By Gail Wood
Who, Johnson ponders before every game, does he start at goalkeeper? Should the Olympia High School Bears soccer coach pencil in Davin Johnson, a first-team all-league goalkeeper last year. Or should he start Brandon Pruett, a second-team, all-league pick at goalkeeper a year ago.
“It’s a very good situation for a coach to have,” Ty said with a chuckle.
Ty’s solution? He starts them both, alternating games.
“I don’t say which one is No. 1 and which one is No. 2,” Ty said. “One starts one game. The other one starts the next game.”
Johnson’s “problem” is unprecedented. No 4A Narrows League coach has ever had two all-league goalkeepers on his roster at the same time. That one-two punch helps explain why Olympia has shut out its last four opponents, outscoring them 10-0 to improve to 5-1-1.
Both Davin and Brandon are goal stoppers. Both are leaders, shouting instructions on where the defense should play. But there is a difference in how they help slap up that zero on the scoreboard.
They have two separate styles.
“Pruett is a little quicker off his line. He’s a shot a blocker,” Ty said. “Davin is better in the air. He can make big time saves. Not that Brandon doesn’t. They’re two different keepers. They have two different attributes.”
Davin is a little taller, a little better in the air. Brandon is quicker coming off the line.
“I’d trust either one of them in any game we play,” Ty said.
And if the Bears’ wealth at goalkeeper isn’t golden enough with two all-leaguers back, Olympia has a third goalkeeper who’d start on most other Narrows League teams. That’s Matteo Delguidache, a sophomore with shot-blocking talent.
“He’s extremely good,” Ty said. “I’m trying to get him experience for next year.”
So, Ty slips in his third option as a starter at goalkeeper in a couple of non-league games, giving him a look at varsity play. But when Delguidache starts, that doesn’t mean Davin and Brandon watch. Not the entire game. Ty splits the playing time for this three goalkeepers up into thirds.
“The one thing I’ve learned over the last seven years is you need two things,” said Ty, who has been the Bears head coach since 2008. “You need youth to build a program and you need a good goalkeeper to win games.”
As important as it is to score goals in soccer, it’s just as important to take goals off the scoreboard. And the goalkeeper rich Bears, have been tough to score on all season. The Bears shot-blocking goalkeepers get some of the credit for that. So does Olympia’s pass-stealing defense and ball-controlling offense. The Bears have been giving up a meager two or three shots-on-goal a game.
“I don’t want to just say it’s our back line. It’s our forwards, it’s our midfielders, and it’s our defense,” Ty said about his team’s knack for not giving up shots. “We learned last year that defense gets you to districts. Davin’s sophomore year we gave up a lot of goals. We’ve tried to focus on not allowing goals.”
Consider it mission accomplished.
“It’s hard to get a shot off on our aggressive defense,” Ty said.
Typically, a first-team, all-league goalkeeper plays every second of a game, helping to ensure a win. But with the goalkeeper rich Bears, that’s not true for Davin. However, neither Davin nor Brandon stand on the sidelines complaining.
“We’re both able to accept that we’re pretty much equally skilled,” Davin said. “There’s no real reason why one of us should be starting ahead of the other necessarily. It’s not a problem sharing time.”
They can see that they both deserve to start. There’s no rivalry between them, but they do push each other.
“In my honest opinion, I think they push each other to be better,” said Ty, a 1990 North Thurston High School graduate who played on coach Gary Dunn’s state championship team.
Olympia isn’t only loaded at goalkeeper. They have nine starters back from last year’s team that tied for second in the league and lost in the first round of districts to Tahoma. Those returning starters are Neil Boyal, Ian Hesse, Chris Sutton, Collin Labrance, Matt Linhart, Andrew Hoang, Kolby Johnson, Jayce Kemp and the two goalkeepers.
In the Bears game against Bellarmine on Thursday, Pruitt will start at goalkeeper. That’s partially because Davin will be at a regional meeting in Spokane for Future Business Leaders of America. With a 3.91 GPA (he got a B in pre-calculous last year), Davin isn’t just a soccer player. He’s a student-athlete who is looking at attending Linfield College next year and maybe play soccer. His scholarship offer is academic.
Davin, who started a few games as freshman, and Brandon are two big reasons why Olympia is a contender for a league title and for the playoffs. But with Bellarmine and Gig Harbor again loaded with talent this season, Ty is careful not to be too optimistic.
“Everyone is tough in our league,” Ty said.
But nobody has the shot-blocking skills at goalkeeper that the Bears have.