Story by Derek Langhorn
Although they both made it to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) semi-final match-ups, Whatcom Community College’s men’s and women’s soccer teams had very different seasons this year.
The Orca men finished the season with a record of five wins, nine losses, and three ties, but they were still able to secure a playoff spot against Walla Walla Community College, where they lost 2-1.
The women’s soccer team, on the other hand, made quick work of the competition, compiling a record of 11-2-7. The season culminated in a playoff match-up against Peninsula Community College, in which Whatcom lost 2-1.
Whatcom is a part of the NWAACC North Division, along with six other schools, including Everett Community College and Edmonds Community College, who both made it to the playoffs.
The women’s soccer team Head Coach Claire Morgan said in an email interview that “we were so successful this year not only because of each of the girls’ individual skill[s], but their ability to work hard together to play the best possible soccer at the right times.”
“Additionally, this group was resilient– literally never quitting,” Morgan said. “That mentality was something that teams in the past that I’ve coached had not always had.”
Whatcom student Eryn Mitchell, who was one of the three team captains, said in an email interview, “I think the success of the season was truly a team effort.”
”Every person on the roster contributed in a meaningful way and our chemistry continually gave us an advantage over other teams that quarreled and lacked depth,” Mitchell said.
Morgan said that one of the best attributes of the team was that the players “really did support everybody and people knew their role on the team.”
“Everyone had the ‘team first’ mentality and that was something that was really special about this group,” Morgan said.
Morgan added that their weaknesses were few, and said “there was nothing that I said to myself, …that’s really going to hurt us’.”
“I would say that there were times when I wish that we would have communicated better on the field, but even that seemed to fix itself as the season went on,” Morgan said.
Mitchell said that their defense was the team’s best attribute this season. “Over the course of the entire season we only let in 13 goals and held a couple of really strong teams to their lowest scoring games of the season,” she said.
As far as weaknesses go, one problem the team had was “our inability to score goals off of corner kicks,” she said. “Many tied games could have been victories if we had put the ball in the back of the net at key moments.”
Although the team did not make it to the championship game, they had some great moments this season, Mitchell said.
“The best moment of the season, in my opinion, was when we tied Spokane,” Mitchell said. “There was a lot of hype going in to that game because they knocked [Whatcom] out of the playoffs the previous year.”
“Being able to upset a team that didn’t see us as a big challenge really gave us momentum and the confidence necessary to earn a spot in the post-season,” Mitchell said.
“We had a lot of things go right for us this season. We finished second in the North region [and] we made it all the way to the elite eight of the NWAACC Tournament,” Morgan said. “This group really came together as a team to achieve a common goal – make the playoffs.”
The women’s team made it to the playoffs, and faced the team that went on to win the championship this year, Peninsula Community College.
“Even the game we lost to Peninsula, I was so proud of my team because they literally gave me everything they had, they left it all on the field, and as a coach you can’t ask for too much more,” Morgan said.
Morgan was named the NWAACC north region’s coach of the year, and she “brings so many positive things to the team, but her adaptability is a trait that makes her a more successful coach than most,” Mitchell said.
“She researched our opponents and made changes to our line-up and formation to give us the best chance at success,” Mitchell said. “We watched so many other teams keep their same formation against us with minimal adjustments and they weren’t able to cope. It gave us a huge advantage over and over.”
Morgan said her style as coach was to be a “player’s coach” and said “I want to give the players the best experience possible.”
“I know that if I push them physically, mentally, and help the do well in the classroom, they will have a great experience,” she said.
Morgan added that as a coach, she strives to create “an inclusive environment where they [the players] feel like they can communicate with me and ask questions about the game of soccer.”
Morgan said that overall, she was “extremely pleased with the way the season went.”
“This is the best team that I’ve ever coached in terms of their effort… and willingness to do whatever the team needs,” she said.
With the success of this season, the future is bright for Whatcom women’s soccer, Mitchell said.
“I’m really excited for the future. With the success of the team the last couple years and the program Claire has been building, I think the team will continue to gain valuable recruits,” Mitchell said.
“Most of the teams we played had three or four more players on their roster, but the 16 of us pushed through injuries and dug deep to perform for each other,” Mitchell said. “That blue collar ethic is inspiring and will hopefully draw strong players to the school.”
Morgan is already looking to the future, and said defense is the key to victory in the coming season. “Next season we need to continue to find ways to shut teams down from scoring,” she said.
“On the same page, we are losing our two top goal scorers in Kylie Garrison and Bailey Butcher, so filling that will be a role we will need to pay a lot of attention to [next season],” Morgan said.