PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College women’s soccer team has won with firepower and it’s won with stifling defense.
This year’s team?
“I don’t even know who we are,” said coach Kanyon Anderson.
Anderson isn’t indulging in doom and gloom. He points out that last year’s team got off to a poor start, losing a scrimmage in Canada, and dropping two matches to high-powered teams at the NWAC Friendlies in Tukwila.
It took a while for the team to come together, but when it did, the Pirates were simply unbeatable, finishing the season 17-0-1. That tie between Peninsula and Edmonds? An angry Pirates squad came back and beat them 13-1 later in the season.
In fact, Anderson likes this team and has recruited a number of all-state prep players and league MVPs.
“The character of this team is off the charts,” he said. He also said it will be a physical team.
“We’re really big. This might be the biggest team we’ve ever had. Some of these women are bigger than I am,” he said.
The Pirate women are coming off an NWAC championship, their fourth title since 2012. They had a few games in which they blew up for a lot of goals, but for the most part, it was an extremely strong team defensively that had 14 shutouts, didn’t allow a goal in the postseason and allowed only five goals in league play.
Anderson said that in past years, the Pirates were extremely explosive. “In 2017, we attacked. In 2018, we were strong up the middle,” Anderson said. He described last year’s championship team as a squad that could “grind games out.”
The Pirates went 19-2-1 last year (14-0-1 in league). In 10 of those 19 wins, they scored three or fewer goals, a stark contrast to the 2017 team that shattered all kinds of scoring records.
That up the middle strength was anchored by midfielder Emilee Greve and defenders Halle Watson and Samantha Guzman. All three players are now playing a four-year schools (Greve at Portland State, Watson at the University of San Francisco and Guzman at the University of Mary in North Dakota). Anderson said these three players just simply swallowed people up.
Anderson said he focused heavily on replacing this back trio while recruiting this year. He said he came up with perhaps the most physical team he’s ever had.
Big offensive contributors such as Shantel Torres-Benito (Sacramento State), Tatiana Hagan (University of Kentucky) and Taylor Graham also have graduated.
However, the Pirates not only return a lot of firepower from last year, they bring in several all-state players. The big returner is Samantha Oliveira, who led the Pirates with 21 goals last year, the second-most ever for a freshman in Pirates’ history.
Also returning is Kayla Alcott, who had eight goals and five assists, as well as Sammy Howa and Halle Nottage, who each had four goals. Anderson said Jordan Zarate, who didn’t play a lot last year due to injury, will be back.
“She could be really important for us,” Anderson said.
Miya Clark, a striker and two-time Big Island Player of the Year from Hilo, Hawaii, is joining the squad to bolster the offense.
The important defensive newcomers to the team include Mackenzie Corkill from Reno, Nev., who was first-team all-state in Nevada. She will be a center back.
“She’s big, fast, smart and a great teammate,” Anderson said. Tommylia Dunbar from Campbell River, B.C., also will contribute. Anderson described her as a “big, strong, tough defender.”
And Alissa Konarek from East Wenatchee, a center back and a 4A defensive player of the year, will help fill the defensive hole.
Even if the Pirates hadn’t lost that valuable trio of Greve, Watson and Guzman, Anderson said he would have taken Corkill, Dunbar and Konarek. “There are no circumstances where I would not have taken these players,” he said. Helping these three along will be returning defenders Toni Powsey of Cumberland, B.C., and Kaiya Denis of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
There’s also three North Olympic Peninsula players on the roster. Kyrsten McGuffey, an Olympic League 2A Division All-League performer, and Hailey Robinson are joining the team from the Port Angeles Roughriders. Grace Johnson, an “all-everything player from Chimacum,” is also joining the Pirates, Anderson said.
The Pirates also have a lot of midfielders returning — Breanne Kuni, Grace Hipke, Zahori Toledo and Sammy Howa.
Peninsula’s keeper last year, Andrea Kenagy, who won the MVP of the NWAC championship, will be back. Anderson said it will be an interesting battle at goaltender as the Pirates will carry four keepers. Joining Kenagy are Alycia Flora and Chloe Merlo, both of Reno, and Musuai Siania Isaia (who was first-team all-state in Hawaii) of Waipahu, Hawaii to the roster as keepers.
The Pirates begin play today and Tuesday with scrimmages on Vancouver Island versus Vancouver Island and the University of Victoria. Peninsula opens the regular season with a pair of games at the NWAC Friendlies at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila.
The Pirates play Clark on Thursday in a rematch of the 2018 NWAC Championship and face Spokane on Friday.