route to its first league title since 2001, going 8-0 and outscoring its North rivals 20-3. But when it came to its counterparts in the South the Spartans had far less success.
"I think playing the South was a little bit of a reality check," said Stanwood captain Logan Flem.
Stanwood went 2-3 against the 3A South teams and was outscored 7-1 in its three losses to Shorecrest, Shorewood and Glacier Peak. Now the Spartans could easily find themselves going up against three South teams if they want to win a district title. First up today is Meadowdale, who the Spartans defeated 3-1 on April 12. If the favorites hold, Stanwood would then face Glacier Peak in the semis and Shorewood in the championship game.
Stanwood coach Kyle Veach said that the Spartans' fun-loving attitude caught up with them in the three losses to the South teams.
"We finally played how we practiced and that wasn't very successful," Veach said. "A little too fun and not taking it serious."
But Veach said his team acknowledges those shortcomings and is ready to fix them. "After the losses they were already huddled up in the corner talking about the talking points I was going to go over," Veach said. "They know what they have to do."
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