The matches were short and all the scores unofficial, but Thursday evening at Tiger Stadium served as a reminder that high school soccer is right around the corner, with eight squads coming together for a rapid-fire jamboree.
The games all lasted 20 minutes, with 10-minute breaks in between. Napavine got things started with a win over Centralia’s JV squad, then stayed on to play Tenino, and things were off and running, with each side playing one match, switching sides to take on a newcomer, and then exiting. After Tenino came Rochester, then W.F. West, then Ilwaco, then Winlock, and then Onalaska, and just over three and a half hours after the evening began in daylight, Centralia rolled its varsity squad out to face the Loggers under the lights.
Noel Vasquez brought his Toledo teams to Tiger Stadium often over the past seven seasons; now in charge of Centralia, he got to host the event for the first time.
“Being in this jamboree as a guest over the years was fun, but being here hosting is definitely a different (experience), getting to talk to a lot of the coaches in the league, either coaches that I coached against in the past or coaches that I’m going to be coaching against down the road in a couple of weeks,” he said. “And it’s been exciting to see the talent around the area for sure.”
Vasquez said that on top of the high turnout in terms of schools coming to the jamboree, he saw more squads bringing JV and swing players. In the past, some bigger schools have stuck with their starters and core players, with only a half’s worth of action to be played over the course of two mini-games, but Thursday was different.
Vasquez’s solution to get his depth experience was to give his JV squad the first game, and the varsity group the last. On the W.F. West sideline Allen Anderson went a different route, playing his starters the first 10 minutes of each contest, and pulling a full-on line change at the midway point.
“The great thing was, there really wasn’t a big drop-off in our speed of play,” he said. “We continued to score goals; those younger girls really stepped up. The upperclassmen that we do have have done an amazing job being great role models for the first two weeks, and it showed in our play tonight.”
The Bearcats had the most dominant time of any squad at Tiger Stadium, starting their evening with a 5-0 win over 2A Evergreen Conference foe Rochester, then riding out 3-0 winners over Ilwaco.
“Tonight was really positive,” Anderson said. “We really haven’t even been focusing on our finishing in training. After tryouts we always like building it from the back forward. So seeing our girls score eight goals in 40 minutes was pretty impressive, because we really haven’t been focusing on that yet.”
Beyond the final scorelines, all eight coaching staffs got one more quick look at how their respective sides performed against real competition. Despite the frequent subs for the teams that had the bodies to make them, there was plenty of valuable scouting material for the upcoming season in the 2A EvCo and the C2BL.
“That’s the whole point of the jamboree,” Vasquez said. “We have to see what we have in a 20-minute game so we can be able to put in an 80-minute game when we play each other. You get to see everybody a little bit, and there’s not much to hide. That’s kind of how this sport is. You know who shows up, and you know who doesn’t.”