Chris Brizendine has spent little time lamenting what he lost from last season’s Lee’s Summit West’s boys soccer team. The Titans’ head coach has been too excited with what he has.
With 12 seniors total and an all-upperclassmen starting 11 last season, Brizedine knew this year’s Titan team would be a rebuilding project. But as the Titans prepared to open their season Saturday at home against Springfield Central, Brizendine believes that project is quite far along.
“This group is excited and positive,” Brizendine said. “I think it says a lot for them because they know how many left, but that didn’t faze them at all. They come in every day very positive and they’re doing some great things.”
But the fact remains that few of these players saw much action last season as West cruised to a 22-6 overall record and the Suburban Gold Conference and Class 4 District 12 championships. Everyone – from prolific goal scorers Max Harrington and Trevon Lewis to veteran goalkeeper Alex Wood, has to be replaced.
Most of those replacements will come from West’s junior varsity program, which Brizendine designed for seasons like this one.
“They’re young and don’t have the varsity experience, but we set up our program to develop them and get them ready for the varsity level,” Brizendine said. “They all train the same way, practice the same way so when it’s time for them to come up they’re ready to go.”
Brizedine said the Titans’ defense will be ready, with junior Nick Lumbard anchoring the back line. Lumbard, who played the most minutes of any returning Titan last season, is the team captain. Junior Alex Nee, sophomore Drew Meara and freshman Parker Jenkins will also see time as defenders.
“He’s very much the leader of this team,” Brizendine said of Lumbard. “That happened in the winter and the spring. He gets us going, he starts our practices … he’s a tremendous natural leader.”
Replacing Wood at goalie is Luke Poudel, a junior who started last season for the Titans JV. He didn’t log any varsity time last season, but Brizendine said Poudel has improved enough to stand out from all the other goalies in the program.
“Luke has really come a long way in a year,” Brizendine said. “We’ve been really impressed with the strides he’s made back there. He’s ready to jump right in.”
Up front, Brizendine is looking at several players to jump in and fill the scoring void left by Harrington, who scored 23 goals last season, and Lewis, who had 16. James Perkins, a junior forward who saw much action off the bench last year, is the top returning scorer with six goals and three assists. Sophomore forward Elijah Williams, who mostly played JV last season, had a goal and three assists.
Junior forward Caleb Furnell will also be part of the offensive attack, and midfielders Noah Jenkins, Cole Perry and Lucas McEwen are also expected to find goals.
“That’s a very fit group,” Brizendine said. “They’re quick and they’re fast. I’m not worried about who it’s going to be (scoring goals), I think they’re all going to contribute.”
Still, the Titans will be young, and they will face another rugged schedule, which includes tournaments at Blue Springs South and Burlington, Iowa, along with an always challenging conference slate. They may take some lumps early, but Brizendine believes this group will get better as it gets more experience.
“It’s going to be tough, always is,” Brizendine said. “It’s a long season though. We’re going to keep working on everything throughout the year and hopefully be playing our best in conference season and toward the end of October.”