A strong core of seniors returns to the University of South Dakota soccer team with plenty of goals in mind this fall.
The main one? They hope to play for each other first and foremost and let the chips falls where they may.
That process began Wednesday as the Coyotes returned to the practice field with fifth-year head coach Mandy Green, hoping to build on last year’s 6-8-1 overall mark and 1-5-1 Summit League ledger.
“It’s fun, this is a really fun group of girls,” Green said of her newest Coyote squad. “We go into the season with a different energy about us. Having 10 seniors is really going to help us with their experience and leadership. This group of seniors came in as a group of 21 when we had to rebuild. They have gotten to play a ton and they have paved the way with so many things. They are the group that set the culture, the energy, the work ethic here.”
Senior defender Colleen Reeves – who may see some time up front – emphasized the team’s desire to see each player perform for the Coyote next to her.
“It feels amazing and I am so excited to be back with the girls,” Reeves said. “We fire each other up and we are ready to play for each other. We are really pumped to get it all started.”
Green noted that the squad has focused on ‘team’ over ‘me,’ while Reeves explains that the squad is de-emphasizing the importance of winning and put more of the onus on playing for one another.
Yet, don’t mistake that for the Coyotes not wanting to win plenty.
“It’s not the most important season of our lives and we do not want to put that pressure on ourselves,” Reeves said. “We just want to go out and have fun since it’s our last year. We will still play to the end and never be satisfied and to play through everything for each other.
“We know we have these expectations and we want to blow past them. We want to win for everybody, our school, our team. We know it’s an important season, but we will look at it one game at a time.”
The team plays its first game on Saturday, Aug. 16 against Viterbo in a 4 p.m. preseason exhibition. Last year, USD beat the same club 3-0 in a similar tune-up game.
The Coyotes officially open their season Friday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. against NCAA Division II’s Northern State.
“We really are focusing on team unity with 30 players on the roster,” Green said of the team’s planned points of emphasis this next week or so. “We will focus a lot on technical first touch, keeping possession on our attacking half of the field, finishing, and defending. That’s what we are going to really focus in at all of our practices.”
Reeves, junior goalkeeper Mackenzie Victor, junior midfielder Rebecca Sparkman, senior forward Lauren Bennett, and junior defender Kasha Meyer are just some of the players the Coyotes will count on as the season approaches.
But it appears the 10 seniors have got things going in the direction Green wants and that’s half the battle already won in 2014.
“They know what doing it right looks like,” Green said. “They aren’t saying it, they are doing it. They are modelling the actions and behaviors we want.”