PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College men’s soccer team enters this season with a bit of a chip on its collective shoulder, looking for a happier ending to the 2019 season than in 2018.
Several players return from last year’s squad, which went 10-3-2 in league play (11-6-2) and finished second in the North Region.
What left a bad taste in the Pirates’ mouths was a 2-1 NWAC Tournament defeat against Pierce College. It was a game that ended abruptly in overtime on a penalty kick after a penalty was called against Peninsula in the box.
“We’ve got a hungry group of sophomores. They’re hungry to correct how last season ended and prove to themselves that they are top student-athletes,” third-year coach Jake Hughes said. “A lot of the sophomores have really stepped up.”
The Pirates have a powerful legacy with NWAC titles in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015. Hughes and his players are looking to keep that legacy going.
“Every year our goal is the playoffs. That’s the standard of our program,” Hughes said.
“The players we want have higher aspirations of playing on. We want four-year players. Good student-athletes and good human beings.”
The Pirates’ top two goal-scorers from last year, Mason Haubrich (from nearby Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor) and Japan’s Hide Inoue, return. They had nearly half of the Pirates’ 33 goals last year with Haubrich tallying eight and Inoue seven.
In Hughes’ first year leading the program, the Pirates were explosive offensively with 61 goals. Last year’s team was more defensive. Hughes said this team features a mix between the two approaches.
“We’re a stronger squad with more depth and more balance,” Hughes said.
One of the biggest losses for the team is midfielder Jose Serna, who was the North Region MVP. He moved on to Division II Humboldt State in California. Team captain Sterling Penniston-John also graduated and moved on to Division I Utah Valley State.
“They will be difficult to replace,” Hughes said.
Returning to goal will be Evan Scholes from Kelowna, B.C., but Hughes said freshman keeper Ian Dalton has looked good. Keeper T.J. Landry is also back from last year’s squad.
Yuya Yamamoto and Johnathan Bicknell, who combined for four goals last year, also return. Other returning players are Edgar Tavares, Isael Lopez-Placencia and Emmanuel Lopez-Morales.
Newcomers that Hughes said fans should keep an eye on include forwards Nico Hernandez and Theo Baiye, from Selah and Clarkston, respectively.
Hughes believes the talent level in the North Division has risen.
“Our conference is up this year,” Hughes said.
Hughes expects last year’s champion Whatcom will continue to be good this season. Peninsula had some epic battles against Whatcom last year, tying with them twice and losing a third match 1-0. Hughes expects Everett and Skagit Valley to be improved and that Edmonds is always competitive. Shoreline, a program that has struggled, should be improved, he said.
The toughest teams in the NWAC should be what Hughes calls ‘the usual suspects” — Highline and Tacoma. He also said SW Oregon and Spokane look good.
This year’s team has both a local and international feel to it. The Pirates have a hometown player, Andrew St. George from Port Angeles High School, the reigning Olympic League 2A MVP.
“[St. George] has approached training and games with a good attitude. He is open to learning and is a great teammate. He will definitely help us throughout this season,” Hughes said.
The Pirates also have a number of international players. In addition in Inuoe, who is from Yamagata, Japan, the team will feature Chunghwan Lee, a center back from Seoul, South Korea and Jeong Hyun Kang, also from Seoul. Tristan Byers, a center back, is from Anderslov, Sweden.
Other Japanese players on the team include Yamamoto from Osaka, Japan. Kyota Hiate is from Shiga, Japan; Keigo Takai is from Kyoto, Japan; Tetta Hiraoka is from Ehime, Japan and Teppei Teramoto is from Hyogo, Japan.
The Pirates played two scrimmages last weekend in Canada, against the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. Victoria won its match 5-1 and the Pirates fought to a 0-0 tie with VIU. Hughes said these are two good Canadian Division 1 squads.
The Pirates play another exhibition against a Canadian four-year school at 2 p.m. today against the University of the Fraser Valley, then they begin the regular season with a non-conference game against Highline at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila on Aug. 22.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]