It wasn't too tough for Sarah Schweiss and Jennifer Stoot to return home to play for Colorado College women's soccer.
"I was back home for Christmas and realized how much I missed Colorado," said Schweiss, a former Air Academy standout who started her college career at Texas Christian in 2012. "This was the only school I wanted to transfer to."
For Stoot, who played in 2011 for Purdue, the chance to join former teammates and friends from summertime workouts and play for a familiar coaching staff was too good to pass up.
"(Coach) Geoff (Bennett) had worked with our club team when I was in high school and I really liked how he handles things," said the former Cheyenne Mountain High School star, who enrolled at CC this past spring. "CC was definitely where I wanted to be."
Another compelling reason is the chance to play for a surging program. Thanks to those transfers and seven returning starters, the Tigers hold all the pieces for another Conference-USA championship.
How this group, led by a strong defense and a balanced offense, gels together over the next couple of months will determine if the Tigers (14-4-5, 8-2-1 league last season) can repeat as predicted by the league's coaches in the preseason poll.
Schweiss and Stoot join junior Kaeli Vandersluis (Coronado) as the three area standouts at CC. They clicked immediately in the opening practice, building on six years playing together in club soccer.
"We're getting along really well," Vandersluis said. "The leadership on this team will determine if we do well. This is a group effort including the freshmen and the transfers. We need to keep focused on our short-term and long-term goals."
With 19 with playing experience, the Tigers are a team with considerable potential.
"I like this team a lot," Bennett said. "We have a strong and experienced backline and we have three or four who can score seven or more goals each. If we can have a few more adding two or three (goals) and suddenly you're talking 40 goals. That (balance) makes you difficult to defend against."
One of the likely top scorers is junior Jessie Ayers, a 2012 second-team All-American ranked No. 23 in the nation this preseason by TopDrawerSoccer.com, a national website specializing in college soccer.
The two-time C-USA Midfielder of the Year and first-team all-conference honoree set a personal best with seven goals in 2012. Senior Madison Whitehead is coming off a career-high six goals and Vandersluis added five last season.
The team's new 3-5-2 formation featuring three defenders hopes to take advantage of the offensive skill up front while relying on senior Kecia Morway to lead the backline.
"We're going to score a lot of goals," Schweiss said. "If we can put it all together, we will do well."
The Tigers open at rival Denver, which beat CC last season in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006, on Aug. 23 as part of the third annual Colorado Cup.
CC travels to play Colorado in Boulder on Aug. 25. The Tigers' home opener is Aug. 30 against Appalachian State (N. C.) in the Colorado College Invitational.
Colorado College women at Denver, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23
Air Force women at Montana, 5:30 p.m. Aug. 23
Whitman College men at Colorado College, 11:30 a.m. Aug. 30
Air Force men at Saint Mary's (Calif.) 3 p.m. Aug. 30
St. Mary's (Texas) men at Colorado-Colorado Springs, 7 p.m., Sept. 5
UCCS women vs. Concordia-St. Paul, 4:30 p.m., Sept. 6, Pueblo