WALLA WALLA - The 2009 season was anything but a change of pace for the Walla Walla Community College men's soccer team, winning the NWAACC East Region for the fifth time in the last six years.
Success has been solidified as normalcy for the Warriors under third-year head coach Chad Bodnar, and with both a strong returning core and an impressive incoming freshman class there doesn't appear to be any reason to expect the 2008 NWAACC champions to fall from their elite level of play after last season's second-place finish at the NWAACC tournament.
"It has been a lot of hard work to stay on the top, but we have another group that's willing to put in the hard work that it takes to win," Bodnar said. "I think we may even have a little more attacking power than we did last year."
Spearheading the Warrior attack are returning all-conference forwards Marco Acevedo and Mikey Ramos. The duo, along with fellow all-conference member, center-back Brady Espinoza, figure to be the experienced backbone of the team.
"Both Mikey and and Marco can really score," Bodnar said. "We have a really great core of returning guys that will help bring the freshmen to their level."
Among the incoming freshmen are a pair of goalkeepers who should battle for playing time as the Warriors establish themselves. Emmanuel Martinez, who was tabbed a top 25 prospect by website ESPN Rise, and Josh Lindsay both figure to see time as WWCC's last line of defense. The duo looks to fill the large gloves left by two-time All-East Division keeper Joey Pagan, who moved on to Concordia College.
"Coming into the season, the keeper spot is one of our bigger questions, but we know that we have two talented players to stick back there," Bodnar said. "Whoever is out there will do a good job."
Also returning from the East Region championship team that finished the year 14-4-1, are midfielders Griffin Hoerner and Talon Wyatt, who figure to see a lot of time on the field where they will be called upon to guide a squad that brought 25 new players into camp.
"We recruited heavily this offseason, and it showed by the class we were able to bring in," Bodnar said. "To have this kind of depth is going to be a big plus for us because it means we can play whatever style we want to. It's a really good, young, talented group that has the potential to develop."
The Warriors will begin their defense of the East Region crown Wednesday in Clackamas, Ore., against Chemeketa, the first of a four-game road swing before their home opener on Sept. 11 against Whatcom.
"We're excited to get out on the road," Bodnar said. "I think everyone is ready to go, and we're all looking forward to seeing how things work and how our team meshes."