The Cox Mill girls' soccer team expects to be overlooked this year. They plan on using that to their advantage.
"I think the other teams aren't really taking us seriously," said junior Jenna Siffringer.
The first-year school doesn't have any seniors and just five juniors are on the varsity team. Several of the players haven't played organized soccer in years.
But according to coach Christa Mooney and her Charger girls, this isn't your typical first-year squad.
"I think they're going to do very well," said Mooney, who is in her first year coaching at the high school level. "I think they're going to be very competitive in our conference."
Cox Mill doesn't look like your typical first-year squad either. The Chargers will field a full varsity and junior varsity team their first season, with 35 girls playing between the two teams.
This high level of interest was no accident. As soon as last year's girls' season was over at Northwest Cabarrus High (where many Cox Mill students would come from), Mooney held an interest meeting and periodic workouts through the summer and fall for small groups of interested players.
"That encouragement definitely helped bring a lot of girls out," said Mooney.
The coach said she wanted to start building a program early and give the younger players a chance to gain as much experience as possible. Several JV players practice with the varsity team, and when the JV doesn't have a game scheduled, Mooney plans on letting JV players play in varsity games.
Many of the players may not have experience playing at the high school varsity level, but they have experience on competitive club teams.
"We have a lot of girls that already know what they're doing," said Siffringer, who played at Northwest Cabarrus last year.
That's what Mooney, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Cox Mill Elementary, said she likes about coaching the high school team. She has coached younger club teams in the past.
"They're very skilled already so you can work on technical things," said Mooney.
The girls who played at Northwest Cabarrus last year already know what it takes to win. The Trojans finished 17-4 overall and 15-1 in the North Piedmont Conference last year, which included soccer powerhouse Lake Norman.
Now the sophomores from that team must step up and be leaders as juniors on the Charger squad.
"It's weird being the new leader as a junior," said Mollie Calloway. "You have to step up a year early."
But at the same time, it gives the players a chance to create a new tradition at the new school and be the first seniors to graduate through the Cox Mill soccer program.
"We're having to start over...which is hard," said Calloway.
With a new combination of girls, many of them freshman, Siffringer said that much of what they're doing is experimentation.
"It's exciting because we get to try new things," she said.
Mooney wants to challenge her team this year. The Chargers played in the Myers Park Jamboree last week, which featured several top area teams including last year's 3A state semifinalist Marvin Ridge. Cox Mill didn't win any games, but Mooney was happy with their play, considering that they didn't have their goalkeeper and the players had only practiced together one day.
Now her focus is on getting the team prepared for a long season. The team has 23 games on their schedule this year, and Mooney said that she is working on conditioning. They spent the end of practice one day last week running suicide sprints across the field.
"Anybody that steps on the field we'll be able to run with," she said.
As the season approaches, Siffringer is ready to take the field with the Chargers. She's ready to surprise some teams because people don't expect much from Cox Mill.
"We have to try and stand out and make a name for ourselves," said Siffringer.