Fully aware of the pain inflicted by the absence of the game they love, what may be the deepest Peninsula College women’s soccer team ever assembled kicks off regular season play Wednesday at the NWAC Friendlies at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
That’s a heady statement for a program with four conference championships since 2010 in its on-campus trophy case.
“Mentally, I think we are quite dialed in,” Pirates head coach Kanyon Anderson said. “Our players realize what they lost when they didn’t get to play (a full schedule and playoffs). It sharpened the blade a little bit.
“Sometimes, you think, ‘Gosh, the kids have changed, and it’s not as much about soccer anymore.’ And you wonder, is this generational? But these players just really want to play soccer. They have more of an old-school mentality. It’s not about the jackets or fancy gear; they are just focused on playing soccer.”
Because of COVID-19, the Pirates played a condensed seven-game North Division-only schedule last spring that didn’t count against players’ athletic eligibility, and the team returned every single one of their “super sophomores,” players going into their third year with the program and their second year of athletic eligibility.
And in the meantime, Peninsula added the best soccer player in Port Angeles High School history, Roughriders’ all-time leading goal-scorer Millie Long.
Long makes up a portion of what Anderson called “an interesting attacking crew” up top for Peninsula.
“We run three strikers, and Miya Clark has been a two-year starter and will start again in the middle,” Anderson said of the Hawaiian super sophomore who was second in the NWAC with five assists and scored three goals in the spring.
A true freshman, All-Big 9 Conference forward Jayden Brown will provide a tall target along the left side at 5 feet, 10 inches.
Port Angeles super sophomore Kyrsten McGuffey is starting on the right wing, and “Millie is fighting for a starting spot and could definitely earn it,” Anderson said.
“My two PA girls are at the same spot. Kyrsten, we moved her to the attacking wing spot where’s she’s up high and wide. She can be a tenacious defender for us as well; she really tracks the ball down.
“And Millie is still Millie: a dead eye goal-scorer with the ability to analyze situations and distribute the ball to teammates like the point guard she is on the basketball floor.
“Millie is awesome. She’s scored a bunch of goals in training and created two very good chances up at Western [Washington],” Anderson said. “Even at the collegiate level, she is still blazingly fast. She could very well be our leading goal-scorer by the end of the season. Millie didn’t play a lot of club soccer because she was busy playing other sports, so if she refines her game a little, she can improve even more.”
Anderson said the team has two groups cycling through the midfield positions: run triangle with one player.
“At the bottom of the diamond is Shyanne Chang, and she’s the shortest on the team but tough as nails,” Anderson said. “Her dad is a high school wrestling coach.”
Newcomer Chiaki Takase earned the “special player” tag from Anderson.
“She might be the best overall player on the roster,” Anderson said.
Alycia Alvarado, the team’s leading goal-scorer in the spring (five goals) is back at one of the attacking midfielder spots along with CC Jenkins, a Hawaiian player who earned a lot of respect in her first freshman season last spring.
Peninsula also brought in transfer Malia Miller, who played a season at Bellevue after earning Alaska’s Gatorade State Player of the Year honors as a senior.
“She probably has the best news clippings, or her and Millie, on the team,” Anderson said.
Nordland’s Grace Johnson, Chimacum’s all-time leading goal scorer, returns for her third season in the middle.
“She can play all those positions really well and serves as kind of a utility infielder for us,” Anderson said.
“Grace is an NWAC All-Star-caliber player, so to have those five, plus the girls we mentioned up top, we’ve already talked about nine kids who are elite,” Anderson said.
Defensively, Peninsula also has an elite player in left center back Tommylia Dunbar.
“At left back, we have Boo Boo Corpuz, a fierce 5-1 girl with blazing speed who can get into the attack all the time. And Tommylia Dunbar is next to her, and she’s been absolutely dominant for a couple of years for us.”
McKenzie Corkill, a league defensive MVP from the talent-rich Reno, Nev., area, is a strong player who is fantastic in the air and possesses great leadership qualities, according to Anderson.
Preston Spragling and Kascia Muscutt will play right back, with Muscutt, Peninsula’s Associated Student Council president, cited as “maybe the best athlete in the group.”
Alyssa Konarek, another Big 9 standout, also will see plenty of playing time in the back.
Musuai Isaia returns as starting goalkeeper after posting five shutouts and allowing just two goals in seven games last spring.
“A friend of mine who also coaches in the league is of the consensus that our roster is more talented than it’s ever been,” Anderson said. “I think anything other than an NWAC Championship with this team would be a disappointment.”
Anderson knows there will be obstacles along the way.
“We need to work really hard and avoid the pitfalls, and I know how hard it is [to win with heavy expectations],” he said. “One of the things I do when I look at the team at the start of the year is ask myself if we are good enough to win our division and good enough to win our division and the NWAC Championship.”
And his opinion?
“We can totally win it all,” Anderson said.