The Lee’s Summit North girls soccer had a season to remember last year.
After losing to St. Teresa’s three years in a row in the playoffs, the Broncos exorcised their demons when they beat the Stars 4-1 in the sectional round last year. That eventually led to North making the championship match for the first time since 2012. However, it lost to Eureka 2-1 in the Class 4 title game, falling one goal and one win short of its first championship since 2000.
Now, for the 2018 season, the Broncos are hitting the reset button as they have lost seven talented seniors, including Alexis Mitchell, the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Class 4 Player of the Year.
Sporting Kansas City Academy joining the U.S. Soccer Federation also affected this year’s roster. Goalkeeper Sarah Peters, who is a part of the academy and was the Class 4 State Goalkeeper of the Year, will not play for the Broncos in her senior year due to her club team’s 10-month schedule.
“Our seniors last year played a bunch and they all contributed,” Broncos head coach Ryan Kelley said. “We are losing a lot. We had great players. The mentality of those girls is really what we’re going to miss. They were great leaders and set the tone. They really wanted to get to the level they got to last year.”
That has left North with plenty of voids, but there are some players returning with varsity experience, and the goals haven’t strayed too far from what they accomplished last season, senior Cara Panarisi said.
“We just have to adjust with the girls we have right now,” Panarisi said. “We still have our goals. It will be a lot different without our seniors from last season. But we’re still going to remain positive and hopefully the outcome is what we want.”
Added Kaylie Rock: “We might start of the season a little bit shaky, but we should progress as the season goes along.”
Kelley still feels confident in his offense, which will be led by Rock. The junior had 12 goals and seven assists last season, including three goals during the state final four. Kelley said he expects her to help fill the scoring void left by Mitchell.
“She’s looked really dynamic and she’s good on the ball,” Kelley said of Rock. “She’s got a good, aggressive mindset to get to the goal. Kaylie really ended the season on fire in the last three to four weeks. She made some amazing individual plays.”
Joining Rock on offense will be Panarisi, who came off the bench last season and will be an attacking midfielder. Keely Adams also will be in the midfield and Joanie Westcoat is likely to switch between the back line and midfield.
On the back line, junior Emma Willard, who was injured last season, and Hailey Englund will be the two center backs leading the defense. Madelyn Robinson and Halle Hill, who saw varsity minutes last season, will play on the back line as well and will help on offense. Madison Baker will take over for Peters as the new goalkeeper.
“We have the ability to run up top,” Kelley said. “The girls we have up top are fast and have great endurance. They can run all match the same way. They can really stretch the back line quite a bit.”
Executing the offense could still be a challenge, though.
“Working with Keely Adams and Joanie and whoever else is playing in the center with me will be more of a challenge,” Panarisi said. “I know Keely and I didn’t start last year. We don’t have that much experience working together. Hopefully we can adjust and build up that chemistry.
“I think our offense will still be good, though. We have a lot of girls who can finish.”
The key for North will be to shore up the defense, Kelley said.
“We have to do a little bit better defending as groups and staying organized,” he said. “We’ve been working on it the past few days.”
And the defense is going to have to be there when the Broncos get into the Suburban Big Seven Conference schedule, which is loaded with several strong teams, including Park Hill, Lee’s Summit West and Blue Springs South.
“When you come into our conference, there isn’t much of an off night,” said Kelley, whose 22-4 team won the league title last year. “Everybody is dangerous and has good quality players. I think we can stack up and compete with everyone. I would say Park Hill and Lee’s Summit West, with what they have coming back, are the favorites to battle it out. You can’t count out Lee’s Summit, either. They are always a tough, physical team. Blue Springs South always has good talent and they have a good goalie who backed up (last year’s starter Megan Swanson). She looked great last season. They will be tough.”