For the past two weeks, the Newport Harbor High field hockey team has been preparing for the season with two-a-days.
The Newport girls went through rigorous conditioning in the morning and worked on technique and team aspects in the afternoon. It's a traditional process for them at this time of the year, but there seems to be much more at stake this season.
When it comes to field hockey, Newport Harbor is a dynasty. Last year, the program won its fourth straight Los Angeles Field Hockey Assn. Tournament of Champions.
The Sailors know they must work harder to continue the success.
"It's a lot of pressure to be honest," senior captain Jane Layton said of living up to the hype that comes from the four consecutive TOC titles. "But that pressure just turns into motivation. Each year is different. In the end, it would be great to win it again, but as long as our team can do the best we can do that's really all that matters. We want to play to our best ability.
"Winning the past four TOC titles, we do have a huge target on our back but that just makes us want to work harder and play better as a team."
"Team," is an important word among the Newport Harbor girls, also known as "Chix with Stix." Last year, when Newport Harbor did not win the Sunset League title, Coach Amanda Boyer continued to remind her players the importance of teamwork heading into the postseason.
She also stressed improvement and encouraged the team as it continued to peak at the right time.
This year, if there is ever adversity, Boyer can again point to the importance of teamwork. It's even effective at the start of the season. Newport Harbor opens the season against Harvard-Westlake at Davidson Field on Tuesday.
"This year's team is really different from last year," said Boyer, a former goalie who has compiled a 44-6-2 record in her two seasons as head coach. "They really want to want play as a team and are excited to be with each other. There is a lot of excitement about being on varsity. That will carry them to getting stronger and being ready to play this season."
Boyer, who was an assistant coach for two years before becoming head coach, said there has been great community support for the program. The supporters are also in favor of the team concept, because they have seen it produce success.
The importance of team is one of the few aspects that make it OK to invoke the past when it comes to what can happen this season. The Sailors can be proud of their four TOC titles, but Boyer is quick to say that those championships are in the past.
"The girls don't want to be compared to the last four teams," Boyer said. "They want to build their own name for themselves."
The Sailors feature eight returners on this year's team, including senior captains Layton, Sidney Dexter and Kirsten Rohan.
Jill Messersmith, Taury Hlinka, Anna Newman and Hannah Vigil are seniors who also want to leave Newport Harbor with yet another TOC title.
Newport Harbor will be missing one returner, junior Emily Conant. She tore her ACL in a bike accident in July, Boyer said. Conant had surgery last week and will miss the season.
The Sailors usually have one sophomore on the team, Boyer said, but they will have three this season on the varsity.
Boyer said it will be exciting to have that youth from Jordan Blanchfield, Carolyn Dels and Allana Rockwell.
In addition to the eight returners, Boyer said she is grateful to have assistant coach Judy Schaefer, who has been with the program the past four years.
"She is really a huge asset to the team," Boyer said of Schaefer.