BACK OUTDOORS! Rain or shine, soccer teams grind it out

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Spring has sprung in the Tacoma area, and that means a slew of new athletic seasons have hit the ground running. When it comes to coverage of certain sports, we tend to put a strong focus on soccer here at the Tacoma Weekly. While we are passionate about the sport, don’t go thinking that it is some sort of overblown love affair that gets more ink than it deserves.

The fact of the matter is that Tacoma and the South Sound is a year-round soccer haven.

When the school year begins, we’ve got the high school girls kicking the ball around. While that would be enough to cover, there are also the men’s and women’s teams over at the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University and Tacoma Community College to keep an eye on.

After those seasons wrap up and the temperature drops here in the Puget Sound, the game heads indoors. The revitalized Tacoma Stars now play in the Major Arena Soccer League. While we can always dream about them returning to their original home in the Tacoma Dome, the economics of the business have them playing at the Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. It is a more fitting venue for the sport itself, and has now seen the Stars earn a playoff berth in two of its first three seasons.

Of course, we can’t forget the local boys holding it down at the Tacoma Soccer Center. The Tacoma Stars Reserves do battle in the Western Indoor Soccer League, which comprises teams from Western Washington. The Reserves fell two goals short of winning their second league championship this season.

Both the Stars and the Stars Reserves have rosters that are full of Tacoma and Puget Sound natives. These are truly a couple of homegrown teams that deserve a serious look every winter.

Once it gets a little nicer out, the game heads back outdoors. Sometimes teams are playing in frigid temperatures early on. Throw in the usual dose of rain and it becomes a true challenge for the players and their fans to slog through a full 80 minutes of play. However, time after time, they lace up the cleats and the fans find a spot in the stands.

The springtime ushers in seasons for so many local teams that it sometimes leaves us feeling a little dizzy. On top of the high school boys’ squads taking to the fields, we also welcome new seasons from the Sounders U23’s, the Sounders Women, the men’s and women’s teams from the Washington Premier U23’s (formerly South Sound FC), the newly-arrived Sounders S2, as well as always keeping an eye on the big Seattle Sounders club that plays a short drive up the freeway.

Our first trip of the spring season is often up the hill to Bellarmine Prep’s beautiful new Memorial Field. While we’ll kind of miss seeing the muddy players out on the natural grass field, we’ll happily accept a better brand of action on the new turf field. No more mud puddles gobbling up balls and players.

The action on the field may be forever a bit faster at Bellarmine from now on, but nothing will ever be done about the crazy weather that can swing through and turn the game into an exercise of survival. We have witnessed games with rain blowing sideways, while temperatures can sometimes dip several degrees in a matter of moments.

On Friday, March 23, there was the threat of some sprinkles in the air, but for the most part, it was just breezy and cold. It almost makes fans colder when they see players out on the field in shorts, braving the elements for those 80 minutes. If people think the next generation is soft, they haven’t spent much time seeing our local student athletes in action under the worst of conditions.

The Bellarmine Prep boys were hosting the Emerald Ridge Jaguars in a 4A South Puget Sound League matchup. While the Jaguars haven’t had much of a playoff history yet, the Lions from Bellarmine have been a perennial state powerhouse for a couple of decades now. However, the young season saw Emerald Ridge enter the match sitting on top of the league standings, while Bellarmine was looking to notch their first victory of the season.

It was a tale of two halves, as both teams looked very different after the intermission.

The Lions wasted little time ramping up the offensive pressure on Emerald Ridge. A steady stream of runs and chances at the Jaguars’ goal had Bellarmine playing confident. The scoreless tie was broken just over 10 minutes into the game when junior midfielder Alex Comfort stepped up to take a free kick just outside of the Emerald Ridge goal box.

With several Jaguars lined up to form a wall in front of him, Comfort slapped a low burner that seemed to knuckle a little bit as it skipped off the turf and snuck just inside the right post. Despite several additional scoring opportunities, the Lions would take their 1-0 advantage into the halftime break.

The missed chances would come back to haunt Bellarmine in the second half.

Emerald Ridge came out on fire in the second half. They barely resembled the team that was pushed around and a step behind through the first 40 minutes of play. After a long throw into the box, Jaguars’ senior defenseman Ryan Walton got a foot on the ball, which ricocheted inside the crowd and bounced into the back of the net. The score was now tied 1-1 with 36 minutes left in regulation.

The undefeated Jaguars maintained their attack and it paid off just six minutes later with another score. Suddenly, Bellarmine was on their heels and trailing in a game that they had dominated for the most part.

Late in the match, Bellarmine finally began to show some of the rhythm that had them clicking so well in the first half. However, their scoring chances came up short before Emerald Ridge tacked on a third goal with just over two minutes left in regulation.

With just a few moments left in the match, Bellarmine would get a second goal off a sensational goal by junior forward Fernando Trujillo-Hernandez. Making his way underneath a ball that had been kicked sky high, Trujillo-Hernandez timed the re-entry perfectly, catching the ball right before it hit the turf and slapping it into the right corner of the goal. Bellarmine trailed 3-2 and did their best to get some more pressure on the Jaguars’ goal, but to no avail.

The Lions (0-3-1) will continue to look for that first win when they host South Kitsap on Thursday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. Emerald Ridge (5-0-0) will host the Lions for the rematch on Thursday, April 19, at 7:30 p.m.

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