BILLINGS -- Even championship coaches still feel adrenaline every year.
"I mean, this is Season 20 for me and I get just as excited and nervous as I did the very first one," Billings West girls soccer coach Rob Zimmerman told MTN Sports. "I'm like the kids, I'm excited to get out here and get rolling. Let's get going."
Justifiably so, but Zimmerman's Bears won't necessarily fly under soccer's radar this season after blasting the nets with last year's strong finish. They capped it with a Class AA state championship win over crosstown Billings Skyview, the defending State AA champion from a year earlier.
Last season West opened with a casual 3-3-0 start, then didn't lose another match. Every player is back except for graduated senior Jillian Hust, who is now at MSU Billings.
Like all of Montana's fall sports teams, the Bears find themselves adjusting to a few COVID-19 tweaks.
"The biggest change is, they took away the overnight trips," Zimmerman said. "So, when we'd go to Great Falls for an over-nighter, instead we're going to play a Thursday, Saturday. One home and one away."
Players say they'll gladly take that trade for playing time in a heartbeat.
"Honestly, the fact that we're not staying the night anywhere doesn't really faze me," said Bears center-mid Avery Kimmel. "As long as we're playing, that's all that really matters. Any change to the schedule, I guess that's what they're going to do to keep us playing. But that's what I'd rather do than not have a season at all."
"None of (the changes) really faze me, as long as we're out here on the pitch," agreed West goalkeeper Kendall Ellis. "There's talk about having no spectators, but as long as we're able to play soccer I'm fine with that. Any changes, I'm good with."
Success at every level this fall season may come down to which teams adjust most comfortably.
"It's probably going to change daily a little bit, but we're just going to take it day by day and just be thankful for the opportunity to get out here and knock the ball around a little bit." Zimmerman said.
In front of his players on the opening day of workouts, Zimmerman did freshen the memory of what's possible and how thrilling it feels. He showed up wearing West's latest championship ring.
"It signifies the fight to be returning champions," Ellis said. "Just work hard every day. It shows that we have expectations to live up to at every practice. We've just got to battle every day."