What do a future engineer, nurse and restaurant owner all have in common?
Well, two things actually.
They’re all students at Pierce College and they also play for the soccer team.
This season’s players have come from many walks of life, places near and far and have educational goals as varied as their personalities.
The team’s leading scorer, forward Suku Hudson, a future secret service agent, was adopted from Liberia in 1997. Defender Rafi Azami, a future dentist, is from the Netherlands.
Defender and team captain Kent Sanner, a future businessman is from Enumclaw and forward Jeremy “JD” Maldonado, a future accountant, was born and raised in Puyallup.
Among the diversity of the player’s backgrounds they have found a wealth of talent but admit they weren’t always a cohesive unit.
“From the beginning there was definitely no team chemistry,” defender Cameron Sautner said. “We were all separated in groups and didn’t really click at all.”
It took a few games and some painful practices according to the players, but they finally feel like they have started to gel.
“I think it has changed tremendously,” forward Femi Akkiniyi said.
“Every game it has gotten better,” midfielder Kyle Ottwell said.
The turning point may have come during a midseason road game against south division leaders Chemeketa Community College. Pierce had to come back from behind twice to manage a 2-2 tie against the division leaders.
Hudson recalled scoring the game tying goal at the 70 minute mark.
“I got a pass from Ricky(Frey) and took it all the way down, outran a bunch of guys, lost the ball but didn’t give up on it,” Hudson said. “Finally it trickled through somehow and I scored the goal.”
“Last year they were really good,” defender and team captain Nathan Montoya said. “To be able to at least keep up with them this year was nice.
“It showed our strength as a team and that we’re willing to fight back,” defender Wes Caldwell said. “It gave us a lot of confidence.”
Head Coach Bill Pearson sees the change in his team and the hard work it took to bring them to this point.
“I really feel that we went through some growing pains trying to dial some things in,” Pearson said, “but we’re getting there. This team has really pulled together.”
Team captains Sanner and Montoya have provided leadership and stability to the back and midfield along with sophomore defender Nathan Jung.
“Kent is always dependable back there,” Caldwell said. “He’s our last guy in the sweeper spot.”
“The hardest worker and player I look up to the most is Nathan Montoya,” Ottwell said.
Freshmen Hudson and Akkiniyi along with experienced sophomore Maldonado have provided the bulk of the offense for the Raiders. The three have combined to score 20 goals and nine assists. Hudson leads the team with 10 goals.
Defender Ricky Frey remembered a great view he had when Hudson scored against Skagit.
“Suku’s goal from about 40 yards out was an absolute rope into the corner.” Frey said.
“Femi, he’s just his own player,” defender Jeremy Pippins said. “He’s the guy that’s always running through everybody. He’s the main outlet.”
“JD never quits and he wants to score every time,” midfielder Omar Lima Ramos said.
To help ease stress during practice or between classes the team tries to joke around as much as they can. Some players are known for creating laughs.
“JD hands down,” Frey said. “He’s always doing something funny. Throwing things at people when they don’t have a clue that it’s coming.”
Maldonado admits he is probably the funniest guy, but according to the team he isn’t the only worthy candidate.
“This dude, Aram,” Pippins said. “We were doing penalty kicks and Aram got so excited he jumped over Zach’s face and Zach got planted.”
Midfielder Aram Khamenehi said that Kyle Ottwell was the joker.
“There’s a lot jokesters of out here,” Ottwell said. “We all kind of feed off each other; we all just have a good time.”
The Good times look to continue as Pierce recently clinched a spot in the NWAACC 2010 Playoffs, placing third in the Western Division.
“I think where some teams might be in a slump,” Sanner said, “we’re going to be on the rise coming into the playoffs and it’s going to give us a lot of momentum.”
Coach Pearson talked about playoff strategy.
“I think going into the playoffs we just play more of an aggressive style and catch them off.” Pearson said. “More of a ram it down their throat type of game.”
Pearson attributes the increased success to how connected the players have become on and off the field.
“It’s a different environment,” Pearson said. “I feel pretty confident this last half of the season.”
Pierce travels to Orca Field to take on Whatcom Community College in the first round of the NWAACC playoffs Nov. 10.
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