Nov 9, 2012

Peninsula, Clark men atop playoff preview

These rankings are the opinion of just one man, and do not reflect the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges or any of their sponsors. If you have a question or comment on this or any story for John Howard, send him an email , contact him via twitter , or leave a comment below. 

NWAACC Men's Soccer

The regular season and first round of post season now finished, the lineup is set for the NWAACC quarterfinals. Peninsula, Clark and Walla Walla are all favored at home, but the game where Columbia Basin travels to take on Edmonds is still a coin toss. Once the final whistle has blown on Saturday evening, the last four teams will finally be set.  Those four squads will head to Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. for the NWAACC final four from Nov. 17-18. These will be the final rankings for the season, and therefore I thank you for your readership and support these past few months. I will be at the final four taking photos, sending out live tweets, getting interviews and writing game stories. Be sure to check for the game recaps.

Of note: A set of rankings was released on Oct. 31, but were not released with the coaches poll as usual. Those rankings can be found by clicking on the link above.

Soaring team of the week: Chemeketa - 5 wins in last five matches, 19-4 goal advantage
Freefall team of the week: Shoreline - finished 0-15-1, 12-78 goal disadvantage 

Score of the week: Walla Walla 11, Wenatchee Valley 0
Bore of the week: S. Puget Sound 3, SW Oregon 1

For news and notes on NWAACC soccer throughout the remainder of the playoffs, follow @JowardHoward on twitter or search #nwaaccsoccer. View the coaches rankings here.

1. Peninsula (19-1-1) (12-0-1 West)
No. 1 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 1, No. 1 coaches

With the region title long in the bag for the Pirates, they might have let things slip a little. Their dominant lead in scoring was cut to just four goals by Clark, and they drew with Bellvue in their final match of the season, though that may have been because the end result didn't matter for playoff positioning. Discounting the season finale draw, Peninsula had won their last 17 matches after falling to Wyoming in the third game of the season. They lead every category: 82 goals, 10 goals allowed and 12 shutouts, and would be heavily favored in every match except one against Clark, where they should find their toughest competition.  

2. Clark (15-1-2) (12-0-1 South)
No. 2 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 2, No. 2 coaches

Clark forward Borce Atanasov has continued his offensive brilliance, now totaling 26 goals and 10 assists, good for first and second place league wide. His Penguins have been steadily one of the two top offensive squads in the NWAACC, actually averaging almost half a goal more than No. 1 Peninsula per game, though they haven't scored quite as many. Clark, like Peninsula, is also a dominant defensive team. They have only allowed 13 scores this season, which sits at a close second place to Peninsula. Fortunately, because of how the bracket works, the only way that Clark and Peninsula can meet up is if both advance to the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 18. That game would be one for the ages, featuring the top offenses and defenses, and the two best scorers in the NWAACC.

3. Walla Walla (14-1-3) (9-1-3 East)
No. 3 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 3, No. 3 coaches

With all the hoopla surrounding Clark and Peninsula, it can be easy to overlook Walla Walla. That is, if you forget one thing: the Warriors are the only team to have taken down Clark this season, which happened on Sept. 11 when Walla Walla's Ivan Chamorro scored with a minute left in the first half. The "DubDub" defense held, shutting out the high scoring Clark 1-0. However, mixed in with that brilliant performance are a few forgettable ones. Walla Walla had two straight draws, to Treasure Valley and Bellevue, on Sept. 19 and 22 and got blown out a few weeks later by Peninsula. Those games, and especially the Peninsula beatdown, are what seems to separate the Warriors from that next level on which Peninsula and Clark abide. However, Walla Walla has a chance to advance this weekend, as they are set to match up their No. 3 offense against a Tacoma defense that will have a lot of trouble handling the Warrior's attack. 


4. Chemeketa (11-4-5) (10-1-2 South)
No. 6 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 5, No. 6 coaches

The decision to leapfrog Chemeketa past several other teams was a difficult one. They didn't look horrible against Clark in mid October, but it was obvious that Clark was on another level at that point. Now, Chemeketa has bounced back and put together a strong finish to their regular season, defeating playoff opponents in three of their last five games, including two victories over Pierce and a round one win over Spokane. Chemeketa might not be able to keep up with the likes of the top three, but they're deserving to be mentioned in the same breath, especially given how last year ended: with the 2011 NWAACC title in hand. 

5. Columbia Basin (12-5-4) (6-4-3 East)
No. 4 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8 (tie), No. 7 coaches

The Hawks' draw with Spokane was just as depressing as their draw with Walla Walla was impressive. The game with Spokane was one that Columbia Basin had to either win or draw to take the second seed, but things nearly went the wrong way for Columbia Basin. They went down 0-1 on a goal from Spokane's Matt Harper in the 22nd minute, and didn't score until an equalizer from Richard Rentera in the first minute of stoppage time. Just a little bit more hesitation, and CBC loses that game. Then, in the first round, Columbia Basin's porous defense let in three goals, the most for any winning team in the first round. That might work against Pierce, whose own defense gave up five goals, but it won't work against teams like Peninsula, Clark and Walla Walla, the league's top scorers. 

6. Edmonds (10-7-3) (9-2-2 North)
NR  Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 4, No. 5 coaches

Easily the lowest region champion, Edmonds didn't win the Northern Region by much. They beat out Whatcom by just three points after a draw with said Whatcom to finish league play. A loss there would have dropped Edmonds to second place in the reasonably weak Northern region, with an almost even goal differential at 41-37. They easily gave up the most goals of any second round team and came in second to last among all post season teams in goals allowed. They will now have to face Columbia Basin, who is the only road team to be favored in the quarterfinals. 


7. Highline (11-4-3) (7-4-2 West)
No. 9 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 7, No. 9 coaches

Overlooking a draw with an eight-loss Olympic squad, Highline had a successful finish to the 2012 regular season. They finished winning four of their last five matches, including a 2-0 defeat of No. 8 Tacoma in order to preserve the 2nd seed in the Western Region. Offensively, they sit in the top third of teams league wide, but they don't have the same firepower that the top scoring teams in the league possess. Highline finished sixth among all teams in goals scored, with all five teams being ranked ahead of them, and Highline's offense isn't built like most others'. They have only one player in the top 25 in the league in goals scored, but they have five players with five goals or more, lead by seven scores from David Leoung.


8. Tacoma (8-8-1) (5-7-1 West)
No. 7 Coaches
Previous ranking: No. 8 (tie), No. 5 coaches

Tacoma's first round upset of Whatcom demonstrated the power of the Western Region, as they became the third of eight teams in the quarterfinals from the West. That taken into account, the rest of Tacoma's resume isn't that impressive. They are the only second round team to have an overall losing record in league. They also have the smallest goal differential at 29-28 and are the lowest scoring team still in contention. Up next they have the difficult task of traveling to meet Walla Walla, a team that defeated them 4-2 on Oct. 17 in Walla Walla, despite Tacoma holding a 2-1 lead after a pair of goals from Caesar Esquevel, who leads Tacoma's attack with 12 goals. Tacoma's defense should be no match for Walla Walla's offense, but nothing is a lock. Tacoma has already won on the road once. 


Teams added: Tacoma (beat Whatcom in round 1)
Teams dropped: Spokane (Lost to Chemeketa in round 1)