Only two players returned to the men’s soccer team this year. But with seven years as coach under his belt, Biniam Afenegus hasn’t let the turnover of veterans slow the Penguin squad.
Boasting a record of 8-1-4 at the end of the first week of October, the Penguin men are leaders in the South Region. And with only a month left to play, they have their eyes on a Northwest Athletic Conference berth.
“Our goal every year is to make it to the final four. I have no doubt we can do that,” said Afenegus, whose teams have made it to the playoffs each of the last seven years. Since he took over the program, Clark has won one championship and was runner-up to Peninsula College last year.
The Oct. 3 Alaska Airlines Coaches Poll ranked the men third of 21 teams in the NWAC.
“I don’t know if we’d call it a dynasty but I’d like to say we’re a premiere program in the NWAC,” Afenegus said. “Everybody who plays us fears us.”
Building the program into the powerhouse it is today wasn’t easy according to Afenegus. “In the beginning I went door to door recruiting,” he said. “Now that people recognize our program… over the last eight years recruiting has become easier.”
The drawback at any community college is that players usually only stick around for two years.
“If I was only able to keep them for four years we would have an incredible team by the time the kids are juniors and seniors,” Afenegus said.
Four of the new players joining the team come from Brazil. Among them is 23-year-old Andre Colofatti-Barbosa from Fortaleza.
Afenegus found the players when Colofatti-Barbosa’s agent sent out a video showcasing their skills. Colofatti-Barbosa said that you need to be in good shape to fit into the style of play Afenegus demands.
This year’s turnover was particularly high. Only midfielder Eric Zechenelly and South Region All-Star Abdiel Morfin returned.
He said that the team chooses a freshmen captain each year to groom them for next season. This year it’s forward Octavio Hermosillo.
Hermosillo went to Portland’s David Douglas High School but didn’t play on his school’s team. Instead he played for the U-16 and U-18 Portland Timbers, an experience he called “a whole different level.”
“Having guys that have been there before just helps with the whole leadership principle,” said Associate Head Coach Troy Sletten.
The transition between high school soccer and college soccer can be a wake-up call for some freshmen. Sletten explained: “You are one of the best in your high school and now you’re playing against all the best guys from high schools around the region, so for them it’s kind of a tough adjustment.”
Still, Sletten said Clark has one of the top three or four freshmen groups in the league.
“We don’t ever want to say it’s a rebuilding year, but I guess in any case this would be one of them,” Sletten said. “But I think we’re talented enough that that shouldn’t be an issue.”