For Sequim High’s girls soccer squad, the 2020-21 season was finding footing in a “new normal” that included wearing masks on the field.
This season? It’s new leadership.
Derek Vander Velde, who led the Wolves for the past five seasons — including back-to-back state 2A tournament appearances in 2018 and 2019, the first in the program’s history — stepped down from his role earlier this year.
Ken Garling, who took over the Sequim High boys’ program from longtime head coach Dave Brasher, leads a whole new coaching staff into the 2021 fall season.
Garling said this will be a time of transition, particularly for girls who have been in the program for several years.
“I’m always up for those challenges,” Garling said.
While the coaching style may change a bit, Garling said his on-the-field tactics with be similar to Vander Velde’s: “We want to defend first and attack off that transition,” Garling said.”(It’s) win the ball and get after it.”
They’ll have to get after it quickly for early success: The Wolves take on cross-peninsula rival Port Angeles in week one, a home match-up on Sept. 9.
“Let’s get after it right away,” Garling said.
The Wolves will look to rely on a core group of seniors led by Hannah Wagner, Rileigh Van Dyken and Kariya Johnson in the forward and midfield positions, junior Bailey Geniesse on the back line and senior keeper Addie Smith.
That experience will prove key as the Wolves are slim on overall numbers, boasting just enough to field a varsity and junior varsity teams and leaving little room for injuries. Graduation also took its tool, taking Abby Schroeder, Olivia Hare Amara Sayer and Natalya James, among others.
“We’ll have to be a little creative in our lineups (but we’ll) make the best of it,” Garling said. “I’m confident the girls will respond to that challenge.
“They’re a great group of girls, very coachable.”
Sequim is at Olympic on Sept. 14 and hosts North Kitsap on Sept. 16.
The Wolves went 4-5 in the 2020-21 season.
Fall sports preview: SHS girls soccer
Head coach: Ken Garling (first year)
Assistants: David Breckenridge, Austin Wagner, Vianey Cadenas
2020-21 record: 4-5 in Olympic League
Returning athletes: Hannah Wagner (sr.), Rileigh Van Dyken (sr.), Zoe Moore (sr.), Bailey Geniesse (jr.), Kariya Johnson (sr.), Kaia Lestage (so.), Taryn Johnson (so.), Mikiah Winter (so.), Addie Smith (sr.), Alliyah Weber (jr.)
Newcomers: Sam Gonzalez (sr.), Alexandria Salas (jr.), Jennyfer Gomez (so.), Teagen Moore (so.), Ivy Barrett (fr.)
2021 SHS girls soccer schedule
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 9 Port Angeles 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Olympic 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 16 North Kitsap 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Crosspoint 11 a.m. (varsity only)
Sept. 21 Bainbridge 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Bremerton 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 28 Kingston 6:45 p.m.
Sept. 30 at North Mason 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Port Angeles 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 7 Olympic 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 12 at North Kitsap 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Bainbridge 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 18 Klahowya 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 19 Bremerton 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Kingston 6:45 p.m.
Oct. 26 North Mason 6:45 p.m.
Note: Junior varsity games are at 5 p.m.
Vander Velde steps away
Derek Vander Velde, who led Sequim High’s girls soccer squad to their first state tourney appearances in 2018 and 2019, stepped down from his SHS varsity coaching role earlier this year.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Vander Velde said in an interview this August. “I kind of need a break from the coaching world.”
Under Vander Velde, the Wolves went 45-36-2, including an 11-8 mark in his first year after Sequim had gone 3-11-1.
Sequim’s 2018 team was just 7-8-1 heading into districts before reeling off three wins for a West Central District title, falling the following week to Ellensburg in penalty kicks in the Wolves’ first state match.
The schedule of the season, offseason workouts and camps wound up taking up portions of 10 months of each year, he said.
“It’s not that I don’t love soccer — I do — but I’ve been talking about it with (wife) Melee (a fellow teacher) for a year. It’s a good time for me to just step away from the game. I’m trying to alleviate some of the stress on my plate.
“I don’t know if it will be forever (but it’s) definitely the right time for myself.”
Vander Velde said he’ll miss camaraderie with the coaches and the the connection with the players.
“I’ll get out and see the players (this fall),” he said.
”I know Ken is going to do an amazing job. He’s a really good coach and a good person.”