Lightning can strike the same place twice.
After never having a state qualifier in soccer, Washington High School now has had two teams make the state tournament in one calendar year.
After Washington’s girls soccer team placed third in the MSHSAA Class 3 state tournament in the spring, the boys soccer Blue Jays are making their own trek to the state tournament this week. Washington plays Harrisonville Friday at noon at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton.
“It’s a testament to our area and how we’re developing our soccer players,” Washington Head Coach Derek Schriewer said. “Clearly, something is going right and hopefully our programs can keep it moving forward.”
Washington girls Head Coach Adam Fischer, who led the Lady Jays to the state tournament, has some thoughts as well.
“I think the success of both soccer programs comes down to two things basically, one of them being the work ethic of most the kids in both programs, and the other thing is the players willingness to adapt to change in culture for both programs,” Fischer said. “Setting their expectations high like the boys team has done the last two years and keeping it high is not easy, and they have succeeded big time in that area.”
Fischer said it comes down to the players.
“The girls program had tremendous success in my first year as head coach, but the credit has to be given to the kids,” he said. “It is much easier to develop practice and game plans than it is to put them into effect. Our girls did a great job adapting to the practices we started last season, and they were always very successful following through with our game plans. The amount of physical and mental energy they brought each day was fun for myself and my assistant coaches to watch.”
With the Washington boys stepping up from the sectional round last year to making the state tournament this year, it’s up to the girls to continue the tradition now.
“With that said, we will need to continue to adapt and change while keeping the same high energy levels if we want to have a successful year this year,” Fischer said. “That is what the boys and Coach Schriewer have done so masterfully this season.”
Fischer said the Lady Jays are going to be there for the boys.
“The girls program will be there to support them, just like I remember seeing many of them support us last spring with our postseason run,” Fischer said.
The girls soccer players will be part of the sizable student crowd which has followed the team in recent playoff matches. With a re-energized focus on the student cheering section with the formation of The Flock, the team has seen a surge in crowd sizes.
“That helped so much,” senior midfielder Matt Ruth said. “I remember my freshman year, I would come and there would be a total of five to 10 kids who would show up and that was a good night. We beat Borgia my freshman year on PKs and I think there were 30 kids tops. To see big crowds like this reoccurring at our games is the best feeling in the world. It’s great to know somebody is out there supporting us, has our backs and cares.”
Zach Harms is one of The Flock’s student organizers and a senior defender for the Blue Jays.
“It was crazy,” said Harms. “I looked up in the stands and saw about the same crowd we would have for a football game. That’s crazy. That’s the most fans we’ve ever had for a soccer game probably in our history.”
Junior forward Michael Andrews, who scored Washington’s first goal in the 2-0 quarterfinal win over North County Saturday, said the student section has grown.
“It is a amazing, to be honest,” Andrews said. “Throughout the season, we would have 30-40 supporters. To come out here and have this whole student section, the parents and families, come and back us up, it was amazing to have the play on the field and hear the crowd roar.”
Schriewer feels the whole area has come together to support Washington’s run through the state tournament.
“The crowd was massive over there,” Schriewer said. “We looked over and almost three sections of our massive grandstand were full. I think there were a lot of local soccer fans, too. It was a really neat experience all around. The soccer on the field was very impressive, too. North County deserves accolades for the way they played, too.”
Not all of Washington’s players are four-year veterans though. Harms came to the team last season after playing football for two years. He was a youth standout who went to the St. Louis Punt, Pass and Kick finals multiple times.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Harms said. “I didn’t even think I would be on a board for soccer because I started playing last year. It’s beyond words to describe this. It’s amazing.”
Harms said he’s improved his game over the past two seasons.
“From last year to this year, I’ve improved so much,” Harms said. “Last year, I was not that great. This year, I’ve gotten more composed when the ball comes to me and I know what to do. I’ve got better IQ of the game this year.”
Harms isn’t the only newcomer, but the others have much deeper soccer backgrounds.
Jeremiah Collins, a junior defender, came out for the team for the first team this season. Collins is no newcomer to the sport. He plays for the Sporting STL McMahon Ford team coached by Tommy Howe, the same team which has Washington’s Jack Edwards (who also will be playing in the state tournament with CBC in Class 4). While playing defender, Collins has scored 18 goals with 20 assists to rank second on the team in scoring behind Conlan Jarvis.
Ottmar Escalante, who has a 12-4 record with 10 shutouts and a 1.35 GAA, moved into the Washington district from San Diego.
“Before the beginning of the season, we had a couple of guys try out who hadn’t played high school soccer before,” Jarvis said. “We were really excited for that. We knew this was a possibility. We started the year slow and ever since we’ve been clicking. Even though we’ve had our rough spots, we’ve been continuously improving and it’s been showing. It feels great.”
The Blue Jays have emphasized communication as well as strong play to be successful this season.
“We focus on our communication,” Ruth said. “We know our abilities and special talents. We all capitalize on what everyone has to offer. We found Michael Andrews on another head ball tonight. That’s been a recurring thing this entire season. Finding him on the quick situations into the game. He provides much-needed goals as do Conlan Jarvis and Jeremiah Collins.”
The Blue Jays took their first step toward the state tournament by working on improving from last year’s sectional run. Eventual state champion Rockwood Summit defeated Washington at the sectional level last year.
“That experience goes a long way,” said Jarvis. “It shows the intensity and heart you’ve got to play with. Really, it came down to who wanted it more the last couple of weeks. We were here and I think we wanted that win more than the other teams. We put in more work throughout the season and in these last two games I really think it’s been showing.”
Andrews knows hard work will be needed if the team wants to meet its goal of winning a state title.
“Our spirits are high right now,” Andrews said. “We’re going to have to come together as a team and practice. We know it won’t be easy. There will be challenges and we’re going to have to keep going over them. For now, we have to keep our heads high and know we can do this if we can put our heads to it.”
“We’ve got to keep working hard and preparing,” Harms said. “We’ve got to be ready for whatever comes for us.”