After concluding a grueling 20-game season, most NWAC community college soccer programs lay dormant until the start of the next season in the fall.
But Clark’s women’s soccer team has just finished its second season of the year.
The Penguins faced one of their most difficult match-ups when they lost 2-0 to Highline College during the NWAC quarterfinals. To prevent a mirrored season, Clark opted to sharpen the skills of its freshmen lineup during a spring season.
“When we go back to the NWAC playoffs next year, the teams we will play will not be our toughest opponents we face during the season,” said head coach Sean Janson.
Janson arranged games on April 10 and 17 with Concordia College, Central Washington University, University of Oregon JV and Corban University. NWAC spring regulations limit teams to playing just two games on two days, for a total of four games.
Clark went 1-2-1 on its brief spring season, but Janson described the record as a positive.
“A year ago, teams like Central Washington and Concordia wouldn’t even play us because they saw it as a waste of their time,” Janson said. “Now we are competing with those same teams.”
Clark lost 2-0 to Concordia and 1-0 to Central on April 10, but tied Oregon 3-3 and beat Corban 1-0 on April 17.
Facing upper-echelon teams has prepared Clark’s freshman-heavy defensive unit for next year’s season.
In the April 10 tie with Oregon, Clark’s leading scorer Brenna Bogle brought in all three Penguins’ points against the Division I team. This marked the end of Bogle’s career with Clark as she finished the season with 37 goals, more than any other Clark women’s soccer player in a season.
Entering the summer, the void Bogle leaves in the offensive line is on Janson’s mind. But the second-year coach isn’t concerned about his back line.
“Defensively, we are fine,” Janson said. “We need to find someone to score goals for us.”
Still, recruiting has not been a problem for Janson after his first hectic season at Clark.
Janson recalled his first year as head coach just trying to fill the roster for the year. After a grueling 6-5-6 season, Janson set out to gather Clark County talent.
“We have a lot of good soccer out in Clark County, and I had a leg-up on the competition in recruiting,” Janson said.
Janson’s local recruiting added 22 freshmen to his 2015 season’s team, 12 being from Clark County.
Freshmen defenders like Hope Taylor and Emily Heaton were molded into All-NWAC players thanks to the leadership brought by returning sophomores, according to Janson.
“Our sophomore leadership has really helped shape the culture of our freshmen, and ultimately helped shape the culture of the program,” Janson said.
Although Clark went undefeated in conference play this fall, the Penguins’ backline is not without its flaws. Keeping proper positioning, winning the ball in the air and maintaining consistent communication are all areas that Taylor recognized as needing improvement over the offseason.
Taylor will also be shifting positions from center-defender to outside back-defender, to fill the position of graduating sophomore Savannah Ware.
“I’m nervous, but after this spring season we all are so much more confident in ourselves,” Taylor said.
Courtney Zumminstein will take over the position of center-back defender. Zumminstein played this position throughout her years at Ridgefield High School and said all 11 players need to play defense to give way to the Penguins’ offense.
“You can’t have offense without defense,” Zumminstein said. “We are patient on defense. We wait for our opportunities on defense and that sets up our offense.”
The patience of Clark’s defense enables the offense to properly set up for their attacks, according to Janson.
Janson said fellow returning freshman Ellie Quercia has shown signs that she is ready to fill the offensive position left by Bogle.
Quercia scored Clark’s only goal in the 1-0 victory against Division II school Corban University on April 10. Quercia amassed 14 goals and 12 assists on the Penguins’ season.
“Being a freshman, my role on the team was different,” Quercia said. “My strong suit was assisting. This next season I want to have the confidence to be the goal-scorer we need.”
Quercia said she is ready to finish spring practices and start next year’s season.
“More than winning the championship, I want to finish first in our division,” Quercia said. “We missed it this year on a technicality, and next year that No. 1 spot is ours.”
Clark finished the regular season with 30 points, finishing second behind Lane Community College with 31.
The NWAC is yet to release the schedule for the 2016-2017 Fall season. Clark is slated to start fall season practice August 1, according to players.