“This group that I brought in, I can see there’s a competitive edge to them,” Hill said. “There’s a greater level of expectation among them.”
Practices began Monday and the Trappers face their first live competition Saturday in Great Falls, Mont., where they will take on the Argos.
“I can see the desire to do well and I see them working hard in practice already,” Hill said.
The Trappers struggled at times to maintain a competitive edge in 2013, but grew together as a team to put together a strong second half on the way to an 8-8-1 (6-3 conference) season.
“It was more to do with the lack of intensity from some parts of the team and it was just [frustrating] those who understood what’s needed to compete and perform,” Hill said.
The difference in desire caused tension within the team that was sorted out near the end of last season.
“I think people started to click and understand what was needed, what was required,” Hill said.
The coach thinks this year’s squad possesses the proper outlook from the very start, though there is still much to learn about the college game.
With five sophomores and 13 freshmen, the Trappers will be learning on the go.
“I’m excited to see them play together,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of talent on that team and I’m excited to see ... how they respond to the pressure of playing a college game.”
Hill isn’t concerned about having only five returners.
“We’ve got an uneven balance and that’s OK,” he said. “The sophomores we have are good and I can already see the growth from their freshman year.”
And Hill knows from experience that a successful season doesn’t require a sophomore starting at every position.
“It comes in cycles,” he said. “The year the men’s team went to nationals we had 22 freshmen.”
This year’s small contingent of sophomores has already made its presence felt in the first week of practice by being vocal and encouraging the freshmen in practice.
“I think we got some good sophomore leaders that have been through it,” Hill said.
Saturday’s preseason matchup will be an introductory course for nearly three-quarters of the team.
“That’s going to be a good test for us but also be a little bit of a welcome to college soccer,” Hill said. “Right now I don’t think it’s sunk in. The first half there is always a little deer-in-the-headlights look.”
The coach isn’t overly concerned with Saturday’s result.
“Whether we win, lose or draw it’s more about performance and learning, really,” Hill said. “With this many freshmen it’s more about learning and getting used to one another and gelling as a team.”
Northwest’s freshmen are from Idaho Falls, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Las Vegas.
“We’ve got a good group of freshmen coming in and I was pleased the way everything worked out,” Hill said.
“It’s been a long recruiting season. I’ve never traveled as much really but it’s been worth it.”
The Trappers open the regular season at home Aug. 29 against Eastern Utah.