Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Retooling for a conference title defense, the Santa Rosa Junior College men’s soccer squad opens play with an exhibition at Sonoma State on Sunday.

Returning only four starters, Santa Rosa has been busy mixing in players to find a rotation that will lead the Bear Cubs back to the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs. Santa Rosa is loaded with former empire prep players

Last season, Santa Rosa won its fourth consecutive Big 8 Conference title and reached the state quarterfinals.  The Bear Cubs were a deep, talented and experienced team, running up an impressive 17-2-3 record.

“So we lost a lot of guys, but I think we’ve filled in admirably. We also had a lot of guys pushing for time last year,” said Santa Rosa coach Marty Kinahan.

While younger this season, Santa Rosa still should feature a strong offense that keeps the ball on the ground and combines passes to pressure opponents.

The midfield is loaded and a solid back line should help keep Santa Rosa in games.

Santa Rosa faces a tough opening test in Sonoma State. Game time is 12 p.m. Sunday in Rohnert Park.

On Thursday, the Seawolves, a NCAA Division II team, defeated San Francisco, A Division I program, in Rohnert Park. Sonoma State was ranked ranked No. 21 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II preseason Top 25 poll.

Before entering regular season play, Santa Rosa also plays exhibitions at San Francisco State and at Humboldt State, both NCAA Division II teams. Santa Rosa’s home opener is Sept. 6 against Las Positas.

The tough road exhibition contests should help the Bear Cubs come together for another successful season, Kinahan said.

“I think it’s really, really positive,” he said.