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View From The Top - Atlanta Beat Midfielder Vendula Strnadova

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The longest preseason of my life is over. The first week I thought I would die, the next couple were a bit of a blur, and the last few, I have been mostly conscious and functioning. This last week has been busy with practices (still two a day), appearances, interviews, meetings, and all of the excitement surrounding the first game. We play Boston at home in our beautiful big stadium on a Saturday night. I have no idea how many people will be here, but I think last year they had about 6,000 fans come out for the home opener. The grass is really nice on the field, the weather should be perfect to play soccer in, so it's a good deal for everyone.

Coming to Atlanta has brought a lot of changes. I live in a giant nice house with seven other girls. We have all gotten along very well, so it is working out. It takes around 20-25 minutes to get to practice so we leave about an hour and fifteen minutes before practice every day. The traffic can be really bad in the mornings around 4-7 o'clock when people are driving to and from the city. There are giant geese that fly over our field and stop by on our practice field sometimes, which I was really amazed by when I first saw them. I have never seen birds that big.

So in case you guys were wondering how preseason went, I'll tell you a little about it - that is the parts I remember. We practiced twice a day almost every day with a couple days off after some of our games, and occasionally one practice a day. In the morning, we practiced between two and a half to four hours, and in the afternoon, one and a half to two and a half hours. I lose track of time, days, and months, but I think that is fairly accurate. So the reason I almost curled up into a little ball and died the first week was that I wasn't used to eating a lot for breakfast and was practicing for so long every day. But I made a full recovery by going to Walmart to buy a ton of food, shoving that food down my throat all the time, and sleeping between practices. I eat tons of goldfish, chocolate, ice cream, other desserts, and of course normal food too. That's what's so great about practicing a lot - you get to eat and sleep all the time, which are two of my favorite activities.

At practice, we do a lot of skills like juggling, passes, and moves, and a lot of possession. I can definitely say we have all improved a ton in the skills area. For fitness, we have done a couple of long hour runs where we run through forests and over mountains, and a lot of short sprints. A lot of the stuff we do is actually like fitness because we do it at high speeds: like dribbling around flags to work on our touch, doing moves, and playing one touch possession. We played eight games in preseason against college teams, and have gotten so much better playing as a team as the games went on. We won every game and only had one goal scored on us. Everyone played in preseason, we tried people at different positions, and we practiced different formations. We have a lot of good players, so I don't know who is going to play or start tomorrow.

Throughout preseason, we have heard a lot about our team. People say we don't have enough good players, we have too many young players out of college, and we have no chance of doing any better than last place in this league. Everyone knows people don't expect us to do well, but that doesn't matter. If anything, that gives us more motivation to play well. Our coaches and staff believe in us and have constantly told us we deserve to be here, we are good players, and have a really good chance to do well if we work hard. We may not have a lot of players that are well known and on various national teams, but we all work for the team and play well together. It's amazing how much our team gets along and the attitudes everyone has. All of the older players have said how special this team is. It is rare to have a team that has players that get along so well, help each other, and work hard for each other. We don't have any players that complain all the time, slack off, or yell at other players. I think that is important and will help us on the field.

So going into our first game, I am very excited. I love playing on our field, and hopefully there will be a lot of fans there. I am confident our team can do well and play our game. We have been getting ready for this for so long, it seems like forever. The only thing left to do is chug that water, get enough sleep, and try to convince someone to give me a massage. Later today, we get our jerseys and find out what number we get, which I hope is No. 5 like I had at Memphis. After that, there is nothing left but to start the season.

Strnadova, the Conference USA Midfielder of the Year and four-time first team all-conference selection, wrapped up her Memphis career with a four goal, six assist campaign to climb to fifth place in program history in each category. Starting all 22 matches, Strnadova is tied for the program for matches played with 86 and also holds the record for shots in a career with 246.

The Las Cruces, N.M., native was a three-time first team NSCAA All-Central Region selection and was a major factor in Memphis' fourth-straight C-USA Championship in 2010. Memphis finished with a 15-4-3 record, the second-best finish in program history, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth-straight season.

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