Early struggles lead to greatness for Sunset's '11 boys soccer team
CEDAR MILL - There were a lot of reasons to doubt whether Sunset's boys soccer team could compete with the Metro League's best in 2011.
Sure, the Apollos had their fair share of talent back, but they also had to test themselves against the state's best league and had to do it with two all-league returners (Jesus and Yanpohl Patino).
That said, two months into the 2011 season, Sunset has answered any and all questions and answered them with authority.
Sunset, which opens the Class 6A state playoffs at home against Sheldon (7-7) at 5 p.m. Saturday, closed the Metro League season with six straight wins, and in the process, secured the school's first league title since 1991.
'The players who returned from (2010) felt like they had something to prove after the loss to Beaverton last year,' said Sunset coach Joe Wentworth. They 'have really pushed the newer players to have the same prerogative. This is a team where everyone contributes and everybody wants to win.'
Winning is just what the Apollos have done, and have done in greater measure than any Sunset team since long before any of this year's Apollos were born. During that six-game stretch at the end of its 2011 regular season, Sunset outscored its foes 19-3, beat third-ranked Jesuit for the second time, knocked off No. 5 Beaverton 4-1, shut out 12-rated Southridge 4-0, and edged No. 4 Westview by a 2-1 margin.
The seed for that success, however, was planted in the two games that preceded that streak, a sloppy 2-1 win over Southridge on Sept. 29 and a 4-1 loss to Westview on Oct. 3.
That was 'probably the (turning) point of the season,' Wentworth said. 'After the Southridge game, I told the boys that they had been playing some really bad soccer, and although they had been winning, it was not good enough and it was going to come back and bite them, and it did with the 4-1 loss.'
Chastened by the tough lesson Westview taught them, the Apollos buckled down, went back to work and emerged from the experience a batter and more committed team.
'The next day, we worked in a classroom for over two hours and discussed our team's strengths and weaknesses and how to play to them,' Wentworth said. 'We also discussed that, if we didn't lose another game, we could go on to be champions of Metro and state.'
The Apollos have already accomplished the first part of that goal, and did so by following the lead of senior forwards Jordan White (a team captain) and Alcides Thomas, senior goalkeeper James Nielsen (another team captain) and junior midfielder Andrew Dorn.
Thomas leads the team in scoring with 16 goals while White has added eight and both have a number of assists in 2011. Nielsen has done his part in the back, thus far allowing just 12 goals on the season, while Dorn has returned from injury to shore up the middle in the vacuum left by the departure of the Patino brothers.
'They are a great group of boys, and our squad, despite the loss of the Patino brothers, is deeper than in years prior,' Wentworth said. 'They have really banded together and have one common interest, a state title and leaving a legacy behind.'
With their Metro title in hand, the Apollos can now - beginning on Saturday - start to work on winning the state title they want so badly.
'Tournaments are tricky - one bad game and you're out,' Wentworth said. But 'they have a strong belief now that they can go head to head with anybody and could go all the way to state final. I believe they can do it. They have been tested both on ability and character and have shown what they are made of.'