Sara Beidleman's biggest mentors in soccer are a reminder of South Jersey's rich history in the sport.
She trains with James Galanis, a trainer and mentor of South Jersey native and Olympic hero Carli Lloyd.
Beidleman talks about how lucky she has been to train with Lloyd on occasion as well, how she looks up to Lloyd and aspires to the qualities that made Lloyd one of the biggest success stories in women's sports.
It's similar to the feeling Beidleman gets every day at practice with her Bishop Eustace girls' soccer team under the tutelage of her coach, Erica "Boo" Schubert.
Schubert was Lloyd's teammate at Delran. She was an all-American in high school and was named Inquirer player of the year in 1998 before a college career at Florida and then at Rutgers where she reunited with Lloyd.
"More than anything, apart from the technical aspects of soccer, they teach us to work hard for what we want, to go after our dreams," Beidleman said.
Together, Schubert and Beidleman were at the forefront of an incredible turnaround last year for the Crusaders.
Schubert was a first-year head coach. Beidleman was a junior midfielder who broke out, leading the team in scoring as Bishop Eustace went from a losing record in 2016 to a Non-Public A state co-championship in 2017.
"It was an amazing season, and all it does it add to the motivation for this season," said Beidleman, a Villanova recruit who led the Crusaders with 19 goals and 10 assists as a junior after netting just seven as a sophomore.
Beidleman credits Schubert as being a major influence, not just on her personally, but on the entire team.
"She brought so much energy and positivity," Beidleman said. "And the team feeds off of that and grows from that — everyone loved to come out to soccer practice."
Schubert's playing days in South Jersey are lore largely because of her high-octane approach to the game. She calls it "positive intensity." And it's not far from how she has approached her time at Bishop Eustace, her first stint as a head coach.
"I'm still all about hard work and passion and, as a coach, I'm all about fun. If they're not having fun, then they're not going to play their best," Schubert said. "I think part of the adjustment to coaching is learning what makes people tick and learning what motivates them — learning that not everyone approaches the game like I do. And just because they're not bouncing around all the time doesn't mean they're not into the game."
Schubert described Beidleman as a player she knew had potential. She said she was waiting for Beidleman to break out. Beidleman is athletic and fast and perhaps even more than her ability as a scorer, Schubert praised Beidleman's ability as a playmaker.
"She really rose to the occasion last year," Schubert said.
This year, the Crusaders return enough talent to again be in the mix for a state title, including Beidleman and fellow senior midfielders Brittany Pickering and Sammie Sorensen and a talented freshman class set to make an impact right away.
Last year, Bishop Eustace was crowned co-state champion after drawing with Immaculate Heart in the championship.
Schubert, like many coaches around the state, wasn't completely thrilled with an ending that often leaves both teams feeling empty. It's something she won't have to worry about this year.
Earlier this year, the NJSIAA reverted to a system that will end state championships on penalty kicks rather than crowning co-champions. It's a system that, to soccer purists, still leaves something to be desired.
And while the returning players were thrilled with last year's success, they're happy to enter this season with greater hopes of repeating last year's run, minus the "co."