PENDLETON — Blue Mountain Community College’s men’s soccer team is currently 2-1-1 in the preseason. They’re the No. 3 contender in the Northwest Athletic Conference’s East Region standings. There’s still an entire season of NWAC action to play, but it’s a promising start to building a winning program.
“It’s been good,” head coach Austin Shick said. “There’s a lot of potential in this group. Last year was pretty tough for us, but we’ve recruited a lot of very talented players (this year).”
The Wolves opened preseason play last Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Shoreline in Tukwila, Washington. From there, they tied Rogue 2-all, took down Skagit Valley 1-0, and incurred their first loss of the year to Bellevue, 3-1.
The team welcomes 18 freshmen to the roster this year, including Hermiston’s Juan Muniz, Esgar Avila and Jesus Mendez, and Riverside’s Francisco Chavez.
“The transition from high school to college is demanding,” Shick said. “It’s up to (our sophomores) to keep the group running. It’s a long-term process, but if we want to win a championship, we can’t stop.”
Stopping isn’t something the Timberwolves are keen on.
During the offseason, they’re hitting the weight room. When they’re not on the field practicing, they’re fostering a strong team bond off of it. While in the Seattle area for their Skagit Valley and Bellevue games, the team camped out in Tolt MacDonald Park, where they hiked, cooked and played spike ball as a team.
Although the excursion ended with a loss, Shick noted that the showing against Skagit Valley was one of their strongest yet.
“It was one of the best games we’ve played so far,” he said. “We didn’t score as much as we would have liked, but we executed extremely well.”
Chemistry is at the center of the Wolves’ focus this season. Their sophomore leadership, spearheaded by team captains Isaac Tarelo and Sergio Bacon, believes the relationship between the team is the key to a successful year on the field.
“We’re coming along great,” Tarelo said. “It didn’t take long for us to grow close to each other. Chemistry is very important to us. We have to trust each other out there. We have to have each other’s backs.”
The Wolves also welcome three new transfer students — Jonathan Reynoso of Madras, who comes in from Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, Hermiston High School graduate Esgar Avila, transferring from Northwest Christian University, and Dalton Mauzay from Montana State.
“We put a lot of emphasis on team development,” Shick said. “We go to dinner together and play dorky games. We do these things to create a family. As a result, we’re seeing guys pushing each other and asking more from each other without my prompting. Sometimes, they’re heated, but that’s a good thing. If you’re not angry, you’re not wanting something.”
Shick, a student life coordinator at Blue Mountain, is a 2014 Oregon State graduate. Helping him coach the Wolves are assistant coaches Jeremy Talbot, Oscar Contreras and Ricardo Sotelo.
Blue Mountain is back at home on Wednesday, Sept. 4, for a game against South Puget Sound at 5 p.m. They’ll open NWAC action a week later at Columbia Basin at 4:15 p.m.
“We have the ambition to win,” Bacon said. “We want to make a name for ourselves.”