GOALS: Team Hoping to Exceed Expectations in Tough West Region
By Matt Baide
Centralia College women’s soccer coach Horst Malunat channelled 1980 U.S. Hockey coach Herb Brooks when asked about recruiting players for his team.
“I don’t need the best players, I need the right players,” Malunat said.
Malunat believes he has the right players for another successful run in the second season of the CC women’s soccer program.
After being the new kids on the block in 2016, the team is excited to get the 2017 season underway.
“I don’t think they are going to take us lightly. A two-year school, a junior college or CC, it’s tough. Even high school, you get kids freshman through senior, here you get them one year, maybe two if you’re lucky,” Malunat said. “I think they’re not going to think we’re this new program that’s not very good. I still think people will not overlook us like last year, for sure.”
The Trailblazers have a solid mix of experienced sophomores and talented freshman to keep the team competitive.
“I think we might have a little more offensive power. We are going to have a new goalkeeper, and we’re probably going to have a whole new defense because we only have one returning player on defense (Kelsey Aselton),” Malunat said. “It will be interesting to see how everything plays out. The sophomores that are coming back from last year are better, stronger. We’ve got a couple new players coming in that will help us out.”
The local recruits include Toledo’s Yvette Arroyo, Onalaska’s Jana Girt and Rochester’s Lilly Grub. The freshman that has impressed the most, though, was part of the State 2B runner-up team.
“The freshman in my mind that’s doing the best that’s come in is (Kalama’s) Natalie Coleman,” Malunat said. “She’s doing really well. She came in fit and she works hard.”
Incoming freshman McKenna Moon, a former Bearcat, had foot surgery and is expected to be out for most of the season.
A few returning sophomores have emerged as team leaders, Malunat noted: LeAnn Phanakhone, out of Portland, is a team captain, Adna’s Kelsey Aselton returns on the defensive end, and Desiree Arocha, out of Kelso, suffered a torn ACL but still provides leadership.
Centralia had five players move on to four year schools off of last season’s team, with former Blazers now playing now at St. Martin’s, Evergreen and Providence University in Montana.
The West Region will be tough again this year. Last year’s NWAC runner-up Highline is ranked nationally, and with Tacoma and Bellevue in the mix, the West will again be a challenge for playoff-hopeful teams.
“(Highline is) always kind of the standard to measure ourselves by. We can compete with them and I felt we did pretty well last year,” Malunat said. “Tacoma is in that mix, too. We have probably one of the toughest divisions in the NWAC from top to bottom. I’m hoping we get top 3 and make playoffs, that’s kind of the goal — to get points on the road, get a win at home or tie, 3 points on the road and get to playoffs.”
After a week of practices, Malunat feels the strength of the team isn’t necessarily on the field.
“We have really quality people, and I think when a group of people that come together that are high quality and character and there’s trust there,” Malunat said. “I think we can go far, regardless of on paper what we look like. If I look at other teams on paper, they might be better. I think we have some good kids and they trust each other, so I think that’s the strength right now of the team and hopefully the other things will fall into place with that.”
The Trailblazers will get a much better idea of who’s starting and what the formation will look like after the jamboree in Vancouver on Friday. Centralia will play 45 minute mini-matches against Lower Columbia, Clark and Evergreen, prepping for its season opener Aug. 29 against Warner Pacific in Portland.
“I think expectations are we want to do just as good or better. As assessment goes, after that scrimmage and after the preseason, it’ll kind of be more clear where we’re lined up,” Malunat said. “Right now, from the leadership group of the girls back, they want to make playoffs. They want to do better than last year, that’s the expectation. There’s also expectation and then there’s reality too. I’m hoping those two meet and we’ll be good.”
Fresh Faces: Centralia College’s 2017 Freshmen
Emily Henderson Hudson Bay HS
Yvette Arroyo Toledo HS
Jana Girt Onalaska HS
Lilly Grub Rochester HS
Kaya Porter Service HS (Alaska)
Illcy Varillas Honduras (Central America)
Natalie Coleman Kalama HS
McKenna Moon W.F. West HS