Jacksonville, Fla. - Temperatures that soared into the mid-90's and periodic thunderstorms that rolled through Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood could not deter the Jacksonville University women's soccer team from pressing on with pre-season training camp.
With the 2017 soccer season rapidly approaching, the squad has been preparing for the schedule that lies ahead, hoping to improve on last year's campaign that saw it post a 4-11-1 record and a fifth place finish in the ASUN Conference.
Led by Head Coach Brian Copham, who enters his 10th season at the helm of the program, the Dolphins have begun to practice twice a day in anticipation for their August 10 road scrimmage at Georgia Southern, which will give them their first on-field action of the year.
Copham has been most impressed with how prepared his team has worked entering camp.
"We do a series of fitness tests for the first four days to see where everyone is," he said. "Everyone came back pretty fit, which is exciting. We've been able to go through a lot just because of the fit level they came in at. They came in with a great fitness base, so that allows us to play at a high tempo, to push them."
The Dolphins will have experience on their side in 2017, returning 10 of 11 starters from last year and 20 players overall. Assistant coaches Ryan Patridge and Julia Burton will also rejoin the team on the sidelines.
Leading the team on the field for the final season will be rising senior Joëlle d'Entremont, who will be looking to build on a stellar 2016 season that saw her earn First Team All-Conference honors.
The Dolphin captain stressed the importance of gathering team chemistry in the coming weeks prior to the start of the season.
"We're working to get to know each other as girls," d'Entremont said. "We have six new freshmen joining our team, so it's really just getting to know the girls, getting to know how everyone plays, and learning how to play as a team."
Beginning this Friday, the team will endure 18 contests this season, 16 in the regular season and a pair of scrimmages later this week. Eleven games are slated to be played on campus at Southern Oak Stadium, including 10 regular season home matches.
The upcoming schedule includes rematches against 11 opponents from the 2016 season, as well as a road tilt against Southeastern Conference (SEC) powerhouse South Carolina, who enters this year off an Elite 8 appearance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Copham welcomes the challenges that the upcoming schedule brings for his squad.
"There's a lot of tough games that we're going to have to play our best in," he said. "The good news is that we have to play our best to be successful. That's what we have to get used to doing."
The first glimpse of the 2017 Dolphin squad at home this season can be seen on Sunday, Aug. 13, at 5:00 P.M., when the team welcomes Southeastern University (Florida) to campus for its second of two exhibition games.
Jacksonville will begin its 2017 regular season campaign, which features the first five matches at home, on Friday, Aug. 18, when it hosts the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Southern Oak Stadium at 7:00 P.M.