Abbey Bosco's prowess as a soccer goalkeeper could be credited to her hard work and everyday dedication to the craft. It could be hereditary, as the Grace Academy senior has cousins who have starred in goal at the high school level -- most recently Notre Dame's Grace Courter, who helped the Lady Irish win a state title in 2010.
It could be a combination of both, but her abilities are going to be vital for the success of the Lady Golden Eagles in 2013.
Bosco is one of 10 returning starters for Grace as it begins another quest for a spot in the state tournament, which for the first time will be in Murfreesboro this October as opposed to Chattanooga -- the event's home since its inception in 1997. She has improved by leaps and bounds since she arrived as a freshman.
"Abbey is such a hard worker. I know she'll do whatever it takes to get the save," said junior forward Elizabeth Mouw, the team's leading scorer in 2012 with more than 20 goals. "She's a leader out on the field, and she's very dependable."
With a back line including Holly Badger, Olivia Rowell and Chloe Phillips, Bosco's job is a little easier. She calls the Grace defense "one of the best in the state." That hasn't stopped her from continually training and trying to get better.
"I've just been getting out there every day. I've had to work my tail off," Bosco said. "As a freshman, I had good instincts, but I wasn't where I needed to be. It's taken a lot of time and effort and hasn't been easy, but it's paid off. It's rewarding to see all of that hard work rewarded."
The Lady Eagles have set extremely high goals for themselves. After advancing to the Class A/AA sectional round in 2011, they fell in the region semifinals last season. The loss to East Hamilton was a bitter one, and even though the Lady Hurricanes are in Class AAA this season, Grace's road to the tournament has become tougher. Its district now includes Arts & Sciences in addition to Boyd-Buchanan, McMinn Central and Silverdale Academy -- all teams that have played in sectional rounds in the past five seasons.
That doesn't lower the Lady Eagles' aspirations, though.
"We expect to do very, very well," Grace coach Gretchen Hammel said. "Every game, the goal is to get better. We're always trying to do things to prepare for the tournament, and although we're taking each game as they come, we're always thinking about the tournament. We're going to have to win some important games to get to that next level, but our heart is set on getting there.
"We're just going to have to stay healthy -- to get some players healthy. I know the girls believe they can get there, and they deserve to be there."
One of the players who needs to get healthy is Mouw, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in March. The goal is to be back in about a month, but her teammates feel they can handle the offensive tasks in her absence.
"I feel we have a strong team this year, with some good upcoming freshmen and eighth-graders," Mouw said. "They'll ahve a big impact on how we do this year."
Bosco shares Mouw's feelings about the team. In fact, she claims this team is the closest she's been on in her four seasons at Grace Academy -- something that will be important as the Lady Eagles try to manufacture offense without their most prolific playmaker in the middle.
"We hope to get Liz back before district, but we're not just one player. There are 18 others," Bosco said. "These girls are my teammates, but they're my family. I'd help any of them out however I can. I have their back and they have mine, and that's what makes this team special.
"You can have good players, but you can't coach chemistry, and we have chemistry like none other this season."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.