Aaron McPherson – Reporter
Coming off their best finish in program history, the women’s soccer team is poised to win their third consecutive regional championship and make their first ever appearance at the Northwest Athletic Conference finals.
“We’re not where we want to be,” said sophomore defender Kayla Beard, one of the team captains this year. “We still have goals for improving.”
As of Oct. 9, Clark lead in the South Region with a record of seven wins, zero losses and one tie, totalling 22 points. Their following Oct. 10 home game was against the third-placed Portland Panthers, who hold a record of 4-3-0 and 12 points. Sitting at second was the Lane Titans at 6-1-1 and 19 points.
After their Oct. 6 1-1 tie game against Lane, the ladies outscored their regional opponents 35-1.
“Every game has different lessons to learn from,” said Clark Head Coach Jeff Castagnola.
Going into the Oct. 10 game, Clark could have secured an eighth-straight playoff spot with a win or tie against Portland. If the Penguins lost to the Panthers, a win-or-tie result in their Oct. 13 game against Rogue in Grants Pass, Oregon, could have clinched a playoff spot instead.
Clark’s final home game is Oct. 17 against the Southwestern Oregon Lakers, 2-5-1, 7 points, as of Oct. 9. Depending on results in the previous week, this game could be for the regional title.
Before Castagnola took the reins this year, the team was coached by Sean Janson, current director of outreach. In Janson’s first year, 2014, they placed third in the South Region with a 6-5-6 record, 24 points. In 2015, they placed second, with a 9-0-3 record, 30 points. In both years, the title was won by Lane.
The playoffs are of a 12-team format, with each regional champion receiving a first-round bye. In the event that Clark wins the South, their first playoff game will be at home on Nov. 3. They would face the Oct. 31 matchup between the North’s third best team and the West’s second best.
If Clark places second, they will host the East’s third best for a chance to face the West Regional champion. Placing third would lead them to an away game against the East’s second best to determine who would challenge the North Regional champion.
Regardless, the first game will be on Oct. 31 and the second on Nov. 3. The final four teams will battle it out in Tukwila, Washington. The semi-finals are on Nov. 9 and the finals are on Nov. 11.
The following two years produced back-to-back regional titles, 11-0-1, 34 points, in 2016 and 11-0-1 again in 2017. The Titans placed second in both seasons.
Factoring in this season, the women’s team has not lost a regular-season matchup in four years, with the record being 38-0-6 during that stretch. The Penguins had a loss this year during the preseason, dropping 0-4 to the defending NWAC champions the Highline Thunderbirds on Aug. 24.
“We’re trying not to look too far ahead,” Castagnola added. Although the team does have the South Region title and another final four appearance as team goals, he emphasizes the importance of focusing on one game at a time.