WALLA WALLA - It has often been said that, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown," but that does not appear to be the case for the defending NWAACC champion Walla Walla Community College women's soccer team.
Instead, the Warriors look poised to defend their first title in school history and snag an eighth consecutive East Region title in 2010 behind a returning class that knows what it takes to be the top dog and one of the strongest recruiting classes in school history.
Forward Dominique Alston figures to lead the returners with an electrifying offensive game that can strike at almost any time.
"Dominique is just an amazing athlete," said head coach Chad Bodner. "She's such an explosive player, and she brings a lot to this team."
Once again joining Alston, an All-NWAACC first-teamer, are fellow forwards Margo Hickman and Justine Jones and center-back Lena Miraglio, who helped push the Warriors to the championship by playing the title game with a dislocated elbow in 2009.
"I think that really showed the kind of dedication that team had," Bodnar said. "They wanted that championship, and they proved they would do what they had to do to make it happen."
It's that kind of a lead by example mentality that defines this year's WWCC squad.
"We don't really have a vocal leader at this point," Bodnar said. "The sophomores we have aren't very vocal, but it's a great group that makes things happen on the field, and that's how they guide the freshmen."
Making things happen in the goal will be a pair of skilled keepers. All-NWAACC member Jordan Simkins returns for her second season, while newcomer Courtney Hancock will also vie for time.
Another pair of freshmen figure to have a major impact for the Warriors. Midfielder Marianne Johnson and forward Kaylie Winston, both from Pasco, figure to see ample time on the field and already have the WWCC coaching staff buzzing as the Warriors look to fill the holes left by five players from the 2009 squad, which finished the year 21-1-0, that moved on to four-year programs.
"I think we got the two best players in the Big Nine with those two," Bodnar said. "They are both incredible players. We might not be as deep as we were last year, but when you can plug two players in like that then you don't need to worry so much about depth."
The quest to repeat begins Wednesday for the Warriors as WWCC kicks off the season in Oregon City, Ore., taking on Clackamas in the first of a four-game trip through Oregon and Washington, before heading back to Walla Walla for their home opener on Sept. 11 against Whatcom.
"We know that when you're the champion then you have a target on your back, and you get everyone's best shot, but we like it that way," Bodnar said. "This is a humble group, and we know we have to take things one step at a time if we are going to be back where we want to be in three months."