Peninsula College men’s soccer coach Jake Hughes, right, talks with assistant Jesse Salgado during practice earlier this month at Wally Sigmar Field. The Pirates begin their season Thursday at home with a game against Wenatchee CC. (Photo courtesy of Peninsula College)

Peninsula College men’s soccer coach Jake Hughes, right, talks with assistant Jesse Salgado during practice earlier this month at Wally Sigmar Field. The Pirates begin their season Thursday at home with a game against Wenatchee CC. (Photo courtesy of Peninsula College)

PENINSULA MEN’S SOCCER PREVIEW: Battle will be on for kings of the North

New stars from UK, Japan added

PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College men’s soccer team gets an early start to its season this week with a season-opening game at Wally Sigmar Field on Thursday.

And the Pirates come into this season with their usual high expectations.

Peninsula College is coming off another successful season. The Pirates went 15-1-1, won a North Division title and made it to the Northwest Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

Coach Jake Hughes said the North Division is going to be very tough this year. Whatcom has turned into a huge rival for the Pirates. The Orcas came in second in the North to the Pirates but went on to make it all the way to the NWAC championship game, losing to champion Highline 4-3.

Hughes said there is a lot more to the expanded North than Whatcom this season.

“I think the whole of the North is really difficult,” he said. “Whatcom is good, Everett is good, Skagit Valley has a new coach. Bellevue is moving into the North. We have an extremely difficult schedule.”

The five-team North will be a seven-team division this year with Shoreline also returning to field a soccer team. The Pirates will play some “crossover” games with teams from the West Division along with 12 North games.

The men won the NWAC championship in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019, and a return to the title game is always a goal for the Pirates.

The Pirates played scrimmages this weekend in Canada against the University of Victoria and the Lakehill Soccer Club.

“Our players are extremely hard working. They’re very focused and dedicated. They’re very workmanlike,” Hughes said of what he saw in this weekend’s scrimmages.

He said in addition to being hard workers, his players showed a lot of technical skills, which “makes for a pretty exciting combination.”

Newcomers that fans should keep an eye on include Japanese player Inchun Hun. The Pirates have had a lot of success in recent years with some outstanding and flamboyant players from Japan and Korea.

Hughes described Hun as a hybrid forward. “He shows a lot of technical qualities. He’s strong assisting and scoring,” he said.

Alfie Tucker from the United Kingdom is another good player to keep an eye on. He is a left-footed defensive wingback who will be utilized in the team’s attack. “He’s tenacious. He’ll be fun to watch,” Hughes said.

Matthew Enriquez is another newcomer to watch. “He’s part of a long line of Hawaiian players [at Peninsula]. He’s hard-working and athletic,” Hughes said.

The Pirates graduated leading scorer Nico Hernandez but have plenty of firepower returning from last year such as captain Tim Deser, a tall and physical player, and Dylan Pauw, a “big strong, powerful” defender, according to Hughes.

Shu Kato is also back for the Pirates. “He plays with elegance and grace, but he’s also quite tenacious,” Hughes said.

Fernando Tavares and Alfonso Edfeldt also return from last year’s squad. Kai Biegler, who scored six goals last year, is also back.

Thursday’s preconference game against Wenatchee Valley Community College is at 2 p.m. Admission is free for players and their families who identify at the gate that they are part of Storm King or Port Angeles Youth Soccer Club.

The Pirates play Blue Mountain, out of Pendleton, Ore., at the NWAC Friendlies in Tukwila on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they play Rogue, which knocked the Pirates out of the postseason last year and on Aug. 31, Peninsula plays at Highline, the defending NWAC champion.

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