Experienced at important positions with a number of interchangeable parts, the Peninsula College men’s soccer team has designs on its fifth consecutive NWAC North Region title and a deep run in the NWAC Tournament come November.
“A talented group, we’ve got some speed and some size,” head coach Jake Hughes said. “We have some technical players, we have some edgy players, I feel we have all of the pieces if we can continue to grow and develop we’ll be in a pretty good position.”
The team will again resemble the United Nations with players from Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, England, the Netherlands and Selah and Sequim closer to home.
Leading scorer Pau Vivas Ayala returns up top after scoring 14 goals in 19 games last fall.
“His job is scoring and we are trying to put him into positions to score,” Hughes said.
Fellow returners Boris Yapi and Isaiah Penniston-John will look to find Ayala in the offensive zone and look for their own scores in regular play and off set pieces.
“Both are physically imposing players, really strong physically and can hold the ball up while Pau is the finishing touch, the attacking play,” Hughes said. “And Boris is particularly good in the air [on corners, free kicks and balls sent into the goal box].”
Maurin Frehner emerged as a team captain during spring practices and figures to once again wear the yellow armband as a midfielder.
Tsubasa Abe is expected to pair with Frehner in central midfield with goal box to goal box responsibilities while sophomore Matthew Enriquez will slot along the wings, according to Hughes.
“Maurin and Abe are more traditional midfielders and Enriquez we will have him bombing down the wing,” Hughes said.
Jem Ndia also will get time in the midfield.
Sophomores Alfie Tucker, Taffel McCootie, Nate Travis and Sequim’s Brandon Wagner return along the defensive back line.
“Alfie played and started a few games last year, Taffel and Brandon were rotation players,” Hughes said.
Hughes can choose from two freshman goalkeepers, Laurin Lettow of Germany and Noah Plummer of Gilbert, Ariz.
Both bring something different to the position.
“”Both are really competent goalkeepers, both with unique skills sets,” Hughes said. “Laurin Lettow is a big boy, very imposing in net.”
“Noah Plummer is shorter, quick and good with his feet and good with distribution [of the ball], ” Hughes said.
Besides the new goalkeepers, Hughes said all his freshmen will see playing time.
“Nil Grau from Spain, a big forward, he will be one to watch for sure, he should get a handful of goals and assists,” Hughes said.
“Rey Sato from Japan, a cool calm central defender, good on the ball and in the air and will help us build a lot of attacks.
Sid Gunton-Day, he’s another big athletic player who can play along the wing or up front. All of our freshmen are good and all will play.”
Two weeks into preseason camp and ahead of today’s season opener at Wenatchee, Hughes said he likes what he is seeing as his team builds its identity.
“I think its’ definitely a hard working industrious group that’s already building good camaraderie,” Hughes said.
“I think they have the ability to play direct, fast and athletic and be quite technical in the buildup, good in the thirds. We have a little bit of everything.”
Last season’s NWAC North Division race was an intense battle between Whatcom and Peninsula with the Pirates coming out on top.
Hughes expects a similar challenge this season from Whatcom, with Bellevue and Everett also in contention.
Conference-wide, Hughes thinks Walla Walla and Columbia Basin are talented and capable of an NWAC Tournament run.
After NWAC friendlies on Aug. 22 and 23 against Southwest Oregon and Tacoma, the Pirate men host Lane on Aug, 31 in their final conference tune-up. Peninsula opens North Division play at home against Everett on Sept. 6.
Peninsula’s home games will be livestreamed at nwacsportsnetwork.com.peninsula.
Fall sports preview: Peninsula College men’s soccer
Head coach: Jake Hughes, seventh season (79-15-12); 1 NWAC championship
2022 record: 12-2-3 in conference play, 15-3-3overall; lost in NWAC quarterfinal
Players to watch: Pau Vivas Ayala, F, So.; Maurin Frehner, MF, So.; Tsubasa Abe, MF, So.; Matthew Enriquez, MF, So.; Boris Yapi, F, So.; Isaiah Penniston-John, F; So.; Alfie Tucker, D, So.; Brandon Wagner, D, So.
Key newcomers: Nil Grau, F, Fr.; Sid Gunton-Day, MF/F, Fr.; Laurin Lettow, GK, Fr.; Noah Plummer, GK, Fr.; Rey Sato, D, Fr.
Outlook: Pirates will be playoff tested in a rugged North Division once again. Will division race take too much out of them before NWAC Tournament?