Franklin varsity men’s soccer team before playing their season opener, which was a 3-0 dub  against Beaverton on September 5, 2019. Photo by Justin Tucker (@nine80four on instagram).

The Franklin Lightning kicked off their varsity soccer season by shutting out Beaverton 3-0 in a non-league game on September 5. They finished the season with a record of  8-3-2 (Eight wins, three losses, and two ties.)The men’s varsity soccer team remains undefeated in the Portland Interscholastic League (PIL); they ended their regular season on October 24 with a record of 4-0-2 in the PIL. The last time the Lightning lost was on September 24 against Sherwood. Being led by seven seniors and the four primary captains this year, the Lightning look to end the season on a high note. When I asked junior centerback Vincent Rose what he hopes to achieve this season, he said, “Finishing the season strong.” This idea is easy to see in the mentality of the team. Rose says, “We have good team chemistry, everyone is in it together, and we are very positive.”

The four team captains leading the Lightning this season are forward Finn Rueegger (12), goalkeeper Gael Salas-Lara (12), defender Vincent Rose (11), and forward Hawk Baxter (11). 2nd year varsity star goalkeeper Gael Salas-Lara has had an impressive five shutouts so far this season, two of which have been in two of the last three games. Baxter has been on Varsity all three years of his high school soccer career and at the time led Franklin with 7 goals, and 1 assist but unfortunately, suffered a foot fracture against Grant on October 8. Baxter missed the remainder of the regular season due to the injury. Franklin ended the game drawing the Generals 1-1. Baxter has a positive outlook on the postseason: “We have a very positive record and we’re heading into the postseason looking good.”

The Lightning’s current goals leader is sophomore forward Larry Delgado-Lopez, who has eight goals this season. Hawk Baxter (11) and Caden Davis (10) are tied for a close second with seven goals each. Franklin’s biggest defeat this season was a 5-0 loss against Reynolds on September 17, while their biggest win this season was a 8-0 victory against Benson, on October 16. On October 21, Senior night, the Lightning tied Lincoln 2-2, which was arguably their second toughest game this season (behind the Cleveland game). The Lightning played their last game of the regular season on October 24 at 7 PM against their southeast rival, Cleveland.

5th year varsity men’s head coach Ty Kovatch says that in his program, they say “80 minutes and a handshake,” meaning that every time they play, they expect to give each other, themselves, and the school their best effort, representing Franklin, while respecting their opponents and the game. When I asked Kovatch to describe his main coaching philosophy, he responded with, “We emphasize the things we can control, like our fitness, our preparation, our commitment, and our style of play. We try to avoid putting energy toward things we do not control, like the referees, and the wind.” He added, “We have a high work rate and commitment, we are graceful in victory and defeat, and we are always learning.” The most common formation that Coach Kovatch plays his team is in a 4-3-3, and he prefers to seek balance in his approach. “We want to be dangerous and dynamic in the attack, but structured and sure defensively, and we defend everywhere on the field, which helps us win the ball in dangerous areas, which makes defending key to our attack.” 

With seven seniors, twelve juniors, and three sophomores on the varsity roster, 22 players in all, this team is dominated by experienced and talented upperclassmen. Although there are only three sophomores on varsity this year, they’ve have had an immense impact on the team. First year varsity midfielder, sophomore Darren Green has a total of two goals this season. “It’s been a pretty good season so far, I feel like we’ve overcome a lot and done a very nice job of bouncing back from tough deficits,” said Green. “Stuff like this will help us grow and become better as a team.” Sophomore forward Larry Delgado-Lopez has eight goals on the season, while the other sophomore forward Caden Davis has seven. When I asked 4-year varsity forward Finn Ruegger (12) to describe how he felt about his senior season, he said that it’s important to approach with more leadership and to have a team first mentality, because it’s his senior season, and it’s the best team he’s been on so far for Franklin. “The team has looked pretty different for all four years I’ve played, and this year I’d say we have the best mix of experience, leadership and youth to compete in postseason as well as be a dangerous team in years to come.” said Rueegger. Baxter agrees that the team culture this year is well built: “We have a strong group of players who have been on varsity for the last three years which really helps us to play the way we want to effectively and transfers well to the newcomers on the team.”

When asked about the end of PIL games, 2-year varsity senior midfielder Eli Pearson answered, “Cleveland is the biggest game. It’s a rivalry match and the energy is always different. Each team is playing to prove themselves and grab ahold of the bragging rights attached to the SE (Southeast) Cup. Also, being the last game of the season it is crucial to get a good result in order to be in a good position for playoffs and the rest of the season.” The Lightning’s astonishing regular season (currently on a seven game undefeated streak) hopes to end on a high, by getting a positive result in their last game of the season. The Lightning hope to succeed in the playoffs by following coach Ty Kovatch’s important coaching philosophy of emphasizing the things they can control, including team fitness, preparation, commitment, their style of play, and avoiding putting energy toward the uncontrollable, like the referees, and the wind.

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