That target on the back of the Pirates just got bigger — much bigger.
A program that saw success early — Peninsula earned a playoff spot and No. 2 seed in its inaugural season in 2010 — is simply a perennial powerhouse now, with a title game appearance in 2011 and back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
So what happens after the encore? The Pirates have to find a way to replace not only the school’s all-time leading goal-scorer (Bri Afoa) and all-time leading assister (Bronte Fitzsimmons) but other Division I-caliber players like Shelbi Vienna-Hallam, Annie Armstrong and Misty Kaiwi.
“You don’t replace that with a freshman,” says Peninsula coach Kanyon Anderson.
But Anderson is used to rebuilding — or, as some might put it, reloading. The Pirates have plenty of talent returning, from a pair of seven-goal scorers in Larkyn Nelson and Mary Pierce to a trio of returning goalkeepers in Emily Flinn, Kasie Lough and redshirt Manaia Siania-Unutoa.
And then there’s a 14-member recruiting class stacked with all-leaguers, MVPs and the like.
“I think our talent level is higher than ever before,” Anderson says. “If we train hard and buy into the idea that every player is responsible for their role, we could be a really dynamic team.”
Unlike last year’s championship team, the 2014 Pirate women won’t be a squad relying on exceptional individual talents but rather a physically strong, balanced team, the P.C. coach says.
“We could be better than last year’s team, but it’s going to take a lot more coordination and synergy,” Anderson says.
Pierce and fellow all-stars Alyssa Bertuleit and Brenda Torres bring experience to a lineup that may see big contributions from freshmen, though in early practices Anderson says he’s not sure which rookies will make the biggest impact for the defending champs.
“This is more talent than any we’ve brought in (before, but) they are still learning what the college game is like,” Anderson says.
Playing up front at the forward position will be sophomores Pierce (Beaverton, Ore.), Bertuleit and Laura Barrett and Alyssa Bertuleit (Sparks, Nev.), Nelson (Bellingham) and Solana Ashe (Juneau, Alaska), as well as freshmen Lexi Krieger (Portland, Ore.), Paige Mahuka (Waianae, Hawaii), and Rebecca Tafte (Kingston).
The midfield will be led by sophomores Torres (Carson City, Nev.), Kayla Bell (Portland, Ore.), Katelyn Raatz (Sparks, Nev.), Paxton Rodocker (Port Angeles) and Brittney Yoshimura (Mililani, Hawaii), as well as freshmen Bianca Andrade (Forest Grove, Ore.), Taylor Berg (Bremerton), Tasha Inong (Pearl City, Hawaii), C.J. Stetser (Mililani, Hawaii), Michele Whan (Reno, Nev.) and Kennady Whitehead (Sparks, Nev.).
Defending for the Pirates will be sophomores Kamryn Barney (Snohomish) and Brooke Yoshimura (Mililani, Hawaii) and a cast of talented freshmen that includes Karen Corral (Sparks, Nev.), Tori Hagen (Reno, Nev.), Kendall Howell (Chico, Calif.), Kai Mahuka (Waianae, Hawaii) and Olivia Moore (Bremerton).
Peninsula’s freshmen and sophomores will get their first non-scrimmage action against Clackamas on Aug. 26 at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila — site of the Pirates’ back-to-back titles.