Clarence Gunderson is starting to think he’s got a good thing going at Centralia College.
For the first time in his tenure leading the Trailblazers’ women’s soccer program, he’s got a roster completely full of players he recruited. He’s got more returning starters than he’s ever had before.
Heck, two years removed from only having one volunteer assistant, he’s got a veritable coaching staff of four to work with, with Noel Vazquez coaching his keepers and the father-son duo of Henry and Caleb Gallanger assisting as well.
“It’s good,” Gunderson said. “It’s better than where we were a couple years ago. I’m excited for the season, I’m excited for the players.”
After going 5-5-6 a team entirely of freshman in 2021, the Trailblazers suffered a bit of year-to-year attrition, but bring back a haul of key players, all a year more experienced and acclimated to the college level.
“Most of the teams that have success in this conference are the teams that have the most returning players,” Gunderson said. “When you bring in players as freshmen, it’s a whole learning experience for them. In that phase, we have that advantage, in terms of players with experience.”
Leading the charge in the attacking third — which Gunderson pointed to as CC’s weak spot last season — will be Chloe Dolman, back after pacing the Blazers with a team-best five goals in 12 games.
As a group in 2021, the Trailblazers scored 27 goals, but managed more than two against NWAC opponents just twice, and logged just eight assists all fall.
Centralia’s defense finished with a middle-of-the-NWAC 1.62 goals per game, but saw Marisol Vargas — the first Centralia goalkeeper to earn west region all-star honors — move on to NAIA ball. In her place, they’ll turn to Maggie McAuley, who started three games in the fall to be their No. 1.
The Blazers also looked close to home to bring in reinforcements, adding Centralia’s Hannah Robbins to their front line. They also reached out to the Stone City, bringing in Tenino’s Grace Vestal.
“We want to have local players on our team,” Gunderson said. “We want players like them so that younger players can see them and say, ‘I want to play over there because I know this girl.’
“It comes down to the success we have as a program. And the more success we have, the more players want to come to the program.”