Story by Kevin Doucette
School is back in session, the leaves are changing colors and the Washington rain is a reminder that fall is here, which means it is time for fall sports at Whatcom Community College.
The men’s soccer, women’s soccer, and volleyball teams have begun league play. Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams are coming off strong seasons last year. They each finished second in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWACC) North division, and earned a spot in the playoffs.
Unlike the two soccer teams, who each have a large roster size, the volleyball team is nearly a completely new team. Of the eight players, only one is a returning player. The team also has a new coach this year.
Last season the Orcas finished with a 3-9 record and did not reach the NWAACC playoffs. But this year the team is different and first-year head coach Angie Short said she fully expects this season’s squad to compete for the NWAACCs.
“My expectations are high,” said Short. “We have the talent to [make the playoffs,] we are just very young.”
It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for the Orcas. Freshman hitter Jillian Segaline said at the start of the season the Orcas had five women on the roster and had to recruit more players.
“We have adapted well, we had mishaps but everyone has stepped up,” said sophomore outside-hitter Jaydee Schmidt. “We don’t feel like a new team.”
Short said Schmidt, who is the lone returning player and leads the team with 64 kills, which is when a player spikes the ball to the opponents’ side. She has a lot of weight placed on her shoulders this season since she is the only returning player, but said she is strong and can handle the pressure.
“[Schmidt] has stepped up and done more than I have asked of her,” said Short.
Along with Schmidt, Short said McKenzie Impero, a freshman from Nooksack High School, is also a player who will have a big impact this season.
“[Impero] is pretty composed, which is unique for a young player,” said Short.
Whatcom is 1-5 in league and is scheduled to face the Skagit Valley Community College Cardinals, who are now 2-4.
The next home match for the Orcas is Oct. 21 against the Bellevue Community College Bulldogs. Dating back to last season, the Bulldogs, who stand at 8-1.
“We need to up our intensity and mentality and not be O.K. with anything less than the best,” said Schmidt. “We don’t give up and we won’t.”
Since winning the NWAACC championship in 2006, the Orcas have finished either first or second in league and been to the NWAACC playoffs every year. The Orcas currently sit in third place with a record of 2-4-2. They have a 19-man roster and several returning players with playoff experience. Third-year head coach Joel Grossman said he expects to win the North divison and reach the Final Four.
“We had a disappointing start but the team is coming together,” said Grossman. “We really have a lot of talent.”
Two of the four losses in this season have been by one goal. Assistant coach and former Orca soccer player Noah Holowatch said the record doesn’t reflect the team’s potential.
“Offensively, this team is better,” said Holowatch, referring to the Orca team he played for three years ago.
The Orcas have several players to watch this season. Grossman said sophomores Daniel Pinkerton, Davis Strawn, and Jake Zlotek will be high impact players. But no player received higher praise than sophomore mid-fielder Ryo Matsubara.
“He’s a rock star,” said Holowatch of Matsubara. “Some teams have that one guy you want to watch because they are so entertaining, and we have Ryo.”
In a comeback win against the Everett Community College Trojans Oct. 2, the Orcas trailed 0-1 early before Matsubara scored three consecutive goals, and the Orcas won 3-1.
Matsubara leads the team with seven goals this season, and has also added five assists.
It will be a battle of the sea mammals when the Orcas host the Shoreline Community College Dolphins Oct. 16 on Orca Field at 4 p.m., followed by an away game against the Everett Trojans Oct. 19.
“Nothing can stop us from winning the championship this year,” said Matsubara. “We just need to score more goals.”
Of all Whatcom’s fall sports teams the women’s soccer team is off to the best start. In league play the Orcas are undefeated and ranked No. 7 in NWAACC. But with four ties to go along with their six wins they are in second place.
Last season the Orcas finished second in the North division and made it to the second round of the NWAACC championships before getting knocked out by the Spokane Community College Sasquatches. Spokane would advance to the championship game.
“The girls set high goals for themselves,” said head coach Claire Morgan. “We think we can win the North and are capable of achieving our goals.”
Morgan said the Orca’s strength is in defense; currently the Orcas are in the top three in the NWAACC in goals allowed, having only allowed five goals in 10 games.
Morgan said there are five players on the team this year that graduated from Sehome High School, and at some point all played together on their high school team. The Orca defense is led by Sehome graduate Kaya Jones.
“She is a lock-down defender,” said Morgan. “She is very athletic and uses her athleticism to her advantage.”
Morgan said the vocal leader on the team is defender Eryn Mitchell. Mitchell is going to school for nursing and although she is a freshman she is the oldest player on the team at 29 and was voted team captain.
For the Orca offense, Morgan said sophomore Kylie Garrison from Squalicum High School leads the team. Garrison is in the top ten in scoring in the NWAACC with ten goals this season.
“[Garrison] has been doing well putting chances away when she has them,” said Morgan.
The Orcas host the Shoreline Dolphins Oct. 16, then travel to take on Everett Oct. 19.
Schedules are posted on the school website and can also be found at NWAACC.org. Rain or shine the Orcas will be on the pitch or in the gym, playing for a chance at NWAACCs.
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