This weekend in South Florida, the U-19 Lady Cobras soccer team returns to compete in the Final Four of the State Cup.
For extra motivation, Sunday they will face Hillsborough County United, the same team that defeated the Lady Cobras last year.
Cobras coach Chris Swezey and his squad hopes this is the year their hard work pays off with a state championship.
"Most of the team has been playing together since they were in U-13," said Swezey, who has coached the team since its inception.
"We practice three times per week for two hours and we scrimmage against boys," added Swezey. "Even though we get beat soundly, our play level increases due to the faster pace and the strength of the boys."
To advance to this weekend's Final Four in Weston, the Lady Cobras won twice in their three preliminary matches. In the opening round, they tied Kendall Soccer Coalition 2-2. Alicia Schuering started off the scoring with a free kick from about 25 yards out in the eighth minute. Michelle Lang later scored a goal on a cross by Lindsay Zullo. However, a penalty kick allowed Kendall to tie the score at 2.
The second-round match against the Sarasota Storm presented a must-win situation. A lone goal in the first half by Zullo was the difference in the game.
Round 3 against Port St. John was also low scoring, with Schuering converting on a penalty kick.
The players believe they are prepared for this weekend.
"Coach Chris pushed us and got us into shape to play the whole game," midfielder Heather White said. "We conditioned with sprints and long runs, plus sets of core and strength training every night."
The training regimen employed by Swezey includes pushups, stretching, one-legged squats, and a Nordic exercise known as "Russian hamstrings."
With several players leaving for college and employment, Swezey already has his eyes on the 2009-10 season. He is inviting 16- to 19-year-olds for a tryout. Call (727) 919-0172 for details.