MARYSVILLE — The Grace Academy boys soccer team is already a state champion off the field, and is looking to accomplish a similar feat on the field.
Off the field, the boys soccer team was recently named the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s 2013 Fall Team Academic State Champions for 1B Boys Soccer, and on the field, the team finished in second place in their league, ending the regular season with a 12-2 league record and a 14-2 overall record. They now move on to the Bi-District Boys Soccer Tournament, which begins Nov. 2.
“I think one of the biggest reasons for our success this year is our teamwork,” said Grace Academy Boys Soccer Head Coach Mark Ruhlman. “From our keepers to our defense, to our midfielders and forwards, we’ve got one of the best teams we’ve had in school history. We’ve had the most shutouts, and we’ve scored the most goals.”
Ruhlman added that goalkeeper Isaiah VanDam had eight shutouts this season, and Jeremiah Lee had 17 assists and scored 31 of the team’s 90 goals.
“We have a lot of guys who have played soccer for a long time, and they play on a lot of select clubs,” said Ruhlman. “They developed well themselves, and when you put them on the same team, they’re going to interact a lot better with each other.”
While members of the team have seen a lot of success this year, that has not always been the case.
“Three years ago, when our seniors were freshmen, we didn’t win a single game all year. We were 0-14,” said Ruhlman. “The next year we finished better at 10-8, and made it to the state quarterfinals. Last year we also made it to the quarterfinals. And this year our goal, obviously, is to make it back to the state tournament.”
Grace Academy kicks off the Bi-District Tournament on Nov. 2, beginning at noon, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, against Crosspoint Academy.
“We played them last year in this same game, the first game of the tournament, and we beat them 3-0,” said Ruhlman. “But they are a different team, and we are a different team. They do have two of the top scorers in the state at our level. They are the No. 3 seed in their district, so we know they are going to be tough.”
The top five teams in the Bi-District Tournament will move on to the Sate Tournament, with the quarterfinals beginning Nov. 16.
“Our season pretty much starts this weekend,” said Ruhlman. “This is what we’ve been working for. We have some must-win games coming up.”
And while the team looks to capture the state title on the field, it already has garnered the 2013 WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires Scholastic Awards Program Fall Team Academic State Champions title for 1B Boys Soccer.
“The WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires Scholastic Awards Program honors the top academic teams in each sport and classification. The State Championships award the top teams for their athletic accomplishments, but it is just as important to the association to recognize those teams that are achieving success in the classroom. The WIAA congratulates all of the 2013 Fall Academic Team State Champions,” said Mike Colbrese, WIAA Executive Director.
Ruhlman pointed out this is not the first year that the Grace Academy boys soccer team has earned the award.
“In the last four years, this is the third time we’ve received this award,” said Ruhlman. “When you look at when our current seniors were freshmen, they didn’t win a single game, but they won the State Championship for academics,” said Ruhlman. “The next year we won it, but didn’t win it last year. It is definitely good to win it again this year. It’s a great accomplishment. It would be even greater if we can do it on the field as well.”
Ruhlman said that academics are very important at Grace Academy.
“Obviously, academics have to come first. If that means they’re missing a practice to get their grades up, that’s what needs to be done,” said Ruhlman. “This is a great group of kids and we’re really proud of what they have accomplished, on and off the field.”