One magical run just ended. The Helias girls' soccer team is already thinking about another.
"Outside of getting married and having kids, it was one of the best experiences I've ever had," Helias head coach Brad Dempsey said Wednesday before camp for grades K-8 at the 179 Soccer Park. "We felt like we made a run, we were finally getting to where what we worked for all season. We're not even close to where we want to be. With that said, with what we bring back, it's really exciting."
Helias is coming off its best season in program history, a second-place finish in Class 2 that ended with a 2-0 loss to top-ranked St. Dominic in the title game June 1 in Blue Springs. The Lady Crusaders lose just three starters, thus returning a strong nucleus capable of making another run at ultimate glory.
"These young ladies are excited about playing Helias girls soccer," Dempsey said. "We're putting in the work. We'll be ready for next season."
The high-school girls are just assisting with the youth camps this week that end today, and will begin training sessions of their own next week.
"Our goals for our players individually are to improve their first touch, continue to gain a better understanding of the game and have that soccer IQ in small spaces and be able to understand where to go and what to do with the ball," Dempsey said. "It's extremely important to be around the ball, to touch the ball. We will work hard in our training sessions. We train, physical training, all the way up to the season. We have girls that play on club teams all the way through."
Helias will attend team camp July 10-14 at Indiana State University, with 32 girls participating.
"They're running a camp where they do college-training sessions mixed in with play," Dempsey said. "We're going to play some teams from Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, all over the place. We're going to get about six games for both JV and varsity. The girls are really excited about it."
This week wasn't about the high-school players, though. The camps are about instructing the next wave of young talent in the Helias system.
"We have about 60 girls," Dempsey said. "I added K-2 this year. Sometimes they're the most fun group. They'll come out and do whatever you ask and have so much fun. Those kids leave loving the sport. They'll come home and play it. They'll go home and play soccer because they had so much fun at camp. That's where you plant the seed for kids to want to continue to be a part of that sport."
For the youngsters, it's been all about the basics.
"With the little kids, it's dribble, pass, shoot," Dempsey said. "Seventh- and eighth-graders - touch, small-sided games, checking to the ball, passing angles, making runs, just simple understanding of the game. We had to do a lot of that stuff with our varsity team."
While the 2014 season is still a long way off, there's no downplaying the enthusiasm emanating from the team.
"You kind of get antsy," Dempsey said. "We're so excited about our program. We'll keep moving forward."