EUREKA — Shelby Chrisman-Forza took over as Eureka women's soccer coach in May.
On Monday, she held her first official practices on the turf of McKinzie Field, ushering in the 13th season in program history.
"The girls came out with a lot of heart and put a lot of work on the field for their first two practices," she said. "I'm really excited to see what they can make out of our season."
With only four returners, the Red Devils are going to have a noticeably different look this season. The team has welcomed a slew of newcomers, featuring freshmen, transfers and players who haven't played in a while.
Abby Swope (Canton, Ill./Canton), Maria Dust (Effingham, Ill./Effingham), Victoria Aranda (Bolingbrook, Ill./Joliet Catholic) and Laura Coovert (Washington, Ill./Washington) all return from the 2018 team.
Swope, the team's sophomore starting goalkeeper, tallied 237 saves while logging 1,235 minutes in the net last season. Dust and Aranda are both sophomores who started all 15 matches as freshmen. Coovert, one of two seniors, started 14 matches and recorded three shots on goal.
After an early morning and a warm evening of practice with the new squad, Swope was encouraged by what she saw.
"It went really well," Swope said. "We have a couple of new girls, so it's exciting to see how they do this year.
"I think they're going to add some talent to the team."
Chief among the team's talented additions is Madison Shines (Marengo, Ill./Marengo Community), who was a two-time All Kishwaukee River Conference honoree for the Indians. Previously a center back, she's primed to spend a lot more time on the ball as a force in EC's midfield this fall.
"It was really fun and really productive," Shines said of her first day as a Red Devil. "I learned a lot of techniques.
Other newcomers include Michaela Mall (Princeton, Ill./Princeton), Cayla Maloney (Mackinaw, Ill./Deer Creek-Mackinaw) and Hannah Hamilton (Saybrook, Ill./Ridgeview). Karen Gonzalez, a senior, returns to the program after playing as a freshman in 2016.
The Red Devils still looking to add depth leading up to the season opener against St. Mary of the Woods on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. Chrisman-Forza wants as many Eureka female student-athletes as possible to get to participate in the start of something unique.
"Taking over the program so late last semester, I had no idea about the level of the girls or who we were bringing in, but being on the field and seeing them communicate with each other was really awesome," the first-year coach said. "It gives me a lot of hope for some success this season."
She's not concerned with the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference preseason projections (10th), either.
"We've tailored our expectations," Chrisman-Forza said, "to making our team better and making our program better for the future."