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Is the Washington men’s soccer team poised to become a perennial national power?

Based on the gains the program has made in its first three seasons under coach Jamie Clark, it could be.

Joing the company of the school’s national-power programs “is certainly a goal,” said Clark, the 2013 Pac-12 coach of the year, finishing 16-2-4 overall. “It’s also something that led me to come here. At a school like UW, you can be dominant; you can become a national power year-in and year-out.

“We’re in the early stages of trying to make a name for ourselves, to prove that we’re no one-time fluke.”

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Last year ,the Huskies roared into the NCAA tournament as the No. 2 overall seed and advanced to the Elite Eight, a first for the UW men’s program in 21 tournament appearances.

This year, Washington was ranked No. 6 in the preseason poll and opened its season Friday with a commanding 4-0 win at Gonzaga. The Huskies host Seattle U (2-0) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in their home opener at Husky Soccer Field.

With just two starters graduated from last year’s roster, UW has the credentials to be a national title contender.

“We come with a very good attack,” said Clark. “When we’re firing on all cylinders, we’re going to be a handful for any team. Combine that with some good defending and that’s a good recipe.”

Key returnees include 2013 All-Pac-12 first-team selections Darwin Jones, a senior forward from Mount Rainier, and sophomore midfielder Cristian Roldan, Soccer America’s 2013 national freshman of the year.

Also back is senior goalkeeper Spencer Richey, who started four games last year before breaking his leg. He began last season as a national player of the year candidate.

“He’s a special player,” Clark said. “When you think you might have the best goalkeeper in the country … Even on days we don’t play well, you know he’s going to keep us in it. And on the flip side, we have two of the best attacking players in the country in Darwin and Cristian.”

UW women start strong

Off to a 3-0 start, defeating two 2013 NCAA tournament qualifiers (Kentucky and La Salle), the UW women’s team is eager to erase the memory of a disappointing finish last year. Washington hosts 19th-ranked Wisconsin (4-0) at 6 p.m. Friday and Dartmouth (0-0) at 4 p.m. Sunday.

The Huskies missed last year’s tournament after closing with three straight 1-0 losses and a 7-9-4 overall record. UW was shut out in all nine of its losses. Two of its ties were scoreless draws.

“We had one of the best defenses in the conference last year,” said coach Lesle Gallimore, in her 21st season at UW. “We did not let in soft goals. We just couldn’t score.”

Poor team chemistry was an issue, Gallimore conceded. “We didn’t play together,” she said. “I don’t think there were a lot of kids who were team-first. It wasn’t a great environment at times, and that comes back to me, inevitably.”

Much preseason work was devoted to producing what Gallimore, 50, calls a “culture change.” So far, so good, she said, citing fifth-year seniors Kate Bennett and Stine Schoening for leading the effort.

UW men’s soccer on the rise
A look at UW men’s soccer under coach Jamie Clark
Year Overall Pac-12 (place) NCAA
2013 16-2-4 7-1-2 (1st) Quarterfinals
2012 13-5-3 7-1-2 (2nd) Second round
2011 12-4-2 7-3-0 (2nd) Didn’t make tournament
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