OKEMOS - Constant improvement. Having fun. Remaining focused on the ultimate goal.
These are key elements of first-year Head Coach Darus Ward's plan for success for Okemos girls soccer in 2015.
"I told the girls I had three goals for them," Ward said. You know, one is to improve every day. One is to enjoy being out with the girls, you know, being out with the family, as we call it, and then to get back to where we were last season and see what happens from there."
The Chiefs made it to the state semifinals in 2014. The team was also named CAAC Blue co-champions under head coach Brian Guggemos, who resigned to focus on other commitments.
Senior centerback Erin O'Connor said she will never forget last year's run.
"It was amazing," she said. " It was my second time seeing states. The feeling, the atmosphere, its unreal just getting so close."
Repeating success isn't always easy, but the Chiefs might have the tools to make another deep run, if they can find their confidence early in the season.
"I think it just comes back to the believing in ourselves part," said senior midfielder Erin Doster. "We don't have a lot of confidence, but I think we are very fast learners."
The Okemos girls soccer team has a number of experienced players on their roster that helped the team make that state semifinal run last season. However, there's a considerable amount of newcomers on the team as well.
"So far, we're young, but honestly, we've shown nothing but progress in the couple weeks that we've had to practice, and I'm excited to see what's to come," said senior goalkeeper Vanessa Nigg.
Coach Ward and his three captains-Nigg, Doster and O'Connor- all agreed the team showed signs of improvement in a scrimmage at Howell High School on March 18.
The Chiefs are hopeful that they'll be able to develop skills and quickly adjust to Ward's new system to once again fight their way to the top.
"I think high school soccer is really unpredictable where any team can make a really far run in the state tournament," Doster said. "We did that last year, we were really big underdogs and we ended up making it to the state semis. We hope to repeat that success again and shock the world."