The Peninsula boys soccer team just finished the South Sound Conference regular season in a dominant fashion, with a 11-1-2 record while outscoring their conference foes 55-14.
The Seahawks earned the school’s first soccer league title since 2007 with an intense, passionate style that mimics their first-year coach, Ozer Kocdemir.
Kocdemir, a native of Sweden, was a coach for the distinguished Washington Premier club team before accepting the job with the Peninsula Seahawks.
Hunter Beck, the Seahawks aggressive defender gets ready to blast one downfield. Bryce Carithers
Kocdemir, whose parents are from Turkey, grew up playing club soccer in Sweden and felt like his soccer coach there didn’t give him and others the opportunity to fully succeed.
“The main reason I coach, of many different reasons, is that I wish I had a coach like me, and I want to show players what a proper soccer coach really is,” Kocdemir said.
After accepting the position, Kocdemir quickly realized he had a team of hard-working players with ball skills and experience. He felt like the biggest teaching point for him would be to instruct them on how to play football rather than soccer.
He describes football as “more behavior-based, more emotion-based, it’s calmer. We needed a little bit more ideas behind each action, so the boys have knowledge in their decision-making, why they are doing specific things, what they want to accomplish with a pass and understanding how football works when you don’t have the ball, as well.
“I try to teach them the game the way I would like to watch the game played,” he said, “which is with a lot of ball possessions, hard work and trying to create as many scoring possibilities as we can.”
The Seahawks open their postseason run at noon on Saturday, May 7. Peninsula faces Auburn-Riverside (9-4-3, 8-3-2 North Puget Sound League) in a West Central District playoff game at Roy Anderson Field.
Among the key players for Peninsula:
Co leading scorer Reilly Leahy (9) provides pressure to force a pass. Bryce Carithers
Senior striker Reilly Leahy has 16 goals in 11 games. His coach describes him “as a very natural goal scorer, he just needs a chance and it’s a goal. He has that smell for goals, he’s always at the right place at the right time. We don’t have to really coach him all that much because he manages to find the right areas and spaces. The key part to his playing style is how hard he works, and he gets rewarded for it often.”
Senior striker Justin Bodnar also has 16 goals over 14 games and has a similar playing style to Reilly. His coach said: “He is very efficient and makes smart runs on goal at precisely the right time, which allows him to get open and receive quality passes for goals. He has a very good variety of shots and fine finishing skills, and he is absolutely deadly when he gets a chance.”
Senior midfielder Cory Burbridge is a team captain and one of its best passers. “The key part with him is that his technical skills are at such a high level and speed, but usually players of that type want more goal scoring,” Kocdemir said. “He somehow finds that final pass that allows others to score. He has 18 assists on the season, which for any player is an amazing achievement.”
The team’s most versatile player may be junior midfielder Sam Sutherland, who is third on the team in scoring with five goals and second in assists with seven. He has also proven to be precise with his corner kicks, having taken a team-leading 25. “He is a really good box-to-box player who has a lot of different levels to his game,” Kocdemir said. “He’s smart and lives off his cleverness.”
Another co-captain is Hunter Beck, a physical central defender. “Beck is very calm, composed and good with the ball,” Kocdemir said. “He is our general in the back who keeps the line organized and always play hard.”
Seahawk goalie Yzahir Cornelio who has 7 shutouts, advances the ball up field for the Seahawks. Bryce Carithers
Senior goalie Yzahir Corneilo has allowed just 14 goals in 14 games with seven shutouts, averaging 4.5 saves per game. “I think our goalie is one of the best in the conference that could even become much better,” Kocdemir said. “What sets him apart is his ball control and distribution after saves, allowing us to quickly counterattack.”
Peninsula, the 11th ranked Class 3A team in the state, suffered its only loss of the season in a 4-2 decision to Central Kitsap. They reversed that outcome a month later by a 2-1 margin over the Cougars that clinched the SSC title.
Their two ties came against River Ridge — which had six ties in 14 games. The Seahawks had some emotional letdowns in those games that Coach Kocdemir doesn’t expect to see again.
When asked how the Seahawks celebrated their SSC conference title the coach said they hadn’t — because winning the conference is just chapter one, with more to come.
Seahawks scoring co leader, Justin Bodnar draws a crowd of Tide defenders as he gets close to the goal. Bryce Carithers
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