It’s hard to imagine having a better regular season than the Santa Barbara City College women’s soccer team enjoyed last year. The Vaqueros went unbeaten in their first 17 games and lost just once before falling in the second round of the state playoffs.

Of course, coach John Sisterson has a pretty vivid imagination.

“We’re very excited about this season,” said Sisterson, who’s starting his fourth year as the women’s coach and second as the Vaqueros’ men’s coach. “It would appear that we have strengthened the squad. We have a number of freshmen who have shown they can play, and we also have three transfers from four-year universities.”

SBCC opens the season Wednesday at East Los Angeles and makes its home debut at 2 p.m. Friday against College of the Sequoias. The Vaqueros were 8-0-3 with nine shutouts in La Playa Stadium last year.

SBCC returns nine of 11 starters from last year’s team that posted the second-highest victory total (16-2-5) in school history. The Vaqueros blanked WSC champion Moorpark 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the eventual state champion (Cerritos) for the second straight year.

Lanakila MacNaughton, last year’s leading scorer with 15 goals and 35 points, tops the list of returners. Other significant sophomores are second-leading scorer Laura Spivack, striker Danna Wahlund, midfielder Ginelle Bongiorno, defenders Summer Deaton, Ricky Fien and Cat Kitts, along with Brienna Wright. Sisterson noted that Wright was “fast on the flanks last year but seems to have sprouted wings this year.”

The newcomer list is led by goalkeeper Meigan Maiwald, who plays on the USA Olympic National Deaf Team, coached by Sisterson. An already strong defense will be bolstered by transfers Caitlin Linas, who started at Missouri, and Chelsea Nielsen of Sonoma State. Sisterson is also excited about freshmen Jamie Kurcharski, Courtney Belsheim and Shannon Lynott, who scored 27 goals two years ago as a high school senior.

“The ladies are really thinking positively and working hard,” Sisterson said. “Our goal is to play attractive attacking soccer, to win every game as it comes and excel in the classroom.”

Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.