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Jordan Hacker talks with his WWCC soccer players on the sidelines during a scrimmage Tuesday afternoon.

If there’s one word to sum up sixth-year Walla Walla Community College men’s soccer coach Ben Rotert’s assessment of this year’s Warriors squad, it’s “excited.”

“We’re excited!” Rotert said. “We have a lot of experience coming back in key spots. We’re excited about the guys we’ve got back, and it’s super-nice to have a balance of freshmen and sophomores. The freshmen have injected new life into some positions. They have the opportunity to contribute right away.”

The Warriors finished 10-3-4 overall last season, and 8-1-3 in league play to win the NWAC East Region title.

But WWCC suffered a 3-0 loss to Pierce on the Warriors’ pitch in the NWAC quarterfinals to end their season.

“Last season kind of came to an end too early for us,” Rotert said. “To get the East Region (title), and then get knocked out in the quarterfinals was unfortunate.

“The guys we’ve got ccoming back understand what it takes to get through a tough East schedule,” he said. “They remember last year, and have an extra step in them headed into this year.”

The Warriors have 15 freshmen joining 10 veteran sophomores on the roster. 

“We’re solid defensively,” Rotert said. “We need a group effort to attack. We lost a lot of goals from last year, so we’re looking for freshmen to step up and play bigger roles in scoring goals.”

Included in the newcomers are four local products.

College Place goalkeeper Jorge Garcia, and Wa-Hi grads Agustin Arceo (midfielder), Abraham Diaz (defender) and Erick Perez (midfielder) now call WWCC their home.

“We love to keep local guys, as best we can,” Rotert said of the hometown players. “They’ve all come in, and it’s all about how guys can adjust. They’ve all come in and done very well, so far. We’re excited about their contributions.”

After three weeks of practicing, and with no scrimmages, the Warriors head to the Starfire complex in Tukwila, Wash., for the annual NWAC season-kickoff gathering on Thursday and Friday. Four fields host games from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. among all NWAC schools in friendly matches.

“The guys are excited to play somebody other than themselves,” Rotert said. “They’re excited to get out and execute what we’ve been going over the last few weeks.”

Walla Walla plays Southwest Oregon on Thursday, and Everett on Friday, with both games slated for 6 p.m. kickoffs.

“It’s a fun set-up to have all the (NWAC) teams in one location,” Rotert said. “It’s a good kickoff to the season.”

And the Warriors coach is optimistic heading into the season.

“It’s the most cohesive and talented group we’re had,” Rotert said of the 2019 WWCC squad. “We’re looking forward to what they can do.”

Bret Rankin graduated from Western Washington University, and after reporting and editing at several newspapers in western Washington, he joined the Union-Bulletin in 1999 as a sports reporter/copy editor. He has been sports editor since 2010.