Junior college athletics and heavy turnover often run synonymous with one another.
Building a strong foundational team chemistry poses challenges for coaches, but Whatcom Community College men's soccer coach Joel Grossman got last year's postseason club to buy into a team-first approach predicated on a 'never say die' attitude.
The 2012 Orcas return just five players from a club that finished second in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College's North Division and reached the quarterfinals of the NWAACC Soccer Championships, where WCC lost to eventual champion Chemeketa Community College.
Grossman believes he's got players who'll embrace a team mentality once again. He also thinks his club is capable of making another postseason run.
"The No. 1 thing was the character of the team last year and how we were always improving," Grossman said in a phone interview. "At the end of the year, regardless the score, if we were down 3-0, we fought 'til the end and believed we could win. So if we can get that characteristic and believe we can (win), the results will take care of themselves."
Returning midfielder Alex Gosselin, who was the only Orca to be selected to the North Division's NWAACC all-star team last fall, agreed with Grossman, saying success will hinge on strong team play. He also said Whatcom's players have the ability to outwork the rest of the conference's teams.
"I think everyone just needs to buy into what we are doing," said Gosselin in a phone interview. "As far as outworking teams, I don't see a lot of teams beating us if we outwork them. Joel has been making us do a lot of fitness, so I would say we are going to be the fittest team out there."
WCC may want to replicate last year's winning mentality, but Whatcom's plan to accumulate wins will be different.
Whatcom's strength has moved from the back third to its front line in the matter of one season.
Not that the Orcas don't have capable defenders. Jeff Smith, Jake Haggen, Jake Zlotek and Nate Lowe, as well as Riley Liddle in goal, gives Whatcom a strong defensive third presence. Grossman simply believes his Orcas have the pieces to be a dynamic offensive group.
WCC packed in its defense last year, predominately using a 4-4-2 formation. Gosselin said a 4-3-3 may be in the works with Whatcom's new attack-minded approach.
"I think what we need to improve upon the most is the offensive side, which we have done," Grossman said.
WCC has gotten better largely by bringing in several goal connoisseurs. Grossman added Portland, Ore., product Daniel Pinkerton, who Grossman said is a dynamic all-around player. He also added Whatcom County's own Heath Sowers, who led the Northwest Conference in goals for Ferndale last spring. Davis Strawn and Trevor Rubright are two others who figure to help in the attacking third.
"We're really looking forward to what Heath can do," Grossman said.
With an increased emphasis on the offensive end, Gosselin said he's excited to play a more aggressive role out of his center mid position. He scored one goal in 2011, but Gosselin acted as a defensive midfielder. That will change this season.
"I think we are going to score a lot more goals this year," Gosselin said. "I'm definitely going to be more attacking, and I'm looking forward to it. Last year I didn't fell like I reached my full expectations for myself. I'm expecting to play at a higher level and represent as an all-star again."
Grossman certainly plans on utilizing Gosselin as an integral part of WCC's plan to score more goals.
"He will play more center mid and maybe be used as a winger as well," Grossman said. "Hopefully he'll be a leading scorer and assist guy. He likes the ball at his feet. He'll be involved with setting up goals and scoring goals hopefully."
Gosselin's on-field contributions will be key. What he brings off the field, especially as a second-year player, will be important as well.
Grossman hasn't selected team captains, but Gosselin said he's trying to bring leadership to the club.
"Last year, when me and Jeff (Smith) were freshman, there really wasn't guys that motivated you," Gosselin said. "Both me and Jeff have experienced leadership roles during high school and on our club teams. We're trying to provide that leadership we didn't really have last year."
Gosselin seems to be the right man for the job.
"The No. 1 thing is that he just loves to play," Grossman said of his all-star midfielder. "He loves to play the game. He is fun to watch, because he is really smart offensively, and he's quick. That combination he plays with and his attitude of loving soccer will help him move to the next level and will make (him have) a really strong season for us."
Ryo Matsubara is another talented midfielder Grossman is excited about. He should help alleviate pressure off Gosselin in the critical middle third.
The Orcas begin their season with a pair of matches at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila. Whatcom plays Treasure Valley at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, and Highline at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29. WCC's home opener is against Southwest Oregon at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at Orca Field.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
2012 WCC MEN'S SOCCER SCHEDULE
Aug. 28 Treasure Valley (at Starfire Sports Complex) 10:30 a.m.
Aug. 29 Highline (at Starfire Sports Complex) 10:30 a.m.
Sept. 1 at Quest University 5 p.m.
Sept. 8 SW Oregon 11 a.m.
Sept. 15 S. Puget Sound 4 p.m.
Sept. 22 at Chemeketa 2:15 p.m.
Sept. 26 Shoreline 4:15 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Clark 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Skagit Valley 4:15 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Pierce 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 Edmonds 4:15 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Everett 1 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Shoreline 3:15 p.m.
Oct. 27 Skagit Valley 2:15 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Edmonds 3:15 p.m.
Nov. 3 Everett 2:15 p.m.
2012 WCC MEN'S SOCCER ROSTER
No. Player Pos. Year Hometown
0 Riley Liddle GK Fr. Issaquah
2 Nate Lowe D Fr. Burlington
3 Alex Gosselin M So. Bothell
4 Jeff Smith M So. Bothell
5 Ryo Matsubara M Fr. Tokyo, Japan
6 Eli Holowatch M Fr. Anchorage, Alaska
7 Jordan Roberts M Fr. Kent
8 Trevor Rubright M So. Ferndale
9 Heath Sowers F Fr. Ferndale
10 Cody Russell D Fr. Bellingham
12 Davis Strawn F Fr. Vancouver
13 Nathan Reitz F So. Renton
14 Marco Zamora M So. Laurel
15 Daniel Pinkerton F Fr. Portland, Ore.
16 Caleb Graves F Fr. Smokey Point
17 Kevin Weaver F Fr. Riverside, Calif.
18 Luis Gutierrez F Fr. Lynden
20 Jake Zlotek D Fr. Bellingham
22 Alex Marinelli M Fr. Anchorage, Alaska
23 Taylor Fiscus D Fr. Bellingham
24 Jake Haggen D Fr. Bellingham
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.