TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School boys soccer team may have a bit different look to it this year.
That makes sense. After all, the Timberwolves graduated 16 seniors from last year's squad, and they also have a new head coach in Chris Duke.
Despite all the changes, Tualatin looks like it could be ready to step up again in the 2019 season.
"We said goodbye to a talented senior class, but return eight players with varsity experience," Duke said. "The returning players, and a talented crop of newcomers, are expected to step into the place of the departed starters."
Duke is right. The Wolves return some key players from last year's squad that finished in third place in the Three Rivers League standings at 4-2, while going 12-3 on the season.
Among the returnees is senior center back Nathan Buckalew, who was a first-team All-Three Rivers League selection last year as a junior. Senior center back Hunter Popma, who also was a key starter in the Tualatin defense a year ago, also returns.
"We return starters Nathan Buckalew and Hunter Popma in the center of our defense," Duke said. "These two seniors are expected to anchor a stout defense. Both provide athleticism and organization to the back line and help build out of the back."
Seniors returners Ethan Elder and Tyler Zawacki will look to give the team a spark up front.
"Seniors Ethan Elder and Tyler Zawacki also return from last year's squad and will provide forward runs on the wing," Duke said.
Other returnees include senior goalkeeper Tyler Goodell, junior midfielder Jose Jacintos, senior midfielder Nick Moreland and junior center back Cole Richmond.
Newcomers to the Tualatin varsity include senior outside back Tyler Breum, senior forward Matt Brown, junior midfielder Drew Carlile, junior midfielder Muhammad Faks, senior outside back Parker Graham, senior forward Jose Hyre, sophomore center back Cesar Jacintos, sophomore midfielder Hansi Katterle, junior forward Emmanuel Mayares, junior forward Cole Niemi, freshman forward Remus Repcak and senior goalkeeper Ian Stuart.
"We have lots of returning players at the back," Duke said of the team's strength. "But we have new players stepping into attacking roles."
As for the Three Rivers League this year, where each team will play every other league opponent twice, Duke says the Wolves are ready for the competition.
"Every year is an unknown at the start, but we expect to compete with everyone," he said.
The Wolves will open their season schedule on Sept. 5, when it hosts Grant in a non-league game starting at 7 p.m. at Tualatin High School.
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