DES MOINES, WA— (report from Highline coaching staff member) An NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference) Championship, a rightly reclaimed Western Division title, NWAC Tournament MVP, and an NWAC Coach of the Year. All in all, 2014 was a very good year for the Highline College Thunderbirds Men’s Soccer team. Then first year head coach Steve Mohn, now entering his second year, and his staff are very proud of the level at which the team preformed last year. However, after all the plaudits and acknowledgments have been given to the truly exceptional 2014 Thunderbird team, it stands as exactly that, last year’s team. If the ‘Birds are to successfully defend their crown in 2015 they will need to show every bit of passion, commitment and desire they showed in the previous year and set their focus firmly on what lies ahead.
The upcoming men’s soccer season in the NWAC will see numerous changes in coaching staffs as well as league play. With a large amount of schools changing head coaches there are sure to be plenty of people looking to leave their mark on the 2015 season. As far as Highline’s Staff is concerned, it is pretty much as you were from the previous season, Steve Mohn is the Head Coach, Emerson De Oliveira is Associate Head Coach / Goalkeeper Coach, Fawzi Belal at Assistant Coach and former player Yves Mugisha rounds out the staff as an Assistant Coach. Despite the overall age of the staff being relatively young they can already boast a very impressive resume of accomplishments and experience that will make them formidable opponents to whomever they face over the course of the season. Great coaching staffs can be very difficult to come by and in this aspect the Thunderbirds staff is aces.
Returning players can often be the lifeblood of a college program and are typically a very good indicator of how a team will end the season. Most four-‐year programs that are heavy on senior leadership tend to do very well over the course of a season because of the vast experience that can be called upon. Junior College is no different with teams that are heavy with sophomores tending to do better than teams comprised mostly of freshman. However last year the ‘Birds were the exception rather than the rule. By fielding a starting 11 that was comprised mostly of talented true freshman, HCC was able to find a way to put together a championship run. The risk taken last year to play numerous freshman has now seemed to have paid off again as the T-‐Birds can now call on a large contingent of returning sophomores, many of whom were starters for the duration of last year. The returning class sprinkled with a few extremely talented freshmen should have the Highline faithful overjoyed about the upcoming season.
One of biggest changes in the NWAC this year has taken place in league play. Usually a conference will be paired up against another conference in order to make up one’s schedule. The team will play everyone from the crossover conference one time and all the teams from within their own conference twice, home and away. However this year, the NWAC has done away with the crossover games and instead every team will play everyone in their conference three times (home, away, home / away). This could make things very exciting for fans and players alike because of the large amount of rivalry games that will now take place. Sadly, one rivalry fans will no longer be able to see during the regular season is Highline v Peninsula. With PCC now moved into the Northern Conference it looks as though the Thunderbird v Pirate Rivalry will exclusively take place in the either the NWAC Friendlies or postseason.
This season will promise to have many tough games in store for the T-‐ Birds and there will be a few that will be worth watching. The NWAC Preseason Friendlies are scheduled to take place in Springfield, OR this year at the Willamalane Center for Sports and Recreation. The schedule has slated Highline against Clark at 9 am on Aug 29th and Peninsula at noon on Aug 30th. Despite the name of these games being “friendly” one can expect to see these teams laying it all on the line as Highline, Peninsula and Clark are all usually preseason favorites to lift the NWAC trophy. The next two games worth coming out to watch is either Highline v Tacoma, or Highline v Bellevue. Both schools are old time rivals of the Thunderbirds and all the matches are played with great intensity. Tacoma have recruited heavily in the offseason and look to be making a push to wrestle the Western Division title away from the T-‐ Birds with a few classy additions to an already strong Titan squad. Bellevue, a storied program which has spent a few years out of the NWAC limelight, have signed a vastly experienced head coach in David O’Neil who will undoubtedly look to propel the Bulldogs back to the topof the West. All in all in should be another exciting season of soccer for the Thunderbirds of Highline!
(Credit on the Photographs goes to Jay R. Cline & Highline’s own Jack Harton)
The schedule for all of the aforementioned games as well as all other league games cane be find by visiting the Highline College Men’s Soccer Team website at, https://athletics.highline.edu/msoccer/index.php
You can also stay up to date with all team news by visiting the our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/highlinecollegemenssoccer