When Brian Gochoel left the Kennewick Lions head coaching position following the 2014 boys soccer season, he left to build a varsity college program from scratch at the Washington State University-Tri-Cities campus in Richland.
Gochoel watched helplessly, however, when WSU unexpectedly pulled the proposed funding for the WSU-TC soccer program, leaving him with a dream unfulfilled.
“Essentially, I was a coach without a team,” Gochoel said.
In early November, Southridge athletic director Tim Wood gave Gochoel a chance to complete some unfinished business, at least at the high school level, hiring him as the Suns boys soccer coach starting this spring. The hire gives Southridge some hope that Gochoel might do for them what he did at Kennewick — restore a winning tradition and get them back to the state playoffs.
For Gochoel, a DePaul University graduate, it’s a chance to do what he loves, plain and simple.
“There’s nothing like having your own team — filling out the squad sheet from soup to nuts and being in charge of a program. I’ve done it for 20 years, and it’s just a special experience,” said Gochoel, who led the Lions to a 55-21 record over four seasons, including three Class 3A state tournament appearances and a Mid-Columbia Conference championship in 2013.
“The Southridge opportunity came knocking, so I put my hat in the ring,” he said. “It’s certainly an opportunity to get them back into championship consideration. I say that not knowing what I have.”
The Suns do have some proud moments in their history — a Columbia Basin Big Nine conference title and a fourth-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament under Chip Elfering in 2011 — it has been four seasons since they were in serious contention for a title.
For Gochoel, the first step will be to start with high expectations.
“Certainly you aim high. The goal is to win a conference championship and a state championship. If you happen to fall short, you’re still in pretty good shape,” he said. “You have to sell the notion that if they come together they can have a pretty good season.”
Gochoel is a little curious to coach against the Kennewick team he headed up for four seasons. He’ll always have a bit of a soft spot for the program he nearly led to its first Final Four appearance in 2014.
“It’ll certainly be a little strange. I’ve still got a little EKU (East Kennewick Uglies) in my blood,” Gochoel said. “I forged some lifelong relationships there, but there’s still the task at hand. They’ve still got enough skill on the pitch to beat you six ways to Sunday.”