SPORTS: Peninsula College men’s soccer eyes NWAACC title repeat
Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News Peninsula Collegeís Alex Martinez, center, heads the ball upfield during an exhibition match against St. Martinís University at the Rumble in the Rainforest held at Wally Sigmar Field in April.
By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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The Pirates won their second NWAACC championship in three years in November, and they haven’t lost a game in nearly a year, their last setback coming since Sept. 1 of last year.
They scored 86 goals, allowed only 10, and notched 15 shutouts in 2012 — all three marks were the best in the entire NWAACC — and went 22-1-1 overall and 12-0-1 in West Division play.
The 2013 Pirates aren’t the same team, but they have the same expectations.
For starters, Peninsula is ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Junior College Division I preseason poll.
There also is expectations from within the program.
“We have big shoes to fill [this] year, and as the returners, we’re holding the new guys accountable for it,” sophomore forward Alex Martinez said after a recent practice.
“We want to do it again, and we have to work hard to do it, and that starts now.”
Central defender Mark Cottrell, also a sophomore, said this season’s team appears to be up to the task.
“It’s going to be tough to repeat the same thing, but we have a lot of hard-working guys, and a lot of good guys on the team, a lot of skilled players,” he said.
“[Coach Andrew] Chapman’s done a good job at recruiting against this year, so we look to do it again.”
Cottrell and Martinez are two of eight returning players from the 2012 title team.
They will be joined by 20 newcomers.
Chapman said he is still working to integrate those new players, but injuries to as many as six players recently has slowed that process.
Although much remains to be learned about his team, Chapman likes what he has seen so far.
“It’s still early yet. We’re trying to put some things together, we’ve got to move some players around,” Chapman said, adding that as many as six players are battling injuries.
“So, we don’t know where we’re really at yet. But from what we’ve seen, the level of the team, they look really good.”
One newcomer, forward Ashkanov Apollon of Portland, showed off his potential when he played with Peninsula during the spring.
“He . . . had a great spring season and scored a few goals against [the University of Washington], and St. Martin’s, so we think he’s going to do some good things,” Chapman said.
New midfielder Victor Sanchez, also of Portland, was one of the top 6A players in Oregon last year.
Chapman also plucked a few more players from Alex Martinez’s hometown of Reno, Nev., forward Christian Martinez (no relation to Alex) and defender Victor Sanchez.
Rebuilding a defense
Defense was the phase of the game most depleted by graduation.
For starters, All-West Division goalkeeper Guilherme Avelar, who led the NWAACC with 11 shutouts, has moved on to play at Division I Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Taking over for Avelar will be sophomore Angel Guerra, who recorded two shutouts of his own in 2012.
“He’s looked just as good as last year [so far]. He worked really hard last year, put in a lot of work, and was right there at the top with Guilherme, who was our starter last year,” Cottrell said.
“He’s done a lot of hard work and he’s looking to do the same thing this season, if not better. He pushes us all.”
Guerra will be backed up by freshmen Aaron Zavolokin and Edwin Guandique.
Chapman said the Pirates also lost three defenders who were All-Stars last season.
“So, we’re trying to put that together, I think that is our biggest hole right now,” he said.
Cottrell said his fellow defenders are rising to the occasion.
“We have a whole new back line this year,” he said.
“The guys who have stepped up have done an amazing job, and, you know, are looking to be even stronger than the ones last year.”
Offense wants more
Daniel Gonzalez, last year’s the West Division Player of the Year, concluded his junior college eligibility, and Henrique Noujeimi left after one year to play at Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas.
Gonzalez scored 17 goals and had eight assists in 2012, while Noujeimi scored 15 goals.
So, the Pirates lost a lot of offensive production.
But, they have a lot coming back, as well as newcomers with point-scoring abilities.
“Obviously, we lost Danny Gonzalez, which is a huge piece of [last year’s team], but we’ve got some other players in that we hope will help on the offensive side of things,” Chapman said.
The main returner is Alex Martinez, who scored 21 of Peninsula’s 86 goals last season — nearly a quarter of the team’s total, and the second most in the NWAACC.
He said Peninsula is aiming even higher this season.
“The offense is looking good,” Martinez said.
“We have depth; not just two players on the field, we have depth on the bench.
“And we work really well together.
“We actually [set] a 100-plus-goal goal.”
Peninsula’s recent success, along with the 2012 NWAACC championship, they have a 40-2-3 record over the last two seasons, obviously has the rest of the West Division looking up at the Pirates, each team wanting to dethrone the champs.
“I’m sure we got a big target on our back because we’ve done some good things in the past, being ranked nationally right now has also probably helped put a target on our back,” Chapman said.
“But we’ve got some pretty hard opponents. Bellevue’s always strong with as big of a population as they have.
“Highline is always the competitor, and they’re looking pretty good, too. It will be a good showdown.”
Martinez said the Pirates welcome the target.
“It gives us something to work for,” he said.
“If we have a game on Saturday, they’re going to come for us, and we have to be prepared for that.
“If we have a target on our back, let’s keep it on our back.”
The third annual NWAACC Friendlies Tournament begins today at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
The Peninsula men’s team plays both days of the tournament. The Pirates play Edmonds today at 4:30 p.m., and Wednesday face Everett at 4:30 p.m.
The Peninsula women will only play once, against Trinity Lutheran on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Most of the NWAACC — 19 of the 20 men’s teams and 22 of the 24 women’s teams — will participate in the tournament.
The games count of stats and rankings, but have no bearing on the postseason.
Chapman said the tournament is valuable for the experience it offers the players, especially the newcomers, and as an opportunity to scout other teams.
“It’s a good chance to go in and just watch everybody and see what everybody has,” he said.
“More games, and a chance for them to kind of judge themselves. You know, 20 new players, they’ve never seen an NWAACC game, so they don’t really know what it’s like.”
The August/September issue of Athletic Management magazine features an article about the Rumble in the Rainforest, the fundraising event the Peninsula College soccer programs held in April.
The magazine, which goes out to athletic departments at colleges and high schools all over the nation, highlights the Rumble as a good example of not only raising money, but as a way to get a community involved in the school’s soccer programs.
Chapman said the Port Angeles and surrounding communities have found various ways to help the school’s soccer programs.
“The community’s been great with us. They really love having us around and seeing our players out in the community helping and doing things,” Chapman said.
“A lot of people in the community have stepped up and shown their support, you know, fan base or whatever they can do to help us out.
“When you’re doing those things, I think the community really wants to be involved and really help out, and they take a real good self-interest in what we’re doing here, which is nice.”
Read the article online here: www.tinyurl.com/PCinAM.
Sports reporter/outdoors columnist Lee Horton can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 27. 2013 10:07AM