WALLA WALLA — You know expectations for a team are high when going 14-3-3 (12-1-3 in region) and getting to the quarterfinals of the NWAACC championship tournament isn’t good enough.
That was the case for Walla Walla Community College’s women’s soccer team last season. The Warriors failed to win the East Region for the first time in coach Chad Bodnar’s eight-year career with the Warriors, and the first time since at least 2003, which is the farthest back records are kept on the NWAACC’s website.
Walla Walla went on to fall to Everett in the quarterfinals of the NWAACC tourney, 1-0, which broke a streak of three consecutive NWAACC titles that ran from 2009-11.
“We kind of challenged our sophomores this year,” Bodnar said. “Last year was a down year for us compared to our standards. So we challenged them and told them this is your group, and so they’ve been working really hard and I think they’re ready to right the ship.”
The Warriors started the path to righting the ship Tuesday with a 4-0 thumping of Clark at the NWAACC Soccer Friendlies tournament in Tukwila, Wash., and Bodnar thinks WWCC has added enough speed and athleticism in a talented freshman class to put it back on top of the East dogpile.
“On both teams (men and women) we’re pretty young,” Bodnar said. “Young, and some good balance with some kids that are coming back, but young. We’ve got some good freshmen, but definitely some that are going to need some molding. Any time you bring in that many freshmen, it’s going to take awhile.”
Walla Walla returns its leading scorer from last season in sophomore Tash Anderson, a forward from Bend, Ore., who scored 15 goals and had two assists, but lost two-sport star and Wa-Hi graduate Paige Pontarolo, who scored 10 goals and set up eight assists.
In total, the Warriors return eight sophomores and bring in 12 freshmen. However, Bodnar said the freshmen will bring some athleticism to the pitch he felt was missing last season.
“I think we’re a lot more athletic this year around the field and up top, which usually equates to good things,” Bodnar said. “Our field at the community college is pretty big up top, and our speed is something that we used in the past to score a lot.”
The Warriors scored a star recruit in Lexi Miller, who was the Mid-Columbia Conference player of the year last season at Chiawana High School, and also should get some added speed from Delaney Romero (Nachas, Wash.) and Shauntice Perrigo (Bremerton, Wash.).
“She’s brought some athleticism to us,” Bodnar said of Perrigo. “It’s just a good freshmen class, we feel like they’re going to add a lot with our sophomores.”
Kylie Gorton, a centerback, also impressed Bodnar in the preseason, despite coming from a smaller school in Moscow High in Idaho.
“She’s been a huge surprise for us,” Bodnar said. “She’s come in and is going to start in the back. We’re looking for some improvement from her, and she has a great upside as well.”
The Warriors picked up two players from Wa-Hi this season, forward Brigit Lyons (a DeSales grad who played for the Blue Devils) and midfielder Brittany Gibbar.
“It’s going to take some time for them to come in and adjust,” Bodnar said of Lyons and Gibbar, “but they’ve had some great attitudes and work ethic, and after a year of work there’s definitely some great upsides for both of those kids.”
Despite fielding a young team, the Warriors expect to make another, hopefully deeper, postseason run this season.
“I think we’re there,” Bodnar said. “I don’t think we’re far away. We’re missing maybe a piece or two, but we’re back where we need to be to make a final four. If we do our job as coaches, the pieces are there for us to compete at the end of the year.”
Walla Walla next faces Clackamas today at 12:30 p.m. and returns home to host Northwest Christian Saturday.