Nov 9, 2012

Peninsula women sweep top rankings for 2012

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 Women's Soccer

As expected, Peninsula finished the season with flying colors, falling just once, and in a closely fought game to another spectacular soccer powerhouse. Now as the second round begins, we are reduced to eight teams, which will soon be pared down to just four. 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.

Here are a few quick and easy factoids to get you caught up:

Soaring team of the week: Shoreline - Lone road playoff win
Freefall team of the week: Highline - Lone upset of the week, disappointing end to their comeback

Score of the week: Shoreline 1, Highline 0 
Bore of the week*: Walla Walla 4, Clark 0

*The worst of the round one blowouts.

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


1. Peninsula (18-1-0) (13-1-0 West)
No. 1 Coaches
 Previously ranked: No. 1, No. 1 Coaches

What more can be said about Peninsula that hasn't already been covered. Leading the league in goals scored, shutouts and wins, they're now 37-4-3 in their last two seasons. Their 2011 run ended with a loss in the final to Walla Walla, and Peninsula returned this year with a clear goal in mind. They won their region yet again, and proceeded to wreak havoc on the rest of the league all season long, but this is where it really starts to matter. They will face Lane, who makes the trip up to Port Angeles, Wash. after finishing as one of the better defensive teams in the league. That being said, Peninsula will be a tough, tough match up. 


2. Spokane (12-1-3) (11-1-2 East)
No. 2 Coaches
Previously ranked: No. 2, No. 2 Coaches

Spokane now hasn't tasted defeat in over a month, last falling to No. 1 Peninsula on September 29th, and it was a close one at that. The Sasquatch answered the first Peninsula goal, but fell behind 3-1 in the second half before scoring a goal in the 67th minute to bring themselves back to within striking distance. Outside of that loss, Spokane has only two other blemishes - a pair of draws with No. 4 Walla Walla. Behind a relentless 89 goals (second in league), Spokane won the region title from the Warriors for the first time in... uhh... oh yeah, more than 10 seasons. That's a huge accomplishment. Their second round opponent is Whatcom, a team tied for third in least goals allowed with 10, but can Whatcom keep up with Walla Walla's attack?


3. Walla Walla (11-2-3) (10-1-3 East)
No. 3 Coaches
Previously ranked: No. 4, No. 3 Coaches

Its not every year that a team can go 14-2-3, finish with a 76-9 goal advantage and 11 shutouts and NOT win their region. That's a testament to exactly how much of a challenge the NWAACC East is, that a team like Walla Walla, who has won the last 10 region titles and last three league titles, would take second place in a head to head battle with Spokane. The series has been evenly matched all season long - with draws in both meetings. While Walla Walla has put up good numbers in many of their matches, it was ultimately their inability to score that sealed their pair of defeats. On both occasions, the Warriors gave up a goal right around halftime and were unable to equalize or fight back for the win. Everett, the next hurdle for Walla Walla, is nearly identical defensively on paper. They've allowed 10 goals, and Walla Walla nine, and both teams have 11 shutouts. However, the North where Everett plays lacks the same firepower that the top of the East-West has shown all season long.


4. Clackamas (12-3-0) (11-2-0 South)
No. 5 Coaches
Previously ranked: No. 3, No. 5 Coaches

While the Cougars have played well of late, winners of their last six matches with five shutouts, their lack of quality wins against good teams is beginning to bite them. They have a pair of victories over No. 8 Lane, but outside of those, Clackamas has only the victory over No. 5 Everett in the months of September and October to really be proud of. The win before that was over Walla Walla, and while that was very impressive, the luster of that early season victory has begun to fade, especially after the Oct. 5 loss to No 6 Whatcom. Now, that is being fairly picky. Those blemishes - losses to Shoreline, Whatcom and Peninsula aren't too much to be ashamed of, as all are good, solid teams. Clackamas hasn't been strong offensively outside of forward Tayler Ficek, but their defense is as good as or better than any defense in the league. They will rematch with Shoreline in the second round, which is a chance for Shoreline to silence the doubters, and a chance at redemption for Clackamas. Keep an eye on this one: last year's quarterfinal match at Clackamas ended with an inswinging header in double overtime with less than a minute left before penalty kicks. 


5. Everett (9-4-3) (9-2-2 North)
No. 4 Coaches
Previously ranked: No. 7, No. 8 Coaches

Ever since drawing with Whatcom on Oct. 17, Everett has won five in a row, including games against No. 8 Shoreline and a rematch against No. 6 Whatcom to end the season. It took nearly all of those five consecutive victories to take the region title, for which Everett beat out region rival Whatcom 35-28. In that last match, Everett finally took the lead in the North in goals scored with 40, but they lag far behind the leaders offensively, coming in fifth among playoff teams in total goals. Defensively, however, they've let in just 10 scores all season, good for third in the league. Their offensive leader is Riley Henderson, who paces the Trojans with 12 goals on the season.


6. Shoreline
No. 8 Coaches
Previously ranked: NR, NR Coaches

The second half of the season, few teams had made a turnaround like Highline. They caught fire at the right time, and charged back to take the 2nd seed in the West... before promptly losing to Shoreline. The Dolphins, by contrast, started out well, but fell into trouble mid-season. However, the finish is what matters. Shoreline went undefeated in their final four games of the season, carried their momentum with them to the playoffs, and were the only women's team to win on the road in the first round. That kind of play speaks volumes about the heart and resiliency of a team. Among teams in the 2nd round, SHCC is last in shutouts, last in goals allowed and seventh in goals scored, but they have something that none of the other teams do: a playoff win on the road. That said, their next opponent is Clackamas, a team that has only let in one goal in the last six matches.


7. Whatcom (10-1-4) (8-1-4 North)
No. 6 Coaches
Previously ranked: No. 5, No. 6 Coaches

In comparison to some of their Northern Region compatriots, Whatcom stumbled into the playoffs. Still in the hunt for the region title, the Orcas lost their final two matches to Edmonds and Everett, and were forced to settle for second place by a decently wide margin. Whatcom was also held scoreless in those two matches, which caused them to lose their grip on the region scoring lead, and while they scored three in their first round victory, it was against a very beat down Bellevue team that had squandered away it's 2nd seed in the last half of the season. They now travel to face Spokane, a team that went undefeated in their last 10 games, with nine wins and one draw. Spokane's powerful attack and stifling defense will be an extremely difficult challenge. 

8. Lane
NR Coaches
Previously ranked: NR, No. 8 Coaches

The Lane Titans started out strong, falling just once in their first nine games, with six of the first five matches against teams who made it to the playoffs. Lane defeated Everett, Whatcom and drew with Spokane and Highline. Through the month of September, Lane allowed just four goals - one of the best in the league up until that point. That's when things went horribly wrong. The Titans finished the season winning just two of their final 10 games, with both victories coming over lowly SW Oregon. Lane did win their first round match up, but it was against Treasure Valley, a team that finished dead last among playoff teams in goals allowed with 62. Now they have to travel to Port Angeles to face Peninsula, who now has well over 100 goals and has only lost once.

Teams added: Highline
Teams dropped: Shoreline

One last shoutout: Props to Jeff for his support and sports banter regarding Highline. It is fans like you, Jeff, that make what I do that much more enjoyable. For all the other fans, don't feel bashful about following Jeff's example! I love to hear your opinions, and I'll always answer back. 

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