WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley College soccer programs struggled mightily in 2012, to say the least.
The men’s team posted a 2-15-1 overall record, scoring 26 goals while allowing 77, the second-most in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.
The women’s squad was even worse. The Knights went 0-18-1; scored just seven times; and allowed a staggering 158 goals, by far the most in the conference.
The good news for both teams is that things can only get better in 2013. They have different outlooks and fresh approaches that have been readily evident in some of their early-season contests.
Men’s coach Garrett Brown is heavily emphasizing a team mentality.
“The mindset is completely different,” Brown said. “The atmosphere is completely different. We’re a true team. We’re big on unity. If we can play as a group, we can do great things. If we’re unable to do that, we’re not going to be able to push forward to the next level.”
Early on, the results have been somewhat auspicious. WVC (2-4-1 overall, 1-3-0 East Region) has been competitive in the vast majority of its games so far, and it has already won as many games this year as it did in all of 2012.
Brown was especially encouraged with his team’s effort against Highline earlier this month. The Thunderbirds are a good team (they’re off to a 6-2-1 start this fall, and went 12-5-3 last year), but WVC took a 3-1 lead against them before allowing two late goals and settling for a 3-3 tie.
That kind of result wouldn’t have happened to last year’s Knights squad.
“Right now, it’s about step-by-step improvement,” Brown said, “But as long as we can play as a team, I think we can contend for a playoff spot. That’s in the back of our minds.”
The squad is comprised of predominantly local players; sophomore defender Brendan Wagner, from Cashmere, is one of the team’s leaders.
“Brendan held down the back end of the defense last year, and he’s doing that again this year,” Brown said “He’s got a lot of freshmen around him, but he’s the center point on defense.”
The women’s squad has a new coach, Yanet Candido, who has focused on changing the culture of the program.
It hasn’t been easy work, but Candido is firm in her beliefs, and optimistic that she can help the Knights get to the point where they’re at the very least competitive in most of their games this season.
“When (assistant and former head coach John Wright) called me, I told him that I had worked so hard to pick up the program (when I was playing),” said Candido, who played for the Knights in 2006 and 2007, “and to see it fall back was sad. I said, ‘We can do it again.’ Nobody had any expectations for this program. That’s why I took the job. People were kind of surprised; they said, ‘You’re so young. What are you going to be able to do?’ I don’t think age matters. I’ve been playing soccer since I was 8. I played for four years in college. I think that I’ve got the experience to help this team.”
One of the most important things Candido’s done so far is talk with her returning sophomores and basically tell them to forget about what happened last year.
“We’re setting expectations,” she said. “We’re basing those expectations off of what we see this year. They’re playing hard, and they’re doing some stuff that they’re not used to, or didn’t do last year. I could tell that they were blown away by the changes. I said at our first meeting, ‘This is not the team from last year.’ They’ve worked hard, and they know that they’re not the same team as last year.”
The Knights (0-6-0, 0-4-0) have scored only two goals so far this season, but nonetheless, there is evidence of their improvement; they’re losing by respectable scores instead of the 10-0 and 11-0 results from last season.
Their performance at last month’s NWAACC friendlies tournament in Tukwila was especially notable, Candido said.
“(An opposing coach) told me that he thought that we must have all new players from last year. I told him that our keeper was the same, and he was shocked; he didn’t even recognize her, she had improved so much,” Candido said. “All of the hard training is paying off.”