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The Last Five Minutes with Tara Telford

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Preseason has started once again. Here we all are, some of us finishing our fifth preseason and rounding off our time at Memphis, and some just beginning our first week of a long, successful career as a Tiger. Although preseason is a word that all of us cringe when we hear, truthfully, I remove it from my vocabulary for 11 months a year, it is really a great time to shape and discover yourself as a player, and us as a team. What we endure during the month of August is something that 99% of people will never be able to relate to. We push our bodies beyond their capability, and push our mental toughness to its full capacity. We have no life in preseason outside of soccer. We literally eat, sleep, and play soccer. Yes, we sacrifice half our summer to coming back to school early, we sacrifice sleeping in to practice at 6am, we sacrifice our bodies to 300-yard shuttles, we sacrifice our social lives by staying in a hotel disconnected from the outside world, but in the end, all these sacrifices are well worth it, as they add up to a chance at winning our fifth-straight championship.

As I mentioned, we are only a week into preseason. I know that doesn't sound like very much, but ask any girl on our team, and she will attest that we have gone through and accomplished so much in such a short period of time. Let me give you a rundown of our past week, and where we stand as a group.

We started the first day off with the Sebcoe test, which is a combination between fitness and soccer skills. As a whole, we did not meet our expectations for this test. As our program keeps improving and being nationally recognized, our standards are continually rising. A lot of players coming in, and returning, didn't prepare themselves for the level we've set for our team. The later session that day consisted of an 11-a-side scrimmage against each other. Overall, despite the excruciating heat, we had a great practice. Everyone brought their "A" game and stepped onto the field with something to prove. We had returners really step up and shine, as well as a couple freshmen who proved that they are here to win a spot. The next two days we knocked out two more fitness tests. Although once again the level wasn't where it needs to be for the people who put in a ton of work this summer, their fitness testing was over. Our afternoon practices on both these days were strictly one vs. ones and two vs. two's. Nothing like throwing us in the deep end and hoping we can swim eh?

For those of you who don't know, when we do these practices they are an all out battle. You prove to the coaches, yourself, and your teammates, how tough, skilled, and overall how passionate you are about playing the game that you've grown up to know and love. Now listen, when I say we were done with fitness tests after the first three days, that in no way means we are done with fitness. If anyone thought it was going to get any easier after testing, the fourth day of preseason turned around and laughed in their face. We did 300-yard shuttles paired with 18-42's. This is my fourth year with the program, and this was definitely one of the toughest days of fitness I have ever gone through. But, no matter how hard things are, we always get through it as a team.

Thankfully, after such a hard day of fitness, we only had one session on Sunday. It was a fun session consisting of relay fitness and shooting. After that, the freshmen and sophomores went to Jodi's house to cook a huge meal for the rest of us. They did an awesome job and the food was delicious. Now, the juniors and seniors have a chance to top their cooking next week when we cook for everyone.

Our team is really starting to come together and unite as one. People are starting to gain confidence, pass their fitness tests, and really getting into the swing of things. Not everyday we have is perfect, but overall, everyone is giving a great effort and pushing themselves to be the best they can be.

We have a huge weekend coming up, with our first time to put on our jerseys and compete. Although it's only a preseason match, it's still a huge game for our team. We need to take this opportunity to set the bar for the rest of the season. Coming off of four-straight conference championships expectations are high this year, and we are all looking to match and beat our previous performance. As a senior, I know I definitely want to go out with a bang, as does the rest of my class. Why stop now? We're definitely going to "strive for five" and it all starts with our first game this weekend.

Let's go Tigers, make this our best season yet.

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