Four new goalkeepers, three prolific scorers, a trip to Venture River Water Park and a water bottle.
This is the 2019 foundation of the Murray State women's soccer program, which would like nothing more than to continue a half-decade of success and live up to preseason expectations by winning a fourth league title in the past five years.
Who to put in goal?
So, second-year head coach Matt Lodge's biggest question coming into Year 2 of his tenure? Who to put between the posts, following the graduation of four-year starter and elite keeper Alex Steigerwald.
It's the easiest query, sure, but also one of the toughest spots to fill. Steigerwald ended her career with a 46-13-6 record, a 0.935 goals-against average and 27 career shutouts. She had the trust of the defense, the vocal command of the backline and the athleticism to correct across her body on tough shots.
Naturally, Lodge and his staff addressed the position in the off-season. Lone layover and reserve Cera Prather, who played with the team in the spring, has Old Dominion transfer Jamie Skarupsky, Swedish native Jasmine Rosell and Westerville, Ohio, native Jenna Villacres wrapped around her in a dead-heat competition for the starting job.
And when former Racer and previous position coach Taylor Stevens moved on, Lodge went back to another former Racer in Racheal Foxley to school the stoppers.
"Right now, it's a toss up, but I think they're all doing great," Lodge said. "All are better in different worlds. All of them are good at shot-stopping, but we have one that's better with her feet, one that's better at services.
"It's a really good group, and I think it's going to change from week to week. Alex set the bar pretty high, but all four of these goalkeepers have all four years of eligibility. It's going to be a learning curve, but I think with the talent they have, they're going to step straight in."
Senior defender Karsyn Hasch -- who made Ohio Valley Conference All-Newcomer in 2016, All-OVC First Team in '17 and All-OVC Second Team in '18 -- notes the best thing about having four keepers is the depth and the protection at the position.
"Honestly, having four keepers has made a big difference for us because we only had two keepers last year," she added. "It was going to be hard, because if Alex (Steigerwald) got hurt, we only had one other keeper (in Cera). And if Cera got hurt, we would've just gone back with Alex.
"I think, honestly, having four main keepers really improves the situation. We can play around with them. We don't know how they are yet. We get different perspectives of different keepers and stuff like that. And also … each of them have different characteristics on the field. That's, I think, the ideal situation for us because you never know what you're going to get."
Lodge does have the luxury of not one, not two ... but three scorers on which he can rely. Miyah Watford's marked because she scored 10 goals and had five assists last year? All right, maybe 2017 OVC Freshman of the Year Rebecca Kubin is open. She had eight goals and two assists in '18, including four game-winners.
Kubin is tied up, too? OK, what about 2018 OVC Freshman of the Year Abby Jones, who scored eight goals and had 10 assists last season? Is she open?
But inevitably, the Racers will need goals from other places and other positions. There will be times in which Jones, Watford and Kubin are all jammed up near the top, and Lodge certainly has his eye on some other legs to provide offense.
Veterans who could do it? Arianna Mendez, Emma Heise and Elizabeth Tilton.
"We've worked incredibly hard in the movement from our midfield," Lodge said. "Arianna Mendez has done a fantastic job. Her growth from her freshman to sophomore year has been substantial. She's really locked that spot down.
"Emma Heise, every year, is an unsung hero. She's come off the bench the last three years, and she understands and brings that extra energy off the bench. Brings that aerial threat. Brings the hard work. She's really worked hard this summer, and this preseason … the way she's holding the ball up is something none of the front three do right now. She brings a different dimension.
"Lizzie Tilton, same thing. She holds the ball, and she looks great in there."
But new goal scorers? Lodge is looking locally at former Hopkinsville University Heights Academy star Lilly Strader and former Murray High School star Parker Greer as scoring options.
"Lilly Strader has come in and done a fantastic job," he said. "She's coming in, and I've asked her to do some different stuff that she didn't do so much in high school and club, and she's taken it in strides.
"And then Parker Greer definitely has some potential there, if we can get some confidence built, because she is a natural goal scorer. She had two chances to score in the first scrimmage, and she scored both of them. She's naturally a very good finisher."
It's a simple concept, really. If team members don't like one another for any particular reason -- valid or not -- the collaboration will not perform well as a unit.
Chemistry has been the reason for sports success just as much as it has been the cause for implosion and disarray.
Here in the early stages of building, Lodge is seeing nothing but love, and it's something he's clearly noted in the memory banks.
"This is no disrespect to our old teams in the past, but it's been one of the closest-knit teams since I've been here, for sure," Lodge said. "We took them to Venture River the other day for a team-bonding session, and I was on the other side of the park with my daughter, and I could hear them laughing and screaming. There's just a great feel around camp right now. And not just on a soccer thing. They all generally care about each other.
"I'll use this example: I knew they were close Day 1. Symone Cooper couldn't run the fitness test because of (things), so she had to do it on her own. We do a track test, and she was flying around the track and all the girls were there. They were done with their workout, and they were all clapping her along. As soon as she got done, Parker Greer sprinted over with a water bottle. And that's something I don't take lightly. I think that's something that shows real character in our team. That they're going to look out for each other."
To be fair, the Racers will have little choice but to look out for each other in '19, because Xavier, Indiana and Ole Miss are all coming to Cutchin Field -- and 2018 was the first time in three years in which the Racers had taken a regular-season defeat in OVC play.
"I think where we're taking this program, we have to continue to take strides forward," Lodge added. "And that's by having tough opponents. The goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, and most likely the first place we're going is to the SEC or Power 5. So I want to be in that domain where we've seen that kind of play, and we understand what to expect and we're not starstruck.
"And the other thing is, out-of-conference is important, and I wouldn't schedule them if I didn't think we could win them, but anything that will help prepare us to win an OVC Championship is what we want to do. And I think the bonus is ... getting Xavier, Indiana and Ole Miss coming to Murray? That's crazy when you think about it."
2019 Murray State Women's Soccer Roster
# Name Pos. Ht. Class Hometown/Previous School
0 Jamie Skarupsky GK 6-0 R-Fr. Robbinsville, N.J. / Robbinsville HS Old Dominion
1 Cera Prather GK 5-9 So. Acworth, Ga. / Allatoona HS
2 Marley Hall F/M 5-8 So. Coral Springs, Fla / Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS
4 Saraya Young D 5-5 Fr. Wilmore, Ky / West Jessamine HS
5 Miyah Watford F 5-7 Sr. Indianapolis, Ind. / North Central HS Samford
7 Arianna Mendez M 5-6 So. Louisville, Ky. / Eastern HS
9 Abby Jones F 5-5 So. Powell, Ohio / Olentangy Liberty HS
10 Izzy Heckman M 5-4 Jr. Powder Springs, Ga. / Harrison HS
11 Karsyn Hasch D 5-4 Sr. Temecula, Calif. / Great Oaks HS
13 Lauren Payne M 5-6 Fr. Louisville, Ky. / Sacred Heart Academy
14 Joselle Morche D 5-7 So. Lawrenceville, Ga. / Peachtree Ridge HS
15 Carlee Crafton D 5-8 Fr. Henderson, Ky. / Henderson County
16 Allison Samisch D/M/F 5-10 Sr. Collierville, Tenn. / Briarcrest Christian HS
17 Maddie Griggs F 5-7 Fr. Henderson, Ky. / Henderson County HS
18 Lilly Strader F 5-3 Fr. Hopkinsville, Ky. / University Heights Academy
19 Symone Cooper M 6-2 Jr. Loganville, Ga. / Grayson HS
20 Rebecca Kubin F 5-3 Jr. Lake Zurich, Ill. / Lake Zurich HS
21 Grace Bodker M 5-3 Fr. Sunbury, Ohio / Big Walnut HS
22 Katie Bickers C/M 5-7 So. Henderson, Ky. / Henderson County HS
23 Jasmine Rosell GK 5-6 Fr. Stockholm, Sweden / Stockholms Idrottsgymnasium
24 Elizabeth Tilton F 6-1 Sr. Denton, Texas / Billy Ryan HS
25 Emma Heise F 5-11 Sr. Cincinnati, Ohio / Archbishop McNicholas HS
26 Tori Bonno M 5-3 Fr. Mason. Ohio / William Mason HS
27 Gillian Nithang M 5-2 Fr. Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial HS
28 Parker Greer F 5-7 Fr. Murray, Ky. / Murray HS
29 Ashley Zimmerman M/D 5-4 Jr. Paducah, Ky / McCracken Co. HS
30 Jenna Villacres GK 5-7 Fr. Westerville, Ohio / Westerville South HS