By Wednesday's penultimate practice of 2010, the Southridge girls soccer team was all but ready for today's 3A state semifinal match at 2 p.m. against Seattle Prep in Lakewood.
The Suns were healthy and had a solid game plan in place for the fifth-ranked team in the state.
But with the team gathered in the Lampson Stadium locker room before the workout, it was time for "the talk" from Southridge coach Riley Dodson.
His announcement that there would be a bed check was met with a few groans, but the news that cell phones would be collected before bedtime was particularly unpopular.
"The last thing you want is a slumber party where everyone is up until 4 a.m.," Dodson said. "I think they realize how special it is to be in this position."
But that's all part of life on the road for a team making its first-ever trip to the Final Four at Harry E. Lang Stadium.
"Coach is doing a great job preparing us. We need to be focused and not complacent," said junior Erin Wallace, part of a stingy defense that allowed just 16 goals all season in front of all-CBBN 3A goalkeeper Ingrid Stein (12 shutouts, 0.79 goals against average).
Wallace, one of four captains along with Heather Johnson -- the CBBN 3A co-Player of the Year -- and senior twin sisters Meghan and Paige Sorensen, believes the Suns (16-4) are ready for their biggest challenge yet.
"We're all going to come in stoked," Wallace said. "(Seattle Prep) has some fast forwards. We have to respond to their quickness. They're a good team, but we're a good team, too."
Johnson has been a handful for defenses this year, setting a Southridge school record with 31 goals to go with 17 assists. Her speed is unmatched up top, but she matches it with a tenacious nose for the ball and can play a physical game, too.
She's one reason why Stein feels so confident about facing some of the top forwards that the west side has to offer. The junior keeper makes a point at least a few times during practice of having Johnson pepper her with line drives.
"If I can save Heather's shots, I know I can stop anybody's shots," Stein said. "I'm kind of excited. I feel like they're going to underestimate us. I think we need to take advantage of that."
But the Panthers (13-1-7), who finished second in the Metro Mountain Conference, are unbeaten in their last 10 matches, including an impressive 5-0 win over Capital in the 3A quarterfinals.
Seattle Prep reached the semis for four consecutive years from 2005-08 while U.S. National pool player -- and now-University of Washington midfielder -- Kate Deines played there.
But the Panthers are making their first trip back since the Deines era with a balanced attack led by Sarah Coluccio (6 goals, 5 assists), Gio Plater (5 g, 6 a) and Carolyn Hogan (5 g, 4 a).
Mary Ann Santucci leads the team with seven goals, while goalkeepers Abby Rockwell and Shanley DeFrancia have combined for 12 shutouts.
Southridge is far from a one-woman show on offense, however. Paige Sorensen has been one of the CBBN's hottest players over the last half of the season, scoring 13 goals in the last 10 matches. Brooke Benecke and Kat Tsoukalas have combined for 16 goals and freshman Michelle Foster led the CBBN with 13 assists.
"The west side has always been dominant. It's nice to see the east represent," said Johnson, who needs 30 more goals in her senior season to crack the elusive 100-goal barrier.
It's rare territory, especially considering that the only Big Nine players ever to reach that mark are Meotis Erikson (131 goals) of Kamiakin and Richland's Hope Solo (109).
Hitting the century mark would no doubt make Johnson happy. But watching her team make history would make her even happier.
"I think we have the potential to go all the way," she said. "We have to go in with confidence and work hard."