Saturday’s Northwest Athletic Conference Quarterfinal Playoffs at Sigmar Field on the campus of Peninsula College will feature two very different stories.
The noon match-up pits the Peninsula women against North Idaho and the 2 p.m. game has the Pirate men tackling Walla Walla. The winners advance to the NWAC Final Four, Nov. 14-15, at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
Women: Pirates vs. Cardinals
The women’s match features a Pirate team that has won five straight division titles and has not only reached the Final Four four straight years, but has played in four straight NWAC championship games, winning two of those in 2012 and 2013.
Kanyon Anderson is the team’s only head coach in the six-year history of the program. His Pirates are ranked No. 1 in the NWAC and this week jumped up to No. 4 in the nation, according to the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division I Junior College Women’s Soccer Poll.
North Idaho, meanwhile, is a newcomer to the NWAC, leaving the National Junior College Athletic Association following its 2013 season.
The Cardinals placed third in the East Division in 2014 and finished second this year under 13-year head coach Dan Hogan. NIC was not ranked in the final 2015 Alaska Airlines NWAC Coaches Poll.
Peninsula finished 19-1-0 and 14-1-0 in North Division play, its only blemish a 1-0 loss at Everett back on Sept. 16. The Cardinals went 11-5-2 overall, including a 5-0 loss at Peninsula in a non-conference match back on Sept. 5. NIC placed second in the East with an 8-3-1 record.
The Pirates lead the NWAC in goals scored with 85 and in goals against with only six. The Cardinals have 42 goals this year and have allowed 21.
However, despite the stats, standings, rankings and history, the post-season is a new season and coach Anderson is not looking past the Cardinals.
“There are no easy matchups at this point of the season,” Anderson said. “Our early season game against them means very little at this point because so much has changed.
“North Idaho is talented and physical,” he added. “They came within a goal of winning the East division against a very good Spokane team. They are good enough to win the whole tournament, but we are playing well and feel confident about our chances.”
The Cardinals earned a spot in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 nod over Chemeketa, the third-place finisher from the South Division, on Wednesday in Coeur d’Alene. NIC’s goals came from Jasmine Smith and Emily Aspen.
Players to watch for Peninsula include sophomore Lexi Krieger, who leads the Pirates in scoring with 14 goals, and also has seven assists; freshman Myu Ban, who leads the NWAC in assists with 13 and also has five goals on her stat sheet; freshman Ellie Small, who has come on strong in the second half of the season and now has nine goals and eight assists; sophomore Tasha Inong, who recently returned from a knee injury and has still managed nine goals and two assists in half of a season; freshman Hoku Afong, who had eight goals and three assists; sophomore goal keeper Mania Siania-Unutoa, who is second in the NWAC in shutouts; and sophomore Tori Hagen, who is the lead defender in a back line that is among the best in the nation.
Players to watch for North Idaho include freshman Megan Lowery, who has 12 goals and three assists, and sophomore Haley White, who leads the team in assists with seven, and also has four goals. Keepers Tiegan Horton, a freshman, and Cassandra van der Mey, a sophomore, each have one shutout.
Men: Pirates vs. Warriors
The men’s match-up is very different. It features two evenly matched teams with storied NWAC histories – and relatively new coaches.
First-year head coach Cale Rodriguez guided his Pirates to the North Division championship with an 11-2-2 conference record and a 13-3-3 overall mark. It was the seventh straight division championship for the PC men, who have appeared in the NWAC Final Four in four of the last five years, winning NWAC titles in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The NWAC’s second-ranked PC men scored 47 goals thus far, allowed 18 and led the NWAC in shutouts with nine.
The Warriors, under second-year head coach Jordan Hacker, were ranked No. 6 in the final NWAC poll and placed second in the East Division this year with a 7-4-4 record. The Warriors, who are 10-4-6 overall, have scored 36 goals, allowed 27 and have five shutouts. They last won the NWAC in 2008.
In their only meeting this year, the Pirates and Warriors played to a scoreless tie in both teams’ season opener back on Aug. 29 in Springfield, Oregon.
“I expect a very competitive game on Saturday,” Rodriguez said. “We played Walla Walla our very first game of the year at the Friendlies. They were a good team and I expect them to be just as good if not better, so we’ve got our hands full.”
“It’s going to take a tremendous effort and performance from our guys to get a result and to keep our season alive,” he added. “I know the guys have been waiting for this opportunity all season. Saturday can’t come soon enough.”
The Warriors earned a berth into Saturday’s quarterfinal round of the NWAC playoffs with a 2-0 win over Southwestern Oregon, the third-place team in the South Division, on Wednesday in Walla Walla. The hosts scored twice in the first half, on goals by Jose Anguiano and Alex Saldana. Francisco Flores earned the shutout.
Leading the Pirates’ attack in 2015 is freshman Johnny Martinez, who is ranked third in the NWAC in scoring with 12 goals and also has five assists; sophomore Keo Ponce, who has 11 goals and one assist; sophomore Eddie Benito, who has six goals and six assists; freshman goal keeper Nick Johnson, who leads the NWAC in shutouts with nine; and sophomore Santi Sierra, who is the captain of a very strong defensive unit for the Pirates.
Walla Walla is led by freshman Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez with nine goals and eight assists, sophomore Anguiano with seven goals and five assists, freshman Brenden Kenley with five goals and three assists, and sophomore keeper Flores, who has three shutouts.
Both matches will be video streamed at Peninsula’s UStream page.
Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors, veterans and youth 13-17. Children 12-under and Peninsula College students and staff are admitted free.