The Plano West girls soccer team met the end of its 2009-2010 season well before the ultimate goal of going to the state title game.
The team returns this season with added experience in hopes of bringing home the Class 5A state championship. That experience comes from adding a large group of sophomores who have experience playing together before they made their way onto the Plano West varsity squad.
The players believe that the dynamic of those sophomores growing up together adds a level of chemistry the team did not have last season.
"We know what each other is doing," sophomore Taylor Jackson said. "So growing up together in the soccer community, you just kind of learn what the player is doing and what they're thinking about. That's just helped a lot I think."
But the young age of the Plano West players does not reflect their level of maturity, Plano West head coach Jennifer Grubb said.
"I always tell them every year that I don't really look at freshman, sophomores, juniors or seniors," Grubb said. "I'm looking for varsity players that are not only good soccer players but can handle it maturity-wise. These girls, especially the sophomores, carry themselves as if they were juniors and seniors."
Part of that maturity manifests itself in the team's ability to move from goofing off and having a good time with each other to becoming extremely serious and competitive once they hit the field. Grubb believes the emotional bonds the girls create in the time they spend off the field helps create the great chemistry that has been shown on the field.
The intangables that help make this team what it is creates a brand of soccer that is simply fun to watch, Grubb said.
Plano West prides itself on an ability to play defense, but the Lady Wolves are looking for the offense to catch a hot streak and give the defenders a little margin for error.
"Our biggest goal is offensively doing really well," senior forward Kate Anderson said. "We have a really good defense; that's never been our problem. Offensively, that's our biggest goal is to score more goals: on those easy teams, just score more goals, and on harder teams get those shots in that we need to get in to win those games."
Winning games has not been a problem for Plano West, gathering an undefeated 8-0 record on the season going into the first game of district play Tuesday. The perfect start to the 2011 campaign earned the Lady Wolves the No. 2 spot on the ESPN Rise FAB 50 in Week 8 of the polls, surpassing other area teams who have fallen from the top 10 after acquiring losses early in the season.
It's that ability and drive to win that sets this team apart from others in the area and others that Grubb has coached at Plano West.
"At the end of the day, this is a group that has the heart," Grubb said. "They play with a lot of heart. They want everything that comes with the game, just from the team and the bus rides and all of that, but when they step on the field it's a fun group to watch."