East Peoria is shooting for considerable improvement this spring.
The Raiders have done all they can to prepare for the beginning of the girls soccer season as they try to achieve a .500 season.
East Peoria has been outdoors all but two sessions since practice officially began Feb. 25. That has meant dealing with the persistent winter elements, including lingering snowfall, in the three-and-a-half weeks before the 2013 opener.
While most other area teams in the preseason were at the opposite end, with almost an exclusive indoor schedule, the girls were getting accustomed to running with frozen feet.
"It's looking like we're going to have a good year," said EPCHS head coach Josh Childs. "I'm excited for the start."
After a 2-12-3 overall mark, including a sixth-place Mid-Illini Conference tie with Limestone at 1-5-1, a breakeven record would be a breakthrough for the Raiders.
"Our goal is a .500 season. I think that is pretty realistic for us," Childs said.
A trio of three-year starters figure to be leaders this year for East Peoria.
Junior Turner MacPhee will play center midfielder, while senior Jordyn Boles will be a target up top.
Previous goalkeeper Emily Forrest will move into a sweeper position for her junior season.
Three Raiders are vying to take over as keeper, with sophomore Serenah Minasian the frontrunner as of Friday. She served in that role at the frosh/soph level a year ago.
KJ Sommer is a freshman who will be able to help East Peoria move the ball around.
Childs said the Raiders will have solid players scattered throughout the field.
"They should be pretty well distributed throughout," he said.
The rest of the roster includes: seniors — Alexis Ellison and Erin Hale; juniors — Veronica Magana, Alena Mach, Bri Strudivant, Sammy Weiss, Kaitlynn Mews and Kat Ragon; sophomores — Andi Flinn and Bailey Hammond; and freshmen — Ellie Peterson and Timber MacPhee.
Childs added three-four sophomores probably will be brought up at some point.
East Peoria lost to graduation players such as Katelin Beckner and Hannah Crebo who competed in nearly every game over their four-year varsity careers, plus second-team all-conference choice Courtney Clark.
Taking a step forward in the league is a priority for the Raiders.
"We hope to make some progress," said Childs.
The M-I opener March 26 vs. Washington Tuesday will be a good indicator. The Lady Panthers were fifth in '12 at 3-4.
An April 11 non-conference match vs. Limestone is a key preview before the teams collide four days later in an outcome that will count in the league standings.
Morton is the 11-time defending M-I champion.
The East Peoria opponents are the same this season, beginning with Thursday's road game at Galesburg.
Page 2 of 2 - "I'm looking to get a good first game going," Childs said.