GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Fourteen girls signed up to form Grand Canyon School's first all girls soccer team to kick off the 2015-2016 school year.
Getting the girl's team started was not as challenging as it could have been. Gretchen Bilton, the girl's soccer coach, credits the ease of getting the team off the ground to the girl's enthusiasm to start a team of their own.
She also believes the skills the girls have learned while competing for the co-ed team will go a long way in the upcoming season.
"The girls are actually pretty tough," she said. "Because they've had to play against the boys all these years."
This is Bilton's first year coaching high school soccer, although she has coached a wide variety of other sports including softball, basketball, soccer and high school volleyball,
Between the girls and boys teams, four coaches have stepped up to help the kids learn the essentials of the game: Fit Kids teacher Jesse Magana and park employee Josh Sigmon will coach the boys while Bilton and Monica Nanacasia will coach the girls team.
"Pre-season we are all going to be working together. Josh played college soccer, so he's sort of our soccer go to," Bilton said. "Jesse and I are pretty good at conditioning and things like that, where we may not know as much about the sport as Josh does, so that's where he kind of runs the soccer drills."
Bilton started at Grand Canyon School last September, first stepping in to help fill in as the school's health aide before transferring to teach middle school social studies for the rest of the year. In addition to coaching this season, Bilton is also teaching middle school and high school P.E. classes.
At this point Bilton is not projecting any expectations for the season - at least not until after their first game.
"Not having coached here last year or seeing any of the other teams we're going to be going up against, it's hard to say," she said. "I am really thinking these girls are going to be tough and they're going to go out and play super hard."
One of the challenges the team faces this year is having no senior teammates.
"It's a pretty young team, because I only have two junior girls and I don't have any seniors," Bilton said.
According to Bilton, players to watch out for this year are Mariela Montano and Jessica Richardson.
"I'm thinking Jessica's going to be in the goal," Bilton said. "Then they'll probably switch around as far as the other positions go."
Practice and conditioning helps determine which players are best suited for each position and Bilton said, up to this point, the team has worked hard at all practices.
"Right now we've been doing a lot of conditioning - ladders, running and lots of foot work," Bilton said. "I was really impressed on the first day, not one complaint and we pushed them hard."
The girl's go up against Camp Verde for their first game at noon Sept. 19 at Camp Verde High School.