PORT ANGELES — Don’t expect a record-breaking goal-scoring team again this year, according to Peninsula College women’s soccer coach Kanyon Anderson.
But Anderson doesn’t anticipate any type of downturn from the powerhouse women’s team that played for the NWAC championship for the second straight year in 2017.
“Our firepower is down a little bit. We have a little less wiggle room,” Anderson said. “[But] we’re going to win a lot of games. We can be even better than we were last year.”
Last year’s team scored 142 goals in 20 matches for an average of 7.1 goals a game, breaking the old record of 129 goals in 24 matches. Anderson said that was a special achievement, but that people should keep in mind it is something Pirates soccer fans likely cannot expect to see again anytime soon. The Pirates simply are not going to replace that kind of scoring.
“We scored more goals than had ever been scored in the history of the NWAC. We shattered the record,” Anderson said.
The Pirates graduated Sydney Warren, who scored an NWAC-record 31 goals. She is now playing for the University of Portland, itself a powerhouse in NCAA Division I women’s soccer. Other big goal scorers such as Maddy Parton (13 goals), Janis Martinez-Ortiz (13), Kelly Kevershan (12) and Jayna Morikawa (12) also graduated.
The leading returning goal-scorer is forward Taylor Graham, who had 14 goals and Shantel Torres-Benito, who had nine last season.
“They [Graham and Torres-Benito] looked great together in the spring. They combined for a fantastic goal in one of the Pirates’ spring matches,” Anderson said.
Other returning players include Halle Watson and Cindy Vasquez, a pair of freshmen from last year that Anderson said had fantastic springs during the Pirates’ scrimmages.
Anderson said that any JC program such as Peninsula’s will have roughly a 50 percent turnover from season to season. He said Peninsula is fortunate, though, because the women’s soccer program has such a strong reputation that several players are redshirting and staying three years.
This will be a big strength for the Pirate women this year. That team that played for the 2017 NWAC championship was actually missing three or four starters who had redshirted due to injuries.
“As good as we were, we had three starters who were medical redshirts,” Anderson said. “It’s a sign of how strong the program is that players want to be here,” he said. Anderson said some players would stick around four or five years if they could.
Returning redshirters include some talented midfielders such as sophomore Emilee Greve, who was a first-team all-league player at 4A Auburn-Mountainview and Isabella Vega, a sophomore from Sparks, Nev. and Tatiana Hagan, a sophomore from Reno, Nev. Another player who redshirted two years ago, Samantha Guzman, is back this season. That’s a lot of college junior-level experience replacing much of its offensive scoring firepower.
“We’re actually going to be a little older than we were last year,” Anderson said.
Anderson said newcomers that fans should keep an eye on include Jordan Zarate, who won four straight state titles as a high schooler in Hawaii.
“She’s strong and good in the air,” Anderson said of Zarate.
Other newcomers to watch are midfielder Zahori Toledo of Reno and a Canadian woman, Toni Powsey, a midfielder from Comox on Vancouver Island.
In the goaltender’s position, two-year starter Akari Hoshino, Peninsula’s all-time leader in shutouts, has graduated. Anderson said that last season’s backup Kassidy Zinda is the starter this year.
“It’s her position as of now, it’s hers to win or lose,” Anderson said. He did bring in two freshman goalkeeps, Andrea Kenagy from Hawaii and Chloe Merlo from Reno.
Anderson said that while Peninsula utterly dominated the NWAC’s North Division last year, the division as a whole was down. He expects the North to be much more competitive this year.
He said the Pirates’ stated goal remains winning the north, which would be Peninsula’s ninth North Division title in a row.
“Everybody is up in our division,” he said. “It’ll be a fun, competitive division. It has the potential to be the most competitive division in the NWAC top to bottom.”
Anderson said that while winning the North is the obvious goal, the team doesn’t talk much about winning the NWAC, but that it is in the minds of the players, with the team playing in six NWAC championship matches and winning three in the past seven seasons.
Especially for the sophomores on the team, there is an elephant in the living room. For all of the records that were shattered by last year’s squad, the season came to a heartbreaking end with a 1-0 loss in the NWAC championship in extra time to Highline, which like Peninsula came into that match undefeated. It was the second straight year that Peninsula and Highline played each other for the NWAC championship and the second straight year the championship was decided by a 1-0 score in overtime.
“There is a holdover with the sophomores. They carry the previous season with them really intensely. There’s still stuff to do,” Anderson said. “The players realize they’re playing for a legacy. The bar has been set so high here, they come here with an understanding of who we are and what we do.”
The Peninsula women’s season begins this weekend. They are off to Vancouver Island Saturday and Sunday for a pair of preseason friendlies against the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Victoria.
The Pirates first NWAC match of the year? You guessed it, Highline at the NWAC friendlies on Aug. 23 at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila. Not just any friendly.
“We are going to play [that match] to win. It counts toward national rankings,” Anderson said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]