Freshman-heavy Centralia College women’s soccer team coming together quick


Roster stability is already a tough ask at the junior college level, with just two years of eligibility available to players. But coming into the 2023 season, the Centralia College women’s soccer team is facing even more turnover than usual, with little time to connect.

So far, though, the returns have been positive.

“I’m mostly just excited about all the new players,” Hannah Robbins said. “It’ll be kind of hard with a completely new team, but I think it’ll be exciting and it’ll be good. We have a lot of good players.”

Last season, the Trailblazers skewed sophomore-heavy, with 13 sophomores and eight freshmen. But in the offseason, half of the freshmen left, leaving just four to come back with any game experience.

To make up numbers, coach Clarence Gunderson and his staff brought in 21 freshmen, leading to a whole lot of introductions and a lot of chemistry to be made in not a lot of time.

“It’s a lot of girls coming from different club teams, so we’re trying to integrate that into one and learn a new language — Centralia’s language,” Abby Hansen said.

Hansen is one of the four sophomore leaders on the squad, joining Robbins, Julis Martinez, and Angel Jessen.

All told, the quartet scored seven goals for CC last year; the Blazers finished the season averaging 1.74 goals per game, 16th in the NWAC.

This time around, Centralia College is going to need more on offense, and will be turning to some of the new faces to get it.

“I think we’ll be a good offensive team,” Hansen said. “Just because we have a lot of fast girls, and forwards and wings who are willing to take shots.”

Included in the crop of youth up top will be Cierra Larson, who scored 10 goals for Tumwater in the Thunderbirds’ run to third place in State last season. In the midfield, the Blazers will get a second Robbins, with Hannah’s younger sister Sarah, who graduated from Centralia last season. And at the back, 2A EvCo first-teamer Maddy Shields comes in from W.F. West, repping the Bearcats in the Hub City.

Joining them are new Blazers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, making just about a new team from last year’s group that held its own in a loaded NWAC West before losing four straight to end the season on a tough note.

“I think we really just need to bond together as a team. Last year we weren’t as close with each other, so I think completely starting new is good for us,” Hannah Robbins said. “It gives us a good chance for everybody to get to know each other on the same level.

CC will open its fall shortly with a week of exhibitions at the new Bob Peters Field, hosting Umpqua on Friday, Lane on Saturday, and Evergreen State College next Tuesday. The Blazers will then head to Tukwila for the NWAC Friendlies on Aug. 22-23, and open the meat of its season Sept. 6, at Pierce.