Like a parent reviewing his child’s report card, head volleyball coach Mark Dunn posted the results of the Sept. 17 NWAC coaches’ poll in the locker room for all the players to see.
On it he wrote, “Are you satisfied with this?”
Dunn’s note was apparently a nudge to do better and a pat on the back.
Last year, only one of Clark’s fall sports teams was ranked in the NWAC coaches’ poll. The men’s soccer squad was ranked third out of more than 20 teams.
This year, NWAC coaches ranked three Clark teams, meaning all three are considered among the top eight in the conference in their respective sports.
The poll ranked Clark’s volleyball team eighth out of 29 teams in the conference; the men’s soccer squad seventh out of 22 teams; and the women’s soccer team fifth out of 27 teams in the conference.
Athletic Director Ann Walker complimented all three teams.
She said the women’s soccer team had a great start, while the men’s team started slowly but is picking up momentum with a five-game winning streak through Sept. 23, followed by a tie and then another victory.
She attributed the men’s struggles to injuries and the team adjusting to a new coach. Brett Jacobs was hired with the team in April, replacing Biniam Afenegus who led the Penguins for eight years and is now at Southern Oregon University.
Dunn said his team’s positive record starts at home. “We’ve had close to 200 fans,” he said. “The support has been great.”
Although the stands have been fuller than years past, he hopes to see even more seats filled now that school has started.
Dunn said he thinks the talent of his mostly freshmen team deserves its top-eight ranking, but it will take some work on the fundamentals before they make it into the top five.
“Until we beat someone we’re not supposed to, we’re a top-eight team,” he said.
Not only is Jacobs new to Clark, but he is also new to the NWAC. He has coached international, MLS, collegiate, and youth soccer, returning to Portland as technical director of the Washington Timbers as well.
“It’s a two-year program, so you never know what’s coming in or out,” he said. “I don’t take a whole lot of stock in the polls, but it’s nice to be noticed.”
Women’s soccer coach Sean Janson agreed the polls don’t tell the whole story. He said he thinks the other divisions are more competitive than the one the Penguins are playing in now and that they don’t deserve to be ranked as high as they are.
Still, Janson said he and his team hope to keep their undefeated 7-0-2 record when they face their toughest competition, Lane College, on Oct. 14 and 31.
“I don’t think Lane gets enough recognition,” Janson said.
Although Clark is in the South Division, the coaches’ poll is based on input from all NWAC teams. As of Oct. 6, the men’s soccer team is in first place in the South Division, the women’s team is in second place and the volleyball team is in fifth.
This is the first coaches’ poll of the fall sports season with two more coming later this month. Cross-country does not have a coaches’ poll.