There are great teams, there are excellent teams, and then there is the La Cueva High School Girls Soccer team.
The Bears from Albuquerque have won 14 New Mexico state championships, more than any other program in the state's history. "When you come to this school, you are expected to win a state championship," says La Cueva coach Amber Ashcraft, who's led the team to more than 300 wins during her career.
The secret to Ashcraft's success is a single-minded focus on creating a family-like bond among her players—and a brutal five-day span known as "Hell Week."
Hell Week, for the uninitiated, is the last week of practices before a high school sport's season begins. It's a time when cuts are made, rosters are finalized, and starting jobs are won and lost. At winning programs like La Cueva, where the talent level is high and the expectations are even higher, the intensity of these practices can be fierce.
"You can feel how competitive it is in the air," sophomore Delaney Markham says. "Once you get on the field, a switch turns on and everyone just brings it."
This year, DICK'S Sporting Goods documented Hell Week at La Cueva. In the video above, you can see their ferocious preparations for the season ahead. Athletes confront devastating injuries, new leaders emerge, and the team begins to form the bonds it will need to avenge its loss in last year's playoffs and win the school's 15th state title.
"We have unfinished business," Ashcraft says.
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