This year’s men’s soccer team is quite different from last year’s. The first of the changes is coaching, while the second is players.
Mark Lee, the former assistant coach, stepped up as head coach and currently is helping the Raiders vie for a playoff spot. Assistant coach Micah Wenze is a new addition to the program.
“We are looking to get deep into the playoffs,” Wenzel said. “If we play right we have the potential to challenge for the title.”
The Raiders are near the top of the standings and have won more than half of their games (5-4) by Oct. 19.
“We have lost a few tough games, and there is always room for improvement,” Wenzel said.
“Lately, we’ve had a consistency issue. We need to work on coming out alive. We’ve been coming out flat which is not what we want as a team.”
Despite a few struggles, Wenzel offered up many good points about the team.
“We have really great young talent,” Wenzel said. “We are focusing on building up our freshman for next year. Our freshman players really contribute to our offense. Christian (Rath) is really dynamic. Joel (Carillo) is very fast. Matthew (Sollis) is our leading goalscorer. He works hard and can make something out of nothing.”
But the returning players cannot be overlooked. There are six sophomores on the team: Andrew Anderson, Alex Cacciola, Tommy Finseth, Jonathan Rodriguez, Drew Sadowsky and Chris Warner.
Starting goalkeeper Andrew Anderson played for Rogers High School on South Hill before joining the Raiders.
“Andrew has made some big saves this year,” Wenzel said. “He is a really strong keeper, and I could see him going on to play at the next level.”
Midfielder Alex Cacciola played for Puyallup High School before coming to Pierce.
“Alex is very crafty,” Wenzel said. “He brings a spark off the bench, but he also does well as a starter.”
Tommy Finseth, a co-captain, is a midfielder/forward who played for Auburn Mountainview in high school.
“There is a lot of leadership from Tommy,” Wenzel said. “He is a vocal player and he pushes to get the best from everyone. He is a strong presence on the field.”
Defender Jonathan Rodriguez came from Mount Tahoma High School.
“Jonathan is having a fantastic year,” Wenzel said. “He lets his playing do the talking for him. He is also very good on the ball. We tried him up front occasionally because of that.”
Drew Sadowsky is a midfielder/forward from Bonney Lake High School.
“Drew is a more reserved guy off the field,” Wenzel said, “but on the field he pushes the other players and he always does exactly what we want from him.”
Co-captain Chris Warner is a defender/midfielder who played for Rogers High School before coming to Pierce.
“Chris is our enforcer,” Wenzel said. “He steps up and makes the key tackles. He takes charge and is very vocal back there on defense.”
Despite having difficulty maintaining interest with the freshman players in the past, the coaches are confident for this season and the next.
“Mark (Head Coach Mark Lee) and I are pushing them in their academics and doing all we can to keep them wanting to play,” Wenzel said. “And we are always looking to step up our level of play as a team. As for the playoffs, we will see what happens.”