It could be record year for Modesto JC women

The goal is the same every year: Win games.

What comes along with those victories - school records, personal bests and, most importantly, playoff appearances - has made the Modesto Junior College women's soccer team a regional force.

That trend is likely to continue this season even as the Pirates move from the Central Valley Conference, which they won the last two seasons, to the Big 8 Conference.

Modesto debuted at No. 5 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. De Anza, ranked No. 8, knocked MJC out of the NorCal playoffs last year.

Head coach Steve Aristotelous tried to schedule strong preseason opponents, but Modesto hasn't been challenged yet.

That may change today as Foothill comes to town for a 3 p.m. game at West Campus. Modesto defeated the Owls 2-0 in the first round of last year's Northern California playoffs. The Pirates have already routed San Francisco City 10-0, Skyline 5-1 and Chabot 10-1.

"San Francisco returned six sophomores," Aristotelous said. "Chabot won 13 games last year. I was expecting a tough game out of them. Some teams go up and some go down. All you can do is worry about your own team."

Depth is something Aristotelous hasn't had to worry about. Eight players return from last year's squad, including state scoring leader Vanessa Stanfield, and 14 freshmen fill out the roster.

Among the newbies are Cheyenne Alvord and Carly Genzoli, who were part of last spring's Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship team at Hilmar High. Kacey Ball, the Central Valley Conference Defender of the Year, and goalie Julie Ross, a CVC co-Keeper of the Year, are anchors. Ross' fellow goalkeeper, Lauren Bean, is out with a torn meniscus.

Stanfield is close to setting a school record for career goals after setting the single-season record last season with 33. Add the seven she has this year and the All-American forward is 11 shy of Katie Cooke's total of 51.

Lence Montero is closer to another program high, just one assist away from surpassing Jessica Hendricks' career record of 22. Montero, the 2006 CVC Freshman of the Year, set a single-season assist high with 18.

"We have a lot of unselfish players," Aristotelous said. "That's what makes us so tough. Not everyone is trying to score. A lot of kids are trying to assist."

The players have another goal in mind, though, en route to the playoffs. Going into today's game, Aristotelous' six-year record is 94-29-8. "The girls are going to hunt down 100 for me," he said, half-jokingly.

With its hot start and track record, an undefeated Modesto team could pick up win No. 100 Oct. 2 at Sacramento City.

Individual achievements would just be part of the bigger picture, though.

The Pirates have a new bar to hurdle this season. Modesto made it to the third round of the NorCal playoffs the last two years, finishing 2006 with a program-best record of 19-2-2.