SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's soccer team opened practice Wednesday ahead of its 2013 season, and with a veteran squad returning 20 players from last year's roster, the Hornets are poised to make a championship run after missing out on the Big Sky tournament the last two seasons.

"We're extremely excited; we feel like we're a very talented team that's still on the younger side but has a lot of experience," head coach Randy Dedini said. "We are probably as deep as we've ever been, even more than the two championship years (2007 and 2010), so I think the key for us is to make sure we are on the same page and all have the same common goals and train to be champions."

The team did lose six starters from its 2012 squad, including starting goalkeeper Shelby Tomasello and both starting forwards, but returns five starters and four All-Big Sky selections, three of whom are part of a strong sophomore class. Sophomore Kassidy Kellogg was an All-Big Sky second team selection as a true freshman while junior Jessica Small and sophomores Alyssa Anderson and McKenna Swanson earned All-Big Sky honorable mention accolades.

"Every time we lose seniors its tough to replace them, but we were very talented but young last year," Dedini said. "Even though we did lose some good players we have some younger ones that are really eager to step up and take their spots. Everybody here feels that we were much better than what our record was last year so we feel like we have a little bit to prove."

After a 5-9-4 overall record and a 3-4-2 conference mark in 2012 the Hornets were picked to finish seventh in the 2013 Big Sky preseason poll released Tuesday. The team felt that they outplayed a lot of Big Sky opponents last year but the game scores weren't indicative of that, and with so many players returning from last year's squad the hunger has been apparent early in training for the 2013 campaign.

Though it is a veteran squad, most of the returning players are sophomores and juniors as there are just five seniors on the 2013 roster. Of those five seniors just two – defender Gabriela Trenton and midfielder Jami Shimada – were on the roster as freshman when the Hornets won the 2010 Big Sky title and advanced to play Stanford in the NCAA Tournament. They remember the feeling of winning a championship and won't be satisfied with anything less in their final season.

"We don't just want to make the tournament, we want to host the tournament in front of our home fans," said Trenton, a team captain in 2013. "Its ok to be an underdog, because all we're going to do is be better than that and looking at (the preseason poll) just motivates us more. I came in winning a ring and definitely want to go out winning a ring."

The team will conduct 14 total practice sessions over eight days before playing an exhibition game at Santa Clara next Friday night and hosting the Sacramento Storm for an exhibition game on Sunday, Aug. 18, at 5 p.m. The regular season opens with a road game a Causeway rival UC Davis on Aug. 23, the first of nine non-conference contests before the Big Sky season kicks off Sept. 27.

"The players know the talent we have," Dedini said. "We will put last year's record behind us and I think we will use the motivation of the Big Sky picking us seventh for us to go into the season with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and looking to earn some respect."