Bowmen look to keep getting better

The Sherwood boys soccer team is ready to take on its new Class 5A foes
by: Kirk Cushing, STRONG IN THE MIDDLE — Junior Garrick Conner will be a key midfielder for the Bowmen this season.

The Sherwood boys soccer program has made significant strides under the tutelage of Dave Austin. The third-year coach believes the Bowmen will continue to do so again this season.

The trouble is Sherwood returns just five starters and moved up from 3A to the new 5A classification The Bowmen now face six of seven schools in the Northwest Oregon Conference that previously played at the 4A level, which was Oregon's highest division.

Still, Austin figures the Bowmen will be in the hunt for their third-straight postseason appearance after finishing 9-6-2 and losing in a shootout in the league playoffs last season.

'We'll need to not be intimidated by the teams and play as hard as we can,' Austin said. 'We have the talent to do it. It's just a matter of the boys stepping up and doing it.'

This season's team will be led by a strong offensive attack paced by the playmaking ability of junior midfielder Garrick Conner, who returns for his third varsity season.

'He's quick,' Austin said. 'He's a small guy, but he reads and passes the ball well and is a good decision maker.'

Senior Nate Hickok gives the Bowmen another offensive presence. The midfielder was named second-team all-league last season after scoring five goals with three assists.

The Bowmen's attack is also aided by the return of sophomore Kameron Beeks, who is back on the soccer field after taking last season off to concentrate on hockey.

'He's a big strong kid that moves well off the ball,' Austin said. 'He plays aggressive and should be a big asset for us.'

Another player that could factor in Sherwood's attack is sophomore Kyle Smurdon. The forward scored nine goals on the junior varsity level last season.

'We're hoping he can continue that same pace,' Austin said. 'He has the ability to score, has a good drive and wants to win.'

While Austin believes his team's strength lies in its ability to score, he's confident returning goalkeeper Quinn Hess has the tools to make sure the opposition doesn't. Quinn had six shutouts last year and was all-league honorable mention as a freshman.

'His goal is to have more shutouts than last season,' Austin said. 'He's been training really hard in the offseason and brings experience to the table. Hopefully that will pay off for us with his shot-blocking ability, distribution and communication.'

The Bowmen's biggest concern is the defense in front of Quinn, where Sherwood will have new starters in three of the four positions.

'We could struggle a little bit in the back,' Austin said. 'We have the talent, but we need to play as a good unit and continue to work together.'

An injury took out Sherwood's projected sweeper (Jonathan Brown), but the Bowmen were fortunate to get a replacement via the transfer of sophomore Scott Harris from Westside Christian.

'We lost a really good player, but gained a really good player,' Austin said. 'That was lucky for sure.'

Senior Tim Hohnbaum commands the defense from the center defender position and will be aided by senior Nic Haase in the back.

Austin expects Glencoe to be the top team in the conference and gives the advantage to the squads that played at the 4A level last season, including former Metro League schools Liberty and Hillsboro, as well as St. Helens and Parkrose.

'Getting used to the speed of the play will be the biggest thing,' Austin said. 'The players pass it so fast. We'll have to earn our respect.'

While Sherwood may be moving into the larger classification, Austin still feels there's no game bigger than the one against former Tri-Valley foe Wilsonville.

'We haven't beaten them in my two years here,' Austin said. 'They're our rival, so that's a pretty big game for us.'