Zionsville head coach Rob Jordan knew that this year's group of seniors had the chance to be special from the moment they started in the high school program.
And nothing they have accomplished in their first three years in the program, including last year's state runner-up finish, has dampened that belief.
So while there are still things the Eagles have to clean up early this season, Jordan is excited about the possibilities of what this Eagles' team can do.
"When we saw this group coming in as freshmen, we knew they could be a special group," Jordan said. "We had another class come in behind them (the current juniors) that is just as talented. We were looking forward to this year, because we knew we had the potential to be really good. Last year's run maybe came a year earlier than we anticipated, but we felt like we have had the opportunity to play in the final game the last 4-5 years, we just didn't get the bounces. We fully expected to have a really talented team."
The Eagles came extremely close to winning the program's second state championship last year, falling 1-0 to Chesterton in overtime.
Zionsville finished the year 17-2-3. Jordan said that lost has served as motivation for this year's group.
"I don't think of it as a setback, because it is an incredible thing to get to the final game," Jordan said. "There is a lot of motivation to get back. They understood what a fun trip it is to get there, and it is worth every bit of effort you put in to get there. We have seen that throughout the summer. They have been training really hard, they have all been attentive at the voluntary stuff in the summer, and we are really excited for it."
Jordan said one of the things that has stood out about this group so far as they get ready for the season opener is seeing how much the team has been pushing each other.
"It's been really fun, because we have a group of guys that have really been on varsity for three years now," Jordan said. "Since their sophomore year, they have been excited to be here and they train extremely hard. It's really contagious. They uplift each other and it is just a neat group of guys, which I think I like more than anything."
Offensively, the Eagles graduated all-state forward Jack Seamands, but return the rest of the forward and midfield from last year's team.
Junior All-American Ben Weidner led the team with 12 goals and 11 assists last year, with senior Chris Freeman adding six goals and seven assists.
Josh Kuller had six goals and three assists, while junior Alex Carr had four. Evan Miller, Cam Greeson and Alec McCarty are also back.
"I think we should be a very dangerous team," Jordan said. "We are going to have a lot of opportunities in games I think. The way they control the ball, how they move off the ball and just our speed. We have a lot of really fast kids on this team, and that is exciting."
One question mark for the Eagles coming into the season is how they can replace a backline that allowed just 10 goals in 22 matches a season ago, and pitched 14 shutouts.
All the defenders graduated, and while there isn't much experience back there, Jordan said there is a lot of talent. Now they have to match the mindset that made last year's group so successful.
"The group we had last year were extremely good and aggressive," Jordan said. "They were a team that did not like getting scored on, which was a difference from the previous few years. We always said we didn't like getting scored on, but didn't really show it until last year. Hopefully we can keep that mentality with these guys and not allowing people to score. We just have to fine tune and put the right pieces in place. We have an idea and a really good group back there, we just have to figure out how those pieces fit."
Jordan said in the last full week of practice before the season gets underway, the focus will be on sorting out some of the formations and how the Eagles plan on defending set pieces and corners.
They will get a tough opponent right out of the gate, hosting Carmel at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
"Carmel is a great test," Jordan said. "I won't say it's a rivalry, only because a lot of times rivalries can get dirty and ugly and it has never been that way with Carmel. There is a good common respect between both teams and we enjoy playing each other. It is always a great test for us and it will give us an idea of who can step up and do the things that we need."