Centralia College Soccer Hoping to Bounce Back From 2017
KICKING THINGS OFF: Young Core of Freshman Trying to Push Blazers to Top of West Region
By Matt Baide
The Centralia College women’s soccer team has been preparing in the heat for the beginning of the 2018 season.
The Trailblazers burst onto the scene in 2016 with their inaugural season, surprising teams with their variety of talent to the tune of a 10-5-4 record overall and a 6-4-4 record in West Region games.
The 2017 season was a down year for Centralia, finishing 5-10-2 and sixth in the West Region. This year’s team is hoping to turn the ship around from last year and get back to the top of the region.
“I think the main thing is, with the NWAC and two year schools and junior colleges, you have a new team almost every year. Teams change, your identity changes, our style of play is going to be different than last year,” Centralia coach Horst Malunat said. “It’s going to be different than the first year. We’re going to kind of create our own identity which is good because I think there’s a certain system I like to play but this team is going to gel around that and mold around that and do maybe better. You just never know.”
Centralia has been practicing since the calendar turned to August, and the team is looking promising so far.
“I think the main thing is I think they’re young but I think they’re very coachable and they have a good positive attitude and a good work ethic,” Malunat said. “We have a lot of growth. I think we’re only going to get better and I think each day, we get a little better, that’s nice to see.”
The team will have a lot of youth with 17 freshman on the roster. Sophomores will have to step up and take on a leadership role, including Kalama-native Natalie Coleman.
“I’ve kind of been attempting too, but I’m also just a shy person so it’s kind of hard for me to be like ‘Hey guys, team dinner at my place.’ I’m going to try,” Coleman said.
Coleman believes the key to bouncing back from last season will be for the team to make sure every player’s focus is on soccer.
“Just a lot of talking, we can’t get off track. We have to focus on soccer and nothing else, keep just our focus on soccer. School is pretty important, keep focused on that, but when we’re on the field, soccer should be our main focus,” Coleman said. “I think last year, it wasn’t really our main focus all the time. People would come to practice and want to talk about anything and everything else, and so I think just keeping our mindset just on soccer is going to help us a whole lot.”
When asked about the team’s strength, both Malunat and Coleman thought the defense was the top unit for the Blazers.
“Our defense is really strong,” Coleman said. “We were pretty good last year but I think our defense is kind of going to kill it this year.”
Malunat also highlighted the goalkeepers, including Kyleigh Russell from La Salle and Hailey Perkins from Montesano.
The West Region was tough to play in last year and there is no reason to suspect it won’t be one of the top regions this season. Defending champion Highline should have another quality team this year and Tacoma made it to the NWAC semifinals last season.
“I think those teams will still be good. Hopefully we’ll be better and match up with them,” Malunat said. “The key is we just got to have the kids listen and do a good job and just be coachable and I think this is the group that will do it. They’re really good as far as attitude and work ethic is really good.”
Centralia has quite a few local recruits on the team and the team is coming together.
“I think we’re getting better at talking and all our passing. We were just doing a scrimmage game and all our passing was pretty great,” Coleman said.
Malunat hopes the local ties will help with team cohesion.
“I think having the local personnel, also getting a fan base too because we don’t have people from hugely out of state. It’s kind of Oregon and Washington primarily and so having that really helps,” Malunat said. “I think it helps them kind of the sense of community and defending our area, where we grew up and I think that’s nice too.”
Coleman noted the biggest thing the greenhorns of the team needs to learn is being aggressive and recognizing that you’re not in high school anymore.
“We’re at practice so you can’t really see the aggressiveness of it and shoving each other down and stuff but being more aggressive will definitely help, especially because they’re all freshman,” Coleman said. “When I first got here with my freshman year, I was like ‘Oh, I was really fast in high school.’ I was really strong and kind of cocky about it and I got to college and it’s nothing like high school so I think just strength. We all need to be really strong on the field because it’s not like high school at all.”
Malunat will continue to reiterate the fundamentals to his team in order to prepare for the bulk of their soccer season.
“Probably the biggest thing is just fundamentals. We’re going to be working on a lot of fundamentals and getting them ready and I think that’ll be the next phase is how we respond in a game,” Malunat said. “It’s one thing to respond in practice under pressure, are they able to transition that into a game?”