By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Kayla Bunch was surprised at how crisp and fluid the Quincy High School girls soccer team played in its final preseason scrimmage.
"It went really well," said Bunch, a senior forward. "Because of the fact we haven't been able to get outside much, I thought we did really well."
That may heighten expectations.
The Blue Devils have practiced outside only four times so far, and their season opener at Rock Island Alleman has been pushed back to Monday. Despite all of that, QHS coach Travis Dinkheller sees so many encouraging signs, from the maturity of his core group of returnees to the ability to adapt of players he's putting in new positions.
"The enthusiasm has been great, even though it's been an unusual preseason," Dinkheller said. "I really like what we're doing. We're moving the ball well. We're playing with a lot of spirit. I was concerned about fitness, but during the (scrimmage), I put my group into the wind both halves and it didn't seem to bother them at all.
"So I'm feeling really good about where things are at right now."
Dinkheller then reminds himself the Blue Devils haven't faced an opposing jersey yet.
"You don't want to feel too good about things too early," Dinkheller said. "A lot can change. We have to be prepared for that."
A lot already is changing.
Among the graduation losses were a pair of four-year starters on defense in Abbie Foster and Mia McNay. It's forced the coaching staff to look at who best fills the void and what are the strengths of those returning.
"The one thing we've really, really focused on is interchangeable pieces," Dinkheller said. "Right now, I could not tell you who we're going to start the first game. I could not tell you if that's going to stay the same from game-to-game. I really feel we have people we can move around and start at any given moment.
"That's a really nice feeling. So we're utilizing people different."
The Blue Devils don't see that as an issue at all.
"We are adapting really well," senior midfielder Jordan Eisenberg said. "Some people will have to sacrifice and be put in a different position to help the team out."
One thing the Blue Devils can count on will be productivity from Eisenberg in the middle.
Coming off a season in which she earned all-sectional and All-Western Big Six Conference honors, Eisenberg is viewed as Quincy's offensive catalyst because of her creativity, ability to control the flow of the game and her willingness to distribute the ball.
It works well with scorers such as All-WB6 forward Kayleigh Kuhlman and Bunch.
"Our offense is going to be our strength," Bunch said. "We can score."
No matter who Dinkheller puts up top, no one will be intimidated.
"Everybody has a little bit of varsity experience," Dinkheller said. "That bodes well for us."
Even those who will replace Foster and McNay in the back have some experience. Plus, they have an experienced keeper in Alex Boyd to lean on.
Because there is a strong backbone to the attack, no one is worried about changes in style or position.
"We're giving a fresh look to what we're trying to accomplish," Dinkheller said.
That is another WB6 championship and the first regional title in three years.