KENNEWICK -- Last season was quite a breakout season for Southridge sophomore Heather Johnson, who led the CBBN with 24 goals and earned first-team all-league honors.
Naturally, opposing defenses have made her the center of attention this season, which has tapered her scoring output a bit. But as one of four Suns captains along with Paige Sorensen, Meghan Sorensen and Erin Wallace, she has handled the added pressure with the poise you would expect from one of the CBBN's top college soccer prospects.
"She's not a typical forward. She's always looking to bring her teammates in on the attack," said Southridge coach Riley Dodson. "She makes them even better."
The Suns switched from a 4-4-2 formation last season to just one forward this year, putting her right in the line of fire of opposing defenders. But even with the back third swarming around her, she still managed five goals and two assists through the Suns' first four games.
"It's a bigger role. It's hard, but my teammates really step up and make it easier," said Johnson, who also had 14 goals and 10 assists as a freshman in 2008.
Johnson spends the winter playing with her club team, the Three Rivers Velocity, along with junior teammates Ingrid Stein and Katherine Tsoukalas, and augments her field work with regular weight training. Dodson believes that type of dedication will land her a spot at the next level.
"Her biggest attribute is she's going to be ready to play," he said. "She can be either type of forward -- either stay high on the back line and attack the net or check back to midfield and distribute.
"The other thing that's really amazing is that she still has anther year and a half to develop."
Johnson said she's looking at either Gonzaga or Washington State.
"I've set standards for myself I'd like to achieve personally. I want to be a positive leader for the team," Johnson said.
If first-year varsity coach Syvia Villagrana has anything to do with it, the Sunnyside girls program will set its sights on a first-ever 3A state berth in the very near future.
The Grizzlies have a solid boys program that has locked up two district and regional championships since 2004 and six state appearances overall. But Villagrana would love to see her girls make some news.
"Lately the girls have started to pick up more. We've got more experience than we've had in the past," said Villagrana, a 1997 Sunnyside graduate who coached the "C" squad two seasons ago and the JV last year. She's now a substitute teacher for the Sunnyside school district.
She's been impressed with the play of freshman Karla Osorio, a speedy 4-foot-11 forward with a powerful shot.
"Once she gets control of the ball, she's gone," Villagrana said.