Soccer preview: Big expectations

On a warm Tuesday afternoon, six pairs of colorful soccer cleats form a circle near The Pit waiting to begin their co-ed soccer class. Among the players is forward and captain Makayla Nichols, laughing and enjoying her time with returning teammates.

The 2016-17 women’s soccer season is a few months away, and the ladies are preparing body and mind to be in the best shape they can be before their first game of the fall. They have high expectations to bring in an 11th conference title as well as conquering the state playoffs.

According to Nichols, to accomplish their goals the ladies must have a consistent mentality and work as a team to get farther in playoffs than last year.

“[The mentality of] always coming to practice and working hard and making sure you’re here,” Nichols said. “When you are here you are focusing on what the coach has to say and making sure you’re giving 100 percent at practice.”

In the 2015-16 season, the ladies ended with a record of 13-2-6 and competed in the Western State Conference for the 15th time in a row. They took the No. 3 seed into the state playoffs – defeating LA Valley, 3-0, in their first match, but lost to Moorpark at home 1-0.

“We had a phenomenal season,” coach Adolfo Perez said. “We won conference for the tenth time. The team was remarkable and we led the state in less goals against. We only allowed seven goals all year.”

The team’s success was due to their defense and their ability to score goals as a team. Instead of relying on one key player the team scored collectively, according to Perez.

Even with their success on the field, returning players are directing their energy on improving mistakes from last season, as well as establishing and maintaining strong bonds with new players.

“Our weakness was our consistency,” Perez said. “There were some games that we looked like rock stars and other games we were flat.”

The Brahmas had other issues like not being physically prepared as they should have during last season.

“I think for us, as a team, we are going to focus on being more in shape because we had a problem with that last season, where in the summer training we didn’t do as much fitness as we should have,” Nichols said. “So it kind of reflected when we played.”

To change that, Nichols, along with her teammates, are working Monday – Friday for an hour with Nick Mosich, who is in charge of strength and conditioning for Pierce’s athletic teams.

Returning player, center-mid and criminology major, Tessa Koziol, says she needs to shoot more from far out and have more confidence in herself and see where that confidence will take her.

Emotion is running high amongst the players. In the summer the intense practices begin when the whole team is united.

“I’m excited because this is my second year,” Koziol said. “I have experience now in the college level.”

The women’s soccer team has proven multiple times that they are formidable. Out of 62 programs throughout the state of California, only 16 are able to participate in the state playoffs as well as the 10 conference titles under their belt.

“We’ve been blessed,” Perez said. “We’ve had so much success that we are everybody’s rival. Here at Pierce it is our expectation to win a state championship, at least to win conference. Other schools it’s to beat Pierce.”