Repeated state championships in football, softball and powerlifting put Monte on the athletic map.
Soccer? No. But that may be changing.
Things couldn’t have been more different this year. A new coach — Mike Malpass, a native of the United Kingdom – melded with a young team with two foreign exchange students and only three seniors on varsity.
You’d think it would take a few years for all those new pieces to mesh, to build something. Instead, the varsity team travelled far, often to Seattle and beyond, to season the new team with non-league games. They played anybody, logging extra hours in games, on buses and in I-5 traffic. And they spent even more time together. If there wasn’t a practice or a game, the players were getting together for team nights, to watch tape or play around. To get to know each other.
They beat everybody in the league at least once and went to the district playoffs. But the run for the underdog group ended on Saturday when the Bulldogs came up short against White Salmon losing 2-1.
Assistant Coach Jim Reynolds has a longer connection to the players, coaching some of them since they were kids. This year, he said, was special.
“One would think that disappointment would be the dominant emotion,” Reynolds said of the loss in the playoffs, “but I found myself overwhelmed by a feeling of pride. As the clock ticked off the final moments, I looked out upon, and was surrounded by, a group of young men who are truly admirable.”
Reynolds and Malpass put in even more time, both coaching rec league teams of younger students in what little free time they had when the varsity wasn’t practicing or playing a game.
“Some of the athletes I have known for a relatively short time, and others I have been blessed to know from very young ages,” Reynolds said. “Regardless of how long, it has been an honor to know them all. This teams’ dedication is undeniable. In good times, and in difficult times, they are ever committed to striving for more. This is the team that will be remembered for changing the culture of the Montesano boys’ soccer program. They have raised the bar.”
The rec leagues might seem like a distraction. But it’s all part of building a sturdy foundation for soccer in Monte, with the kids playing rec league today turning into the JV and varsity players of the years to come.
Just three days after the season came to an abrupt end for Monte, Malpass and several of the players were back out kicking around a ball to enjoy the good weather on Tuesday and curb the withdrawl. Malpass changed the formation for the Bulldogs to a 4-5-1 from the 4-4-2 they had used the previous season to start the year and Monte had some growing pains adjusting going 4-2 in the first six games. In the finalweeks of the season it seemed as though the changes the new coach made had taken root as Monte rattled off five wins in a row and came away victorious in seven of its last 10 games.
“This was a year to bring in my philosophy of ball control and good possession and beating opponents by good soccer and we have done well,” Malpass said. “I’m really proud of these guys. Were looking to do some stuff during the summer and come back with some new players coming up and looking forward to next season.”
If you watch the younger kids play, even the 12-year-olds, you’ll see them using some of the same formations and drills as the high school varsity squad, including a flat-four defensive front. If something works for the high school players, they bring it down and start teaching it to the younger players right away.
“A culture of success is, at its core, driven by an expectation of excellence,” Reynolds said. “These kids expect the best from themselves and that kind of attitude cannot help but be infectious. I am so much looking forward to next year — and the many years to come.”