San Antonio – Inexperienced and possibly too young to know any better, the St. Mary’s women’s soccer team came surprisingly close to qualifying for last year’s NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament.

Featuring 10 freshmen, many of whom were relied on every game, the Lady Rattlers posted their first 10-win season since 2006.

It’s not surprising then that this year’s squad enters the 2011 season with high expectations.

Tabbed second by head coaches and sports information directors in the Heartland Conference preseason poll, the Lady Rattlers have every intention of breaking through and actually getting to the regional tournament this time around.

“One of the things that came off of last year’s strong finish is the girls figured out what it takes to win at this level again,” coach Corwyn Ritch said. “Whenever you put a team together that has the confidence that feels strongly about the game before the game starts actually sets the tone for that game itself, it’s pretty much become routine.”

St. Mary’s won eight of its final 12 games last year to finish 10-6-2 overall and 7-2-1 in conference. It was good enough for second place in the Heartland.

The Lady Rattlers will open up the new season at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when they entertain the University of Houston-Victoria at the team’s home-away-from home, Northside ISD Soccer Field. The men’s team will play UHV immediately afterward.

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