Conditioning is a big part of soccer and the girls teams from East Ridge, Woodbury and New Life Academy have been focusing on that aspect all offseason.
It's shown in the first few games of the 2018 season and the coaches are hoping it will show at the end of the season when section tournaments begin.
"Our girls have been working hard this offseason to prepare themselves for the fall season," said Tim Bunnell, East Ridge's head coach. "Our players are becoming well-rounded athletes and it's great to see them continue to want to learn more."
East Ridge has been an underdog team the last couple of seasons, but the past two seasons have quietly placed themselves in the state tournament. This season, that quiet label will be taken off and instead a target will be put on their backs because the Raptors are the team to beat in the Suburban East Conference.
Bunnell will rely on a handful of seniors to lead this team because they've experienced these two state runs and understand what it takes to get to that point in the season. Some of those seniors include Delaney Goertzen, Ericka Freiberg and Linnea Yacovella.
"Our team knows what it takes to get back to the state tournament," Goertzen said. "I know we want to get back there once last time before we leave [as seniors] and try to earn that state title."
Woodbury will be coming after East Ridge in hopes of earning that section title this season after finishing last season with a 5-7-4 regular season record.
Head coach Pat Malicki is looking forward to a year where the majority of girls played or worked on their skills during the offseason. He's seen a lot of improvement from the girls in the early stages of the 2018 season.
He also understands the Suburban East Conference and knows there will never be an off day during the regular season or section play. It'll be a tough two or three months, but he knows that the coaching staff and the players are excited for conference play.
"We play in a conference where everyday is a challenge," Malicki said. "This year we have a lot of seniors, but we'll have to see how everything unfolds."
The Royals will have a lot of leadership on the team with 11 seniors on the roster. Those 11 seniors understand what a season is like and how to push teammates and themselves throughout the season and that's what Malicki will be looking for from these upperclassmen.
"It's great to see these older players working alongside these younger players on the team," said senior captain Madeline Felton. "It'll be an exciting to see how this team comes out each game because I know each of us will leave everything out on the field."
Sam Mann and the New Life Academy girls team are on the opposite end as Woodbury. The Eagles have a lot of young players that Mann has been developing since he came to New Life three years ago.
It's been a steady progress each season as he taught them the basics the first year and, now, is teaching advanced skills to improve their game for the upcoming season.
"I've been able to get to know these players really well over the past couple of seasons," Mann said. "It's been fun seeing them grow each season and hopefully they can showcase all that talent on the field this season."
The captains of the team, Sophia Sosa and Claire Maple, are excited about the upcoming season because the team chemistry is high and the want to win is overwhelming. They have been playing on the varsity team for a number of seasons, so they understand the ups and downs of a season and are hoping to teach it to some of the younger players.
"We know that each season will have high points and low points," Sosa said. "We just need to make sure to keep our head up on any situation and good things will come."