This fall sports season, Clark College has three teams looking to rebuild.
Another hopes for redemption.
First-year coaches in cross country and volleyball, and a second-year women’s soccer coach, aim to bring winning ways to Clark.
Meanwhile, the men’s soccer team has a Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges title in mind. After losing no regular season games last year, the Penguins were upset by Highline Community College in the second round of the NWAACC playoffs.
It’s a loss that still stings.
“I’d say that loss is probably the greatest motivator for the sophomores returning this year,” said assistant coach Sean Janson. “That’s not something that’s going to go away until we rectify it in this year’s playoffs.”
In a league with only freshman and sophomores on rosters, six players return from the squad that lost to Highline.The Penguins are off to a successful start, beating Walla Walla and Edmonds in a preseason tournament in Tukwila, then beating the Portland Timbers Academy 3-1 on Saturday at Clark.
“We have returning sophomores in the middle and back, so that’s where your experience really comes through,” said Sean Melby, a sophomore from Camas.
The Penguins have two remaining preseason games next weekend in Spokane. They begin the NWAACC season Sept. 11 with a road game against Bellevue.
The Clark women’s soccer team is trying to rebound from last season, which the Penguins finished with six wins, 12 losses and one tie.
Second-year coach Rochelle Hearns aims to build community recognition around Clark’s soccer team. She also is working to change the onfield culture at Clark.
“We make everything competitive,” Hearns said. “Everything at practice is high pressure and high speed so that we’re overprepared as opposed to underprepared.”
After being outscored 7-0 at two games at a preseason tournament in Tukwila, the Penguins rebounded for a 1-1 tie at Linfield on Saturday.
Clark’s first home game is slated for Sept. 9 against Warner Pacific. The NWAACC season begins two days later with a road game against Bellevue.
First-year coach Mike Hickey has strode the path to championships. He now hopes to lead the Penguins there.
In six years coaching Camas, Hickey won two state team titles, including last year’s Class 4A girls championship led by individual winner Alexa Efraimson.
He was a three-time NWAACC coach of the year at Clackamas College.
Hickey says he learns as much from his athletes as they hopefully do from him.
“Every athlete is different,” Hickey said. “The challenge is to find those points where you can motivate them and get them to believe in themselves.”
The Clark men’s team finished 7th out of 12 teams at the NWAACC cross country championships last year.
Clark’s women did not qualify in the team competition. Jackie Primo was Clark’s top individual finisher in the meet, placing 19th.
Primo ran for Hickey at Camas. She says her coach strikes the perfect balance of support and constructive criticism that an athlete needs.
“With Hickey, he can tell when we have negative thoughts when we’re running,” Primo said. “There’s a lot more to running than people think there is.”
The Penguins begin their season Saturday at the Penguin Classic/NWAACC Preview Meet at Lewisville Park in Battle Ground.
Mark Dunn, another first-year coach with a championship pedigree, hopes to turn the fortunes of Clark’s volleyball team.
But instead of preaching athletic success, Dunn wants his players to buy into the program as a whole. That means academic performance and being ambassadors for the college.
“We have a mandatory five-hour study period for incoming freshmen,” Dunn said.
A highlight of Dunn’s 30-year coaching career was leading Sonoma State’s men’s club team to the National Collegiate Volleyball Foundation’s Division II championship. He most recently was an assistant coach at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.
With a 3-9 record last year, Clark finished fifth out of seven teams in the NWAACC West.
Clark’s hopes of a fresh start rest on 11 freshmen.
“The first thing I told (Athletic Director Charles Guthrie) is I’m going out to recruit to win the West.”
One of the returners, sophomore defensive specialist Amanda Curtis is optimistic for this season.”
“I’m eager to show people that we’re a new team this season,” Curtis said. “We’re not messing around. … We want to make a name for ourselves.”
The Penguins begin their preseason schedule Wednesday at home against Olympic College. The NWAACC season begins Sept. 25.
Information in this story was changed on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m.