SPORTS: No baby steps for Peninsula College women’s soccer team as it aims for the top

PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College women’s soccer team is 1-year-old this season but don’t think for a second that you can take candy away from this baby.

The Pirates, who captured second place in the NWAACC West Division last year with a limited recruiting season and only 15 players on the roster — all freshmen — had a whole year to recruit for this season and will have a full team of 24 players.

“We are pretty optimistic,” head coach Kanyon Anderson said.

Peninsula still will be young with only 10 sophomores, eight returning starters from last year’s team and two transfers from other schools.

But the new freshmen can play.

“The talent level has gone up,” Anderson said. “We know that we are quite a bit more talented this year.”

So much so that the returning sophomores are not guaranteed their old starting positions back.

Everything will have to be earned on this team.

Peninsula recruited four players from Australia, “a handful from Alaska,” from Hawaii and some from Eastern Washington, especially the Wenatchee area, Anderson said.

“I didn’t have time to recruit in Eastern Washington last year,” he said.

First-year magic

Anderson said he was surprised how quickly the Pirates became competitive in the tough NWAACC league.

“I didn’t know what to expect that first year but it didn’t take long for me to see that we could compete [with the more established teams],” he said.

“We were pretty strong mentally.”

That mental toughness kept the Pirates in close games and put them over the top most of the time.

Peninsula will not be content to finishing second this year.

“We have set our goal to win the West Division, and if we do that, we might as well shoot for the NWAACC title,” Anderson said.

After all, the women would be following in the Peninsula men’s footsteps. The men are the defending NWAACC champions.

“At Peninsula, we know what it takes [to win NWAACC],” Anderson said.

“It’s a matter of getting there.”

The Pirates will have to go through defending West champion Bellevue to win it all. Bellevue had 11 more points in the standings that runner-up Peninsula last year.

“We suspect that they will probably be the team to beat,” Anderson said about Bellevue.

“They are the ones we have our eyes on.”

The Pirates can’t be counted out the way they keep improving since they first stepped on the field last summer.

Peninsula players to watch early on include central midfielder Jackie Rodgers, an all-star last year, and striker Jessica Farrell, who tied Rodgers for the most goals with five each.

Besides having the two top scorers back, the Pirates have a defensive standout in transfer Shelby Solomon, a Fairbanks, Alaska native who transferred from Western Oregon University.

“Shelby is a very strong, talented defender,” Anderson said.

The Pirates had two days of team invitational tryouts Saturday and Sunday, then went right into a three-day team camp at the college that ends today.

The players are working 12-hour days in the camp.

“We’re feeding them and taking care of them in the camp,” Anderson said.

From there the Pirates go into two-a-day practice with lighter, more tactical workouts in the morning and then playing a full scrimmage in the afternoon.

Peninsula will scrimmage at University of Vancouver Island on Monday, and start its nonleague schedule Aug. 31.

The Pirates first home league game will be on Sept. 14 against Green River.

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