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Putnams Sien says he has his best team

The eighth-year head coach believes his Kingsmen have the talent to challenge Lakeridge for the TRL boys title

MILWAUKIE - A year ago, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen were a surprise in Three Rivers League boys soccer, placing third in league and advancing to postseason play for only the third time since 1979.

The Kingsmen should be in the thick of things again this year, and it won't be a surprise if they make the playoffs. In fact, they're expected to.

'We've got the most experience and the most depth we've had,' said Putnam coach Brian Sien, who is in his eighth season as head coach. 'It's taken some time, but our program's finally gotten to the point where the kids expect to win and they expect to go to the playoffs.'

The Kingsmen have graduated their top offensive players from last year, forward Bryan Lang and midfielder Ryan Stillwell. But nearly everyone else returns, including senior Nick Lowery and junior Kevin Shearmire, who battled for the starting nod at goalie a year ago.

Shearmire won the battle but had his season cut short by a shoulder injury. Lowery stepped in and excelled, earning second-team all-league recognition.

Junior Drue Harris returns to start in the forward line, along with senior Harry Hewett, who saw some starting action up front a year ago.

Harris and his teammates were tough in last week's season openers. Harris turned a hat trick and he was one of seven Putnam players to put the ball in the net in a 10-0 rout of McKay; and Harris found the net twice in a 3-0 win over Wilsonville. Lowery and Shearmire split time in-goal.

Fourth-year starter R.W. Zeller and third-year starter Leland Nash head up the Kingsmen defense. Zeller moves to defense from the midfield, as does senior Taggart Knowles, who was a part-time starter a year ago. Junior letterman John Berry rounds out the starting defense.

The Kingsmen have four players with starting experience in the midfield, including Chial Alba, a second-team all-league selection who is seeing his fourth season of starting action.

Senior Robert Barry and juniors Kyle Wing and Nathan Kizzar have also earned the starting nod in the midfield.

'We've got better overall team speed, we're fundamentally sound, we've got more depth, and we're more experienced….,' Sien said.

'If we don't battle Lakeridge for the top spot, I certainly expect us to battle for one of the other playoff spots.'

Sien said he also expects Lake Oswego, Milwaukie and Clackamas to be in the running for playoff spots.

The Kingsmen will find out just where they stand in a hurry. They host Lakeridge this Thursday at 7 p.m. in their second game of a 14-game league schedule. Lakeridge went unbeaten in league and 14-1-0 on the season in 2005.