In their first meeting, it took an offensive barrage to bring Sequim back from a three-goal deficit.
This time around, the Wolves weren’t about the fall behind in a similar fashion.
Backed by three senior defenders and a first half score from Adrian Funston, the Wolves edged rival Port Angeles 1-0 on April 9, taking a commanding two-game lead in the Olympic League standings.
“The team chemistry is through the roof,” senior midfielder Mike McAleer said of Sequim’s undefeated start.
Switching to a 4-3-3 formation — with Brandon Benson, Rudy Franco and Chris Morgan steadying the defensive line in front of keeper Navy Thomas-Brenske — the Wolves (7-0-0 in Olympic League, 7-0-2 overall) held at bay a Port Angeles squad (5-2-0, 6-2-0) that came in with a six-game winning streak and lurks just behind Sequim in the standings atop the Olympic League.
“The difference for that first game to this one (was quite different),” Sequim coach Dave Brasher said. “They were much more comfortable.”
On March 12, the league opener for both squads, it was exchange student Mathys Tanche who sparked Sequim’s rally in the Wolves’ 5-4 win at Port Angeles. On April 9, is was Tanche again providing the lift. Five minutes in, Tanche beat his defender down the left side, them drew in more Roughrider defenders before slipping a pass to a wide open Funston to put a shot past Rider keeper Anton Kathol.
“His intensity on defense (is special) and it’s some of the best attacking I’ve seen,” McAleer said of Tanche. “It’s awesome to have him on the this this year.”
While Sequim dominated shots in goal in the first 10 minutes, including a pair of screaming line drives from the right wing from Ryan Tolberd that Kathol snagged, the Roughriders took momentum midway through the first half as they looks for an equalizer. PA junior Stuart Methner had a trio of shots — a deflection at 29 minute, another while lying prone on his back at 26 minutes and a header off a corner kick at 24 minutes — that Thomas-Brenske managed to save.
Sequim regained the majority of the possessions after that, with Sean Weber just missing from 20 yards out at 20 minutes.
It appeared the Wolves had doubled their lead with nine minutes left after Eli Gish headed the ball past Kathol to Funston for a score but the goal was waved off.
Methner had Port Angeles’ best chance to even the game in the second half, but a clear shot in goal cleared the crossbar at 53 minutes.
“The Methners, Stuart and (senior midfielder) Andrew,” they’re tough,” Brasher said. “PA defends really well (but) we have a strong team.”
Weber had two near-misses in the second half for Sequim, a header that was barely offline at 67 minutes and a left-footed shot in traffic at 70 minutes that Kathol ably stopped.
Kathol made a pair of key stops on a single Sequim possession at 73 minutes, stopping a Tanche breakaway and Kristian Mingoy’s follow moments later.
McAleer said a number of players on Sequim and Port Angeles rosters know each other well from local and regional club teams.
And while the top spot in the Olympic League has in recent years been split between Kingston and North Kitsap, it’s the Olympic Peninsula squads staking their claim for the top two positions in 2019.
“The Storm King club really develop these kids,” Basher said.
Sequim plays at Bremerton on April 12 before hosting Olympic on April 16.