In preparation for a grueling fall season, the Idaho womenâ€™s soccer team has planned a rigorous spring season.
The Vandals return to the field after winning the Big Sky regular season title with an unbeaten conference record of 9-0-1. Idaho was the first Big Sky program to win nine conference games in one season.
The team will begin its eight-game spring campaign Saturday against Gonzaga at 3:30 p.m. in Spokane.
Junior midfielder Alyssa Lloyd said the team has been transitioning back into the game, focusing primarily on defensive strategies during spring practices.
â€œItâ€™s exciting because we actually have enough numbers to really play this spring,â€ Lloyd said. â€œLast spring we were a little bit low on numbers.â€
The team worked specifically on defensive drills Tuesday morning in an effort to sharpen their defensive edge.
â€œWe want to get better at what we do,â€ said head coach Derek Pittman. â€œWe need to add layers on top of the core that we are. Defense will always come first for us.â€
Pitman said the spring season is all about development, especially for newcomers to the program.
â€œPlaying Gonzaga is always a good measuring stick for us because I think Gonzaga is a very good program,â€ Pittman said. â€œI know our players are excited and looking for the opportunity to maybe get a win over them.â€
Pittman spent four seasons at Gonzaga as the associate head coach before accepting the head coaching position at Idaho. While with the Bulldogs, Pittman was responsible for defensive and goalkeeper coaching duties.
Under Pittmanâ€™s guidance, the Vandals have produced the longest win streak in the nation with 14 games. Eight Vandal athletes were awarded All-Big Sky Team honors last year.
The team also saw a ninth place ranking in the Pacific Region by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America during the fall.
The Vandals recorded more goals, assists, points and shutouts than any other previous season.
Junior midfielder Clara Gomez set a new Big Sky Conference record with 13 assists, which also serves as the programâ€™s highest mark in a single season.
Junior forward Kavita Battan finished the season with 10 goals and five assists to earn both First Team All-Big Sky and NCAA All-Pacific Region Second Team honors.
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to getting started and playing some games,â€ Lloyd said.
Tess Fox can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos