Few soccer programs could have been as well suited for Pat Penner as the program at Golden West Community College.
Despite the trend toward defensive play in most advanced levels of soccer, Penner's biggest talent is scoring. The sophomore scored 27 goals last season as Golden West finished second in the South Coast Conference behind Cerritos. Penner was voted the conference's most valuable player.
"It was really an honor because it is such a tough conference (eventual state champion El Camino finished third)," Penner said. "I think being a freshman and because I was only 18, it was also good because I was playing against older, more experienced players."
In his first college game last season, Penner scored four goals against Mira Costa. He also scored four goals Friday night in the Rustlers' season-opening, 6-3 victory over Skagit College.
"What he (Penner) knows how to do best is score goals," said Gregory Ghica, Golden West coach. "Pat is one of the best soccer products in the United States. With proper training in the right atmosphere he could go on to be a great player.
"We stress offense, and he is perfect here."
Penner played four seasons at Marina High School, where he won MVP awards three times. He won it both years on the freshman-sophomore team and again as a senior on the varsity team. He also was a kicker on the football team his senior season.
He started playing soccer when he was 8 in youth leagues and met Ghica in 1977 when Penner attended Ghica's summer soccer camp at Golden West.
The skill he displayed in high school was enough to interest defending national champion UCLA. But Penner didn't have adequate grades to attend. So he used the community college route.
Now, Penner says he is considering moving to Europe or South America to play professionally, though he hasn't ruled out attending a four-year college.
"I really can't say what I'm going to do right now," Penner said. "It all depends. My grades are better (2.25), so I'm not sure what I'll do after this season. But I am looking to play professionally sometime."
Golden West defeated Bakersfield, 24-14, last Saturday in Bakersfield Memorial Stadium in front of 9,321. By Orange County standards, that's a huge crowd. Last season's PONY Bowl between county powers Saddleback and Fullerton, in which the Gauchos completed an unbeaten season, attracted 7,200. Still, a Bakersfield paper referred to the crowd as "only 9,321." The Renegades averaged more than 11,000 in five home games last season.
New Orange Coast College football Coach Bill Workman will be going for his first community college victory Saturday in the season opener against Golden West at LeBard Stadium. Fullerton will play Rancho Santiago at Fullerton District Stadium with Fullerton Coach Hal Sherbeck going for victory No. 200. His record is 199-52-6. Defending co-national champion Saddleback will play El Camino in Torrance. The Gauchos are tops in the nation again, but the ranking is based on last season's performance.