It’s another year and another matchup with perennial powerhouse Rockhurst in the Class 4 sectionals for the Blue Springs South boys soccer team.
The Jaguars have been eliminated by the Hawklets in sectionals the past four years by a combined score of 9-1.
There is reason to believe this could be the year the Jaguars finally make it past the Hawklets, said South head coach Jon Grice, whose team faces Rockhurst at 6 p.m. today at Rockhurst’s Dasta Stadium.
For one, Grice said the 2018 version of the Jaguars is the best he’s had in awhile.
“They knocked us out of the quarterfinals three times, they have knocked us out of districts a couple of times and then they have knocked us out of the sectional game the last four years,” said Grice, whose team enters 13-9. “We’re really hoping to make a change this year and change history.
“This is one of the best teams we’ve had in a long time. And as far as playing together, going out and getting the results and playing our top-level soccer at the end of the season, this team is probably second to none as long as I’ve been here (since 2000).”
The Hawklets (17-6-1) also aren’t as strong as they were last year. They lost five All-American players from a state championship team. This year, Rockhurst has a much younger team than a year ago.
“They are prime for the picking,” the coach said. “That’s something that we’ve been talking about all season. Winning districts is the most important thing. Then getting past that, we have a shot against Rockhurst.”
Even though the Hawklets aren’t as strong as they’ve been in recent years, Grice still expects his team will have to play one of its best games of the season to advance.
“They are highly organized and they are disciplined with their attack and defense,” Grice said. “Their ability to switch the field and attack is dangerous. But they don’t have the five All-American seniors they had last year. They don’t have the ridiculous midfield that they had in the past. They don’t have the same high level back line that they had in the past.
“They are suspect in a lot of areas. But ‘down’ for Rockhurst is still pretty darn good. We are still going to have to play a great game.”
In a home tournament game in September, South lost a close game with the Hawklets 2-1. The Jaguars came away from that contest feeling like they could compete with their longtime nemesis.
“I think we’re closer to them than we have been the past three years,” senior defender Will Sheridan said. “We have some momentum after defeating Lee’s Summit North (in the Class 4 District 13 championship game).”
That’s another reason the Jaguars have more confidence than ever. They held a high-powered Lee’s Summit North team scoreless in a 2-0 district final win last Thursday.
“It all starts in the back with the four guys in front of me doing their job the whole game,” senior South goalkeeper Alec Radford said of his team’s improved defense. “They make it easy for me. It’s a team effort to keep the ball off the other’s team foot, and we did a good job of that.”
With nine seniors who are all too familiar with losing to Rockhurst, the Jaguars are more motivated than ever to knock off the Hawklets.
“We have two four-year starters on the team and we’re definitely looking forward to this game,” senior defender John Hurley said. “For this group of seniors, this is the year to beat them.”
Added Grice: “If there is any team that could finally beat Rockhurst and put that albatross behind us, I think this is the team, and this is the year.”