QUINCY -- The most beneficial thing the Quincy High School girls soccer players can do is take a breath.
They know they'll need it.
An experienced team with a core group of seniors who are four-year-varsity players, the Blue Devils have high expectations which can lead to pushing too hard to take control. If they take a split-second to breathe, assess the situation and gather themselves, they'll be under control and in control.
"I think we need to work on being able to slow down the play," senior forward Schay Mulherin said. "A lot of times we want to go forward, go forward, go forward when really we need to slow down, drop it and then go forward. We need to find those holes where we can attack. So it's just being patient."
That's not so easy when you want to make the most of such a great opportunity.
Quincy returns 10 starters from a team that finished 9-10-3 last spring and lost to Edwardsville in the Class 4A regional semifinals. However, many of those same players were sophomores in 2015 when the Blue Devils upset the Tigers in the regional semifinals.
Two years older, two years more experienced and two years more playing together has them confident they can rekindle that vibe.
"This team, more than ever, has a really good family feel," senior goalkeeper Michaela Cowman said. "We all just know each other. That bond off the field goes into the bond on the field. It just makes us better."
That kind of bond will help the Blue Devils survive a gauntlet of a schedule.
Quincy has added a home game against Belleville East and will play in the Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa, in a bracket that features six teams that head into the spring ranked in the TopDrawerSoccer.com's Fab 50 national poll.
"There is a definite feeling of cohesiveness with this group," QHS coach Travis Dinkheller said. "There's been a real buy-in, not only to what we're trying to do, but to each other. So I think we've got a strong commitment to each other and it's going to pay big dividends in the long run."
So will the ability to control play, and that means maintaining possession.
"We've been working from the backfield all the way up to the top," said Mulherin, who had 17 goals last season. "Not too many balls in the air. Keeping the ball at our feet. Getting wide. Lots of ways to do little things to be better."
It all comes back to understanding the game, something an experienced group should be expected to do.
"Really increasing our soccer IQ," Dinkheller said. "We've really been challenging them to not only be aware of where they're at on the field and what their job and role is but where their teammates are and taking it to the next level. It should help us possess the ball and control the game."
2016 record: 9-10-3 (3-2 Western Big Six Conference).
Coach: Travis Dinkheller (95-68-10 at QHS, ninth season).
Returning starters: GK Michaela Cowman, Sr.; D Samantha Ward, Sr.; D Krystal Burgtorf, Jr.; D Keaghan Rodemich, Jr.; D Abbie Reis, Jr.; MF Carson Boyer, Soph.; MF Sierra Woodward, Sr.; MF Callie Lambert, Sr.; F Schay Mulherin, Sr.; F Grace Hilbing, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: D Alex Keck, Sr.; D Emily Sohn, Jr.; D Rachel Smith, Soph.; D Maddie Keane, Sr.; MF Hayley Milhauser, Soph.; MF Samantha Boyer, Soph.; MF Sophia Soltwedel, Soph.; MF Jenna Disseler, Jr.; F Alexis Miranda, Soph.; F Shaqualla Hill, Soph.
New faces: D Meagan Mero, Fr.; GK Ashley Boyer, Fr.
Key losses: MF Casey Kelley, MF Alex Peters.
Date Opponent Time
March 17 Hannibal 6 p.m.
March 28 at Quincy Notre Dame 6 p.m.
March 30 Sacred Heart-Griffin 6 p.m.
April 3 at Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge 6:30 p.m.
April 4 at Galesburg 6 p.m.
April 6 Jefferson City (Mo.) 6 p.m.
April 8 Belleville East 1 p.m.
April 10 at Rock Island 6:30 p.m.
April 13 Springfield 6 p.m.
April 15 at Davenport (iowa) Assumption 11:45 a.m.
April 18 at Alleman 6 p.m.
April 25 Moline 6:30 p.m.
April 27-29 at Tournament of Champions TBA
May 1 Quincy Notre Dame 6 p.m.
May 2 United Township 6:30 p.m.
May 6 at Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias 1 p.m.