Matt Potter is in no hurry for his Washington State University women’s soccer team to start acting its collective age.
Despite having only three seniors – and 16 freshmen and sophomores – on their roster, Potter’s Cougars have opened the 2011 season by winning six of their first nine games and earning a 0-0 tie on the road against then-fourth-ranked Virginia on Sept. 9.
One of the main keys to WSU’s early-season success has been the play of redshirt freshman goalkeeper Gurveen Clair, who has started all nine games and posted an impressive goals-against average of 0.71, along with a lofty save percentage of .818.
Two of the Cougars’ top scorers, midfielder Eileen Maes (four goals, one assist, nine points) and forward Micaela Castain (three goals) are only sophomores, and freshman midfielder Jocelyn Jeffers and freshman forward Bethani Skelton have combined for six points on two goals and two assists.
In addition, freshman forward Beau Bremer was named the Pacific-12 Player of the Week on Tuesday after scoring both of WSU’s goals in a 2-1 nonconference overtime win over Idaho on Sunday.
“On paper, we’re young, for sure,” Potter said of his Cougs, who travel to Santa Clara to take on the 21st-ranked Broncos (3-1-4) in a nonconference game on Friday, before opening Pacific-12 Conference play at the University of Southern California on Sunday.
“The good thing is, they all come from great backgrounds, where they’ve played in pressure situations, or at an elite level.
“Hence, what you’re seeing is us being able to handle most of the environments we’ve been in.”
Potter is quick to credit the leadership of some of his other returnees, such as sophomore defender Rachael Doyle, junior defender Mariah Cameron and junior forward Brandi Vega, for the quick development of his younger players.
“Gurveen, in goal, has obviously done very well in terms of marshalling our back line, and (freshman) Nicole Setterlund has come in a given us great value in our midfield,” Potter said. “What’s happening, though, is that the leadership of Rachael, Mariah, Brandi and the rest of our returners is allowing them those moments.
“Our freshmen have been able to feel comfortable enough to express themselves, based on the good work of our returners.
“We’ve always believed in the potential of the team, even last year. But this year, we’ve definitely cemented ourselves as a team that is tough to play and has great character and great heart – a couple of characteristics that, obviously, give us a chance to be very competitive, and to go into some intimidating environments and come out with some things.”
In Sunday’s conference opener against USC, the Cougars will face a Trojans team that is a disappointing 3-6-0 on the young season.
“Playing them on the road is a tough assignment for anybody, at any point in time,” Potter said.
“But the fact that they have not gotten off to the best of starts makes them even more dangerous, in my opinion.
“They’ve played a lot of good games, and a lot of close-scoring games. It’s a huge challenge for us, but one we are obviously looking forward to.”
CCS still perfect
Community Colleges of Spokane heads into this week’s NWAACC home matches against Clark College and Clackamas CC still unbeaten, but shares that distinction with three other East Division teams.
Despite the excellent play of goalkeeper Asia Porter, a freshman from North Central High who has yet to give up a goal, the Sasquatch (5-0-0 overall, 2-0-0 in the NWAACC) are tied with Columbia Basin (4-0-0, 2-0-0) and Yakima Valley (3-2-1, 2-1-0) in second place in the East, three points behind division leader Walla Walla (6-0-2, 3-0-0).
CCS, which is coming off a 12-1 rout of Southwest Oregon, has outscored its opponents 23-0 this season.
NIC also on roll
The North Idaho College women are another local junior college team without a blemish on its record.
The Cardinals, who dumped the University of Idaho’s club team 12-1 in their last outing, are 7-0 on the year and have outscored their opponents 41-3.
The University of Idaho (3-5-2) will test itself against a couple of regional foes later this week when it plays at Gonzaga on Friday and entertains Eastern Washington in Moscow on Sunday. … The perennially powerful Pacific-12 Conference has four teams – No. 1 Stanford (8-0-1), No. 3 UCLA (7-0-1), No. 17 California (7-1-0) and No. 24 Oregon State (6-2-1) ranked in this week’s NSCAA Coaches Poll. … Whitworth University’s women (1-3-1, 1-1-1 in the Northwest Conference) will play their first home match of the season on Saturday, when its entertains NWC powerhouse Puget Sound at noon as part of a men’s-women’s doubleheader.