Pasco soccer coach Matt Potter has always been amazed at the constant support hes seen from Bulldogs soccer fans, whether as a player or as a coach.
I cant tell you how much alumni support there is, said Potter, a 1993 Pasco graduate and former defender. Theres a lot of pride in this city. Its important to be a part of that, and Im proud to be a part of that.
To honor that following, Potter has done his part to put the best soccer team on the field to make the Bulldogs faithful happy. But he doesnt stop there. Potter also works hard to make sure his players are building themselves up in the classroom, too.
The result is a young Pasco team that not only is battling for its first league title since 2009 but also a team that has made considerable strides in the classroom.
In my time here, (the team GPA) is the highest its ever been, said Potter, a former standout player and assistant coach at Seattle University before he joined the Pasco School District. We do a 45-minute study hall every day in the room. The guys are quiet and sit in there and just study.
The players take their grades as seriously as they do the work on the field, and they work just as hard at both. We talk about trying to be successful in everything we do and just creating that habit, whether its in the classroom or on the field, Potter said.
Senior captain Miguel Chavez has seen his work rate in the classroom improve since last year, when grade problems forced him to miss playing time. But the all-Mid-Columbia Conference defender is back on track in 2014 and in a new position at forward.
He likes playing on top. Even though he doesnt get a lot of goals, he tries to help out the team, Pasco goalkeeper Jon Rosas said.
The Bulldogs have battled their way from the middle of the pack they were 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the MCC in late March to within one game of the MCC lead. Pasco has won four of its last five matches, including big wins over Kennewick and Hanford, who had beaten the Bulldogs in the first half of the season.
What happened in the first two games was we rated them higher than what they really were, and a lot of our players werent real confident, Chavez said. The next time, we felt we were going to come out winners.
Rosas gives a lot of credit to his back third freshman Sergio Avalos, juniors Saul Chavez and Oswal Lopez, and junior Julio Zuniga for his strong numbers (0.80 goals against average, four shutouts). He put up similar numbers last season 1.07 GAA, 7 shutouts in the regular season but was left off the all-MCC teams.
I dont really look at that, Rosas said. The only thing I really care about is my team getting the win.
Pasco (8-4 overall, 7-3 MCC) has a tough test at 7 p.m. today, when Walla Walla (5-6, 5-5) visits Edgar Brown Stadium. The Bulldogs beat the Blue Devils 2-1 on the road, but they cant automatically bank on a repeat performance at home.
Especially after Walla Walla knocked them out of the District 5 playoffs last season, ending Pascos season on its own turf.
We remember that loss every game we play. Thats one thing I dont want to go through again, Rosas said. We want to win every game to help us go further.
Pascos Hector Magana is tied for third in the MCC with six goals, and Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez (4 goals, 5 assists) has emerged as one of the top playmakers in the league. The Bulldogs defense has chalked up six shutouts.
Weve been very consistent. We never got too low. We never got too high, Potter said. Weve stayed as steady as anybody and held true to the belief that they could get better.
Walla Walla brings one of the top returning forwards in the league in Christian Segovia (6 goals) and a strong team concept led by coach Mike Washington.
We dont mistake their talent. Theyre as good as any team in the league, Potter said. Were two pretty similar teams. We both like to keep possession, and we both have some talented attackers.