TURLOCK — Depending on one's point of view, high expectations are either a blessing or a burden.
The Cal State Stanislaus women's soccer team, coming off a record-setting 2012 season and picked by coaches to win the California Collegiate Atheltic Association title, considers itself blessed.
"This is a fun place to be and I'd much rather be in this situation," said women's coach Gabriel Bolton. "It's exciting to have these expectations of being successful and I think we're embracing it."
Of all the Warriors' fall programs, women's soccer is reflecting the most limelight, but isn't alone among the programs reaching for the top.
The men's soccer team is coming off its first NCAA Tournament victory, the women's cross-country team finished 20th in the nation last season, and the volleyball and men's cross country programs continue to mine local talent to build their programs.
Stanislaus' women's soccer team won 15 games in 2012, yet was left out of the NCAA West Region field when it dropped both its regular-season finale and a first-round game in the CCAA tournament.
Think that sudden collapse burned at the team the whole offseason?
But the Warriors return stronger than ever, with the best player in the program's history in the fold for one more run at glory. Karenee Demery already stands alone as the top scorer in school history, and Bolton said she continues to improve. Demery opened the season with a hat trick in a victory over Simon Fraser.
"I'm going to cry on senior day," Bolton said. "The scary thing is that she's come back better than ever, which spending two camps with the under-22 national team will do for you.
"We identify and she improves different parts of her game every year, which is amazing considering she scored 19 goals as a freshman. She has aspirations of playing professionally, perhaps even for national teams, and she's working toward those goals."
The Warriors' veteran cast includes defenders Emily Relles and Karli Nestler and forward Allie Dugan. Maryssa McDuffy, a freshman from Gregori High, already is seeing significant action at right back.
The team was hoping to have the scoring touch of Sara Latham of Turlock High and Modesto Junior College, who transferred to Stanislaus after spending less than a month at the University of Houston. But Latham left Houston without formally withdrawing from classes, leaving her ineligible to play this season. She is redshirting and will play for the Warriors in 2014.
Despite last season's success, there is one thing keeping the Warriors from becoming overconfident at any point during the 2013 campaign. No, make that two things their final two games of last season.
In late October, Stanislaus ascended to the No. 1 spot in the West Regional rankings a first for the program. They promptly dropped a 2-1 home match to Sonoma State, then fell to UC San Diego in the conference tournament.
Instead of getting ready to make a run in the NCAA West Regional, their season was over.
"That's been a great motivator for us," Bolton said. "We were cruising along and people were assuming the season was going to last forever and all of the sudden it was over. That left a feeling of it being incomplete and we don't want to have that feeling again.
"We're proud of last season and what we accomplished, and people in soccer still thought we belonged in the NCAA Tournament, but that's not the way it panned out."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek
CSU STANISLAUS FALL PREVIEWCSU STANISLAUS FALL SPORTS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Diljeet Taylor (7th year)
2012: Men sixth at CCAA championships; women second in CCAA, finished fourth at NCAA regional and 20th at NCAA Championships.
Top returners: Men: Dean Alley, Sr., finalist in CCAA 800M in spring. Women: Dallas Campbell, Sr., ran personal-best 21:57.7 at NCAA; Rachel Naranjo, Grad, ran personal-best 22:25.5 at NCAA; Marina Vorderbruegge, Sr., reached NCAA finals in 1,500 in spring.
Top newcomers: Men: Alex Villaescusa, Fr., Michael Mrgudic, Fr., Abraham Alvarado, Fr.; Women: Gabee Maldonado, Fr.
Coach: Dana Taylor, 5th year, 43-22-1
2012: Overall 12-5-3, CCAA 7-4-3 (2nd, North). CCAA Champions, reached second round of NCAA Tournament.
Top Returners: Clint Long, GK, Sr., 1.11 GAA in 20 matches, 6 shutouts, 98 saves; Kyle Cadigan, D, Sr., 2 goals, 2 assists; Carlos Gavino, MF, Jr., 4 goals, 2 assists, CCAA Championship tournament MVP.
Top Newcomers: Carlos Navarrete, D/MF, Jr.; Jaime Ceja, D, Fr.; Jose Rodriguez, F, Jr.
Coach: Gabriel Bolton, 9th year, 84-57-17
2012: Overall 15-3-0, CCAA 11-3-0 (2nd, North)
Top Returners: Karenee Demery, F, Sr., 3-time All-American, 2-time CCAA MVOP, 2-time West Region Player of the Year, School records 54 career goals, 128 points; Emily Relles, D, Sr., school record 12 assists; Allie Dugan, F, Sr., 4 goals, 4 assists; Karli Nestler, D, Jr. 3 goals, 5 assists.
Top Newcomers: Maryssa McDuffy, D/F, Fr.; Kirsten Coleman, F, Fr.; Nicole Larson, D, Fr.; Megan Gallagher, D, Fr.
Coach: Christina Lore, 10th year, 70-155
2012: Overall 9-12, CCAA 6-16 (11th)
Top Returners: Kendall Munoz, S, Soph., 982 assists (8.85 per set), led team with 33 aces; Jordan Harris, MB, Soph., led team with .264 attack percentage.
Key Newcomers: Blair Ehrlich, OH, Fr.; Sarah Crowl, DS, Fr.; Taylor Massengale, MB, Fr.