They start coming though the north gate of their stadium 30 minutes before practice.
They walk in as pairs, as trios, seemingly no one alone. They are laughing. Once they gather with the rest of the team, there's someone singing. Someone else is making a call.
My mom will give us a ride, is said by one underclassman to another.
Conversations turn to classes, movies and all the other things a roster of 38 teenage girls might talk about -- even sprinkles on a snack cake.
There's no hint of what lies ahead.
Today, Crestwood plays Villa Maria for the PIAA Class 2A field hockey championship. Regardless of outcome, the game will be immortalized on lists, websites, plaques and memories.
Even though it's cold, it feels great to be out here, junior Maury Cronauer said at Thursday's practice. We're going as far as possible. With how hard we've worked and how much we've come together, this is the way it should be.
Every player you talk to calls the team their family. With 38 on the team, there comes greater chances for cliques to develop, and there's the way high schoolers are typically split by their classes that could only further drive division.
But from Day 1 with the Comets, there's none of that.
Crestwood is so big with field hockey. Everyone wants to be on the team, Cronauer said of joining the team two years ago. You know about it before you are in high school.
Even if the first practice is the toughest, the veteran Comets are there for the newcomers.
Oh, gosh. There were a lot of nerves, junior Marissa Surdy said of the August 2010 first day. My sister (Sami) played that year as a senior. I was ready; I wanted to impress her so much with my abilities. But it was a lot more intense than junior high field hockey. She warned me, but I don't think I believed her until I got there and got out on the field with the team.
It was exciting. I know that for me, I was the little baby freshman out there with the seniors, junior Megan McCole recalled. I remember the conditioning was more than I expected, but the seniors really did a great job helping us. Sami Surdy and Hannah Davies were seniors that year, and they were like big sisters to me.
The memories of becoming a Comet are still fresh to Casey Cole, a sophomore who has been a starter since her rookie season.
It wasn't so much of a scary thing; I knew a lot of the girls on the team, Cole said. I play up on my travel team, so I was used to the intensity. My memories of it, though, was the seniors last year ... they were exceptional. I was the only freshman out there (as a starter) and I couldn't have asked for a better group of teammates welcoming me and helping me learn.
It's been the veterans' turn this season to bring along new freshmen. Those players were in first grade the last time the Comets played for a state title.
We try to make them feel as welcome as possible, Surdy said. If something goes wrong, we try to keep their spirits lifted. We are just a big family.
The coaching staff also plays an important role. Coach Elvetta Gemski started the program. Her assistants, both former players, are able to offer different perspectives.
A tremendous part of this is having Patsy (Moratori) as a player and a coach, and now Lissa (Munley), Gemski said. They can bring that experience to the group.
The family heads out on the field one last time today, looking to do what they do best. And that's what has Crestwood playing for gold -- everyone in the family is making contributions to the team, making memories that will last forever.
This is the biggest game in my life so far, Cronauer said. In other sports, we've played in districts or for our conference. I remember last year against Greenwood, in overtime when I stepped back on the field and they scored (to end Crestwood's season in the state playoffs). This game (today), I'll remember forever.
PIAA Class 2A State Title Game
Crestwood vs. Villa Maria
Noon today at Whitehall-Coplay