Danielle Prietz will be the first person to tell you that she is one very lucky soccer coach. Prietz, who coaches Liberty's varsity girls soccer team, also coaches the Freedom Soccer Club's 2006 girls under-12 Xplosions squad.
She has been big winner with those traveling kids.
The Xplosions' most recent demonstration of their talents came in winning August's Battlefield Blast tournament for the second year in a row. However, they have demonstrated that knack quite a few times now.
Prietz says that she had a lot of talented players when they started four years ago as an under-8 team. She also gives credit to her two valuable assistant coaches, Wade Shank and Geoff Rusk. They molded her kids' talents until they could play as a well-drilled unit.
That combination of individual talent and unifying training asserted itself right off the bat.Their first year, playing as an under-8 team, the girls' coaches placed them in a boys' under-8 league to give them tougher competition. The girls showed their mettle by playing at a better-than-.500 pace against the boys.
"We always play very good defense, and that has saved us in a few games," Prietz sad. "We have two good goalies. Our back line gets the ball to the middies who distribute it to the forwards. We've had the core of the team with us since they played under-8, so they all know each other."
The make-up of the team changed little this year. The two new players were quickly introduced to the Freedom team concept and blended in well with the other 13 girls.
The Xplosions started with their usual winning ways this spring. They won late-May's Gettysburg's Blue and Gray Cup tournament.
This victory was particularly important to the girls.
Prietz explained that the August Gettysburg Battlefield Blast is the first big competition in the new soccer season. After the outdoor fall leagues and tournaments, the team plays indoors. The girls see the Memorial Day Blue and Gray Cup tournament as the ending of that season.
Winning both of those tournaments gave their 2016-2017 season a good beginning and a happy ending, Prietz said.
In August, they were ready to try this year's Battlefield Blast as an under-12 team.
"This is a good opening tournament for the girls," Prietz said. "The competition is good, and there aren't many Maryland teams in it.They're mostly teams from Pennsylvania and other states. The kids get to see some different opponents. They wanted to get their third win in a row in Gettysburg to start this new season off right.
"We want to win all of our tournaments, but the goal is to get to the finals whether we win or lose."
They would get to those finals — and more. On Aug. 26, they competed in the pool play phase of the tournament.
Freedom tied Gettysburg 0-0 in the opener and then shut out the Carlisle Flash 3-0. However, the Tri-County Phoenix, out of Pittsburgh, blanked the local girls 3-0.
They recovered to shut out the Victory Express 2-0 in the final pool game, giving themselves a 2-1-1 record. That was good enough for the Explosions to move on to the semifinals.
There, they got revenge on the Phoenix by blanking them 2-0. Prietz explained what changed in this re-match.
"We played their game the first time. (In the semifinal) we played our game and not their game," she said. "They play kick ball and chase after it, but we play a possession, short-passing deliberate game."
And once they put that more deliberate style into play, the Xplosions were winners and going to the finals.
There, they saw the Victory Express again.But this time, the Express was a lot tougher than when the two met the first time. In fact, the Express scored the first goal of the game early in the second half.
However, Freedom tied the game 1-1 with 10 minutes to go, and that's how regulation time ended.
In overtime, each team was allowed six players and the goalies were pulled. Freedom quickly scored the championship-winning goal.
"To win their third game in a row at Gettysburg is pretty exciting for the girls. It gives us an idea about where we will go this season," she said.
And that regular season direction looks pretty good so far. Freedom is already 2-0 in the EDP fall soccer league.
Prietz briefly summed up her team's winning recipe.
"I am very lucky to have the talented girls I have," she said. "They are very athletic. And I have very good assistant coaches."