COOS BAY — Brad Williams never had a chance last year to really mold the Southwestern Oregon Community College men’s soccer team into his image, his late hiring too high a hurdle for that to happen.
But entering his second season, with a year of recruiting and stability in his pocket, he’s expecting a competitive group in 2018.
“I believed with the players that we were bringing in and the players that we’re returning, there’s no reason why this team can’t make waves in the NWAC and be one of the top teams,” Williams said.
That familiarity with the system, both ways, has Williams excited for the prospects of the season.
Last year the Lakers fielded a roster with 31 freshmen where growing pains were a natural state of existence.
Some of SWOCC’s key starters are sophomores, including goalkeeper Clayton Williams and midfielder Anthoni Martin, as well as some bench contributors such as Alex Moscowitz and Collin Miller.
The sophomore leadership has helped to integrate new freshmen, such as Kodai Kobayashi, from Kyoto, Japan, and Ali Diaw and Hernan Ibarra.
“The sophomore group has been fantastic at leading us and helping to climatize these guys to what we’re expecting of them, to our style of play, to being a part of a high-level college soccer team,” Brad Williams said. “Those sophomores are who we’re really leaning on right now to kinda lead the way. Even the ones who are not starting and still leading the way from coming off the bench and giving us energy and playing our style that we’ve tried to implement over the last year.”
Also with that full year of recruiting Williams could get players. It helped to fill out his bench depth so he’s not playing all his best players 90 minutes every game and running them into the ground.
Saturday, those expectations seemed attainable.
After allowing a very early goal to Everett’s Gerardo Lopes, in just the third minute, SWOCC notched two first half goals, then withstood an Everett barrage in the second half as the Trojans played with a sizable tailwind as the Lakers won 2-1 to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
Moscowitz came off the bench Saturday after starting all last year. Collin Miller is another sophomore who comes off the bench to help with that depth.
Moscowitz found Miller in the 11th minute for the equalizer on Miller’s only shot of the afternoon, then Anthoni Martin secured the eventual winner in the 19th minute on a finder from Ibarra.
“This team has been able to create opportunities over and over to score goals,” Brad Williams said. “We’re a really dangerous attacking team. Today we got to show the other side of that, too, because of the elements and the conditions.”
The second half, though, was the challenge.
Playing with the lead but into the strong headwind, SWOCC’s offense struggled for chances but its defense saw plenty of action.
Everett continually threw itself against the wall that was the Laker defense. Clayton Williams sprawled or dove to keep Everett back a goal, and the Laker defense held time after time.
“We obviously had to deal with the windy conditions today, and in the second half we hunkered down and really dealt with that well,” Brad Williams said. “The guys played as a group. They played fantastic, the way we wanted them to play. They’re all defending as a group and we’re all attacking as a group together.”
The Lakers open NWAC South Region play on Saturday at Portland.