Conditioning and reaching tiptop playing shape have been the focus of the Lady Longhorn soccer team’s preseason training.
“We want to get the girls in playing shape,” said second-year coach Amy Wilcox.
During the sessions, which began two weeks ago, the team members attended a British team camp and worked out under the watchful eye of fitness guru Linda Gibson, also a former Lady Horn coach and a one-time Boston Marathon entrant.
With the girls now rounding into proper playing condition, the team practices have turned to actual game situations.
“Such as player positions,” said Wilcox. “We are also focusing on specific skills of the game, such as passing, shooting and dribbling.”
Thus far, injuries are the only hindrance that have slowed the progress of the team as it prepares for an Aug. 27 scrimmage against Show Low and the Aug. 30 season opener at Desert Christian.
“We do have a couple of injuries we are trying to get taken care of before our first game,” Wilcox said. “We are being patient about training the girls with the injuries.
“We would rather have them healthy for the season.”
While the injury bug has slowed some players, others continue to practice diligently and show a strong ethic.
“We have a great group of hard-working girls,” Wilcox said.
Among that group is a core of players who the coach expects will shoulder the all important leadership roles this season.
“We have many leaders on our team — some are vocal leaders and some show leadership by their attitude and work ethic,” Wilcox said.
While freshmen are not normally expected to fill leadership roles, Jaymi Chilson is proving first-year team members can be leaders as well the older, veteran players.
“She works hard and encourages others to work hard and try their best,” Wilcox said.
The coach also points to Natalie Moceri and Nidia Vega as team leaders.
“It is obvious they love the game and want their teammates to be the best they can be,” said Wilcox.
Natalie Black is another player drawing plaudits from the coach.
“She is always encouraging the team, even though she suffers from asthma and has to step out occasionally,” Wilcox said.
The coach understands asthma effects all too well, having suffered it during her three-sport career at Payson High as well as while playing collegiate soccer.
Wilcox says Black’s goal this year is to become an all-region player and, “I think she has a pretty good chance.”
With the 2011 season just over the horizon, the coach is anxiously looking forward to the onset partly because the team is playing, for the first time ever, in Division IV after being in the now defunct Class 3A East region for years.
The change was mandated last year in an Arizona Interscholastic Association reconfiguration of all high schools.
“We will be playing teams we have never seen before,” said Wilcox. “It will be a challenge, but I have a good feeling about this season.”