SPORTS: Accolades pour in for Peninsula College men’s soccer program

PORT ANGELES — The trophy case at the Peninsula College gymnasium is running out of space.

School administrators are actually thinking about buying a bigger one.

They need to find some place to put all the accolades the men’s soccer program continues to pile up.

Of course, this year’s Pirates (11-3-4 overall) would like to add the one piece of hardware that has eluded head coach Andrew Chapman during his wildly successful eight-year tenure: an NWAACC title.

Making their third Final Four appearance in four years, they’ll get that chance this weekend starting with Saturday’s semifinal with Columbia Basin (12-3-4) at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila at 6:30 p.m.

“We started the season out No. 2 [in the NWAACC], so I think we’re now recognized that Peninsula College is a program to be reckoned with,” Chapman said.

“The next step would be finding that next day and winning.

“That’s what we’re all shooting for, so we can continue to go and move forward with this program.”

Obviously, the Pirates don’t have much further to go.

They’ve been on the NWAACC’s biggest stage twice before under Chapman, reaching the Final Four in 2007 and ’08.

Yet each time they’ve suffered a crushing one-goal defeat in the semis, once on a second half penalty kick (’07) and another on an overtime goal (’08).

After rising to a No. 1 ranking in the NWAACC coaches poll this fall, the Pirates went through a rough six-game stretch that saw them go 1-3-2.

The team rebounded just in time to win its final regular season match — 3-2 at Bellevue — and eventually claim its third West Division crown in four seasons.

The Pirates followed that up with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Whatcom in the NWAACC quarterfinals, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to earn a trip to the Final Four.

“I think they just decided they weren’t going to be content with finishing out the season,” Chapman said of the Pirates’ rebound.

“I think what it was was they were ready to start fighting again. They were complacent for a little while, and then the end of the season came around and they realized they needed to fight for things.”

It also helped that Miguel Gonzalez started scoring goals again.

The freshmen striker from Yelm struggled with his scoring during the Pirates’ late-season swoon.

The Peninsula coaches eventually moved around the team’s alignment up front, and the results weren’t too far behind.

“We ran another striker that stayed high to create space for Miguel to be in,” Chapman said. “He likes the close quarters, but what he wants to do is get the ball and face up the opponent. He needs his space so he can get the ball and turn. And once he turns he’s not afraid of the close quarters.

Gonzalez scored five of his team-high 14 goals in the Pirates’ final three games.

This week he was named the West Division MVP, while four of his teammates were selected to the West Division All-Start team.

That included midfielder Tyler Hindmarch (5 goals, 2 assists), defender Jeff Mullen (3 assists), defender Brent Ricigliano (1 goal, 3 assists) and goalkeeper Jared Wilson (5 shutouts).

“He’s our leader on the field,” Chapman said of Gonzalez.

“He’s strong, he scores goals and he’s consistent. We may not be as far along as we are now without Miguel.”

The five All-Stars are the most Peninsula has ever had in one season; an indication of just how talented the Pirates are this season.

“We’ve given up the lowest amount of goals [18] in all the years we’ve coached,” said Chapman, who was also named West Division coach of the year for the third time.

“Definitely, we’ve done some good stuff about not giving up a lot of goals. But the nice thing about this team is it’s 20 freshmen [and seven sophomores].

“We’re going to play a team that’s got 12 sophomores. We’ll see what that means.”

The Pirates face a stingy defense in Columbia Basin.

The Hawks have given up just 16 goals this season while notching an NWAACC-best nine shutouts.

Waiting in the finals will be the winner of Saturday’s Highline-Shoreline match at 4 p.m.

“They are just a hard, hard-working team,” Chapman said of Columbia Basin. “I think the one thing we need to do is not panic, not to worry.

“Columbia Basin likes to put a lot of pressure on, so we just need not to get rattled. As long as we keep our composure and stay mentally strong I think we are going to be all right.”

Do that, and the Pirates just might add another trophy to the collect.

Or better yet, another banner.

“We point those out right away and say those banners aren’t going anywhere,” Chapman said. “Everybody who comes through here gets to see and read those names.

“The guys are more pumped up about getting their name on that gym wall than getting a trophy.”

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