The San Jose State University women's soccer team, the 2009 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season champion, is in the midst of preparing for the 2010 season.
Head coach Jeff Leightman, the current WAC Coach of the Year, and the first Spartan coach to lead the team to a winning record in 10 years, offers a brief overview on preseason training.
Q: How have the opening days of practice gone?
"It's gone quite well. We're very pleased with where the team is right now. They came back fit. Everyone passed "fitness" which is a great sign, because it shows they made the commitment this summer to prepare. They have a great attitude and a competitive spirit. The team has come together and is really, really super close right now.
We've built a family atmosphere right away that is fairly rare for it to happen so quickly. We're excited about what this season brings.
Q: What are some aspects of the game you want to accomplish now?
Right now the challenge is how is the team going to come together on the field, getting the right combinations and bringing our freshmen up to speed. We're going to count on a bunch of them in key roles getting them to the proper pace. I think our returners are doing a great job setting the pace and tempo of training.
Quite frankly, we can't play at the pace and style we want to play if we aren't fit and no really athletic with the ability to recover and make the next run at a team. Being able to play at a million miles an hour and playing at a sprint is what Division I women's soccer has become. It's being able to play at a sprint for 90 minutes as opposed to jogging around or walking.
We're excited about where the team is going. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do between now and August 20 when we play USF. We're going to use these days to maximum potential. Hopefully, we should be ready.
Q: The Spartans are WAC champions. Do you notice any difference in the team this fall compared to your first two pre-seasons with the team?
I think there is a big difference, however, not the difference you would think. One, I think the confidence level is a lot higher. The players are carrying themselves a lot better, but I think there is still anger over how last season ended. The returning players have let the freshmen know we weren't satisfied with last year. This is coming from the players and not the coaching staff. There's a bit of a chip on their shoulder right now. We didn't achieve what we wanted. We took giant steps, but we still have work to do.
We have that blue-collar attitude that we aren't going to settle. We're going to keep getting after it and take that next giant step. I'm really proud of players, because they brought the right mentality to the preseason.
The Spartans open the 2010 season at USF on August 20. After a road match at Santa Clara on August 22, San Jose State's home opener is against Sacramento State, Friday, August 27, in Spartan Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.