NEW PALESTINE — Tossing the blue leather soccer ball from hand to hand, Gina Fannin, was all business watching her players run laps around the New Palestine High School track.
She and a couple of injured players were standing on the hot asphalt, encouraging their teammates to pick up the pace and get their conditioning in.
Summer training for the upcoming girls soccer season is well underway for the Dragons, who went 10-4-1 last year and shared a part of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title with a 5-2 mark.
The offseason training is a good place to start the process, Fannin said, who has big plans for this year’s squad.
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Although she doesn’t want to get too far ahead of herself thinking about what the team could accomplish this year, she’s optimistic. But, for now, it’s all about putting in the hard work to get the players in shape.
The team hits the practice field for more intense work when squads are allowed to start working together after moratorium week is over on July 10.
“With soccer you want to peek at the right time, and the right time for us will be to make sure we’re where we want to be when sectional rolls around,” Fannin said. “That’s when we want to be playing our best soccer.”
The team is currently lifting weights, running and playing some 3-on-3 action for conditioning to get prepared for the start of the regular season, which kicks off against Perry Meridian in mid-August.
They know they need to take care of business the first couple of games, to help set the pace for the year, Fannin said. Several of their key conference match-ups, to determine who will win the conference, will come toward the end of the season.
Fannin, 41, is heading into her fifth year leading the Dragons after a year as an assistant. Her assistant this year is Justin Holden, a father of two young girls. Holden has played soccer with Fannin since the two where in middle school together and they approach the game with the same intensity as coaches, he said.
Fannin, a former Warren Central High School soccer player, played at Butler University before transferring to Ball State University where she played club soccer for two years.
Knowing the game as well as she does, watching her team work hard during the off-season is a good indication as to what kind of season they’ll have, she said.
Despite losing top seniors Meaghan Matus, Lauren Heitman and Katie Settegren, the coach feels like the team will be solid.
“I think we still have a pretty strong core group that we will rely on,” Fannin said.
She has a handful of seniors coming back she plans to look toward for leadership including forwards Corrin Nesse and Olivia Mckilligin.
Haley Harrison, a junior midfielder, was one of over two dozen players putting in the hard work during off-season conditioning. If the players can start building now toward the upcoming season, she suspects they will have a successful year.
Last year, Harrison, a two-sport athlete who also shines on the basketball court for the Dragons, played both junior varsity and varsity soccer. She’s pushing herself this summer to make sure she gets plenty of playing time with the varsity team who has already sets its sights high.
“We want to work to win a sectional, a regional and maybe more and this is time to get to do that,” Harrison said.
Her goal is to leave it all on the field every day, including during summer workouts.
“It’s less about winning and losing. That’s just a plus,” Harrison said. “It’s about working hard during every game and every practice, getting better and improving, and if all of us improve together, that’s what we want.”
Team work is what Fannin is stressing for the upcoming season. She said it’s going to take a collective team effort if they’re going to have a good year.
She’ll learn a little more about her team after the group plays in a scrimmage against Heritage Christian in a couple of weeks.