The Kansas and Missouri high school boys soccer state championships begin Friday and Saturday at various locations. Here are five things to watch in the tournaments:
1. Nationally ranked Olathe East in search of title
Olathe East (18-1-0) is currently 21st in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings and is itching for a Kansas Class 6A title. The Hawks made it to the state semifinals last year, but fell 2-1 to Washburn Rural. Since then, the team has captured Sunflower League and regional titles, including a perfect 15-0 performance throughout league play.
2. Another shot for Blue Valley Southwest
The Timberwolves lost in the Kansas Class 5A state semifinals in 2015 and have spent the 2016 season building back up to that point. Led by sophomore forward Aidan Bates, who has 20 goals and five assists on the season, Blue Valley Southwest is 15-3-1 heading into its semifinal matchup with Kapaun Mount Carmel, which holds the same record.
Southwest’s postseason has been a bit of a roller coaster. In regional play, the Timberwolves crushed Lansing 8-0, then barely squeaked by Mill Valley 3-2 in double overtime.
3. The farewell for O'Hara
At the conclusion of the school year, O'Hara High School will close its doors after 51 years, and many of its students and faculty will move into a new school, St. Michael the Archangel.
The boys soccer team has an opportunity to finish on a high note.
After winning its first state title in program history last fall, the Celtics are back in the Missouri Class 2 semifinals. They will meet Monett at 10 a.m. Friday at World Wild Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
Austin Diaz leads the team with 30 goals; Ryan Rieger has a team-best 18 assists; and playing behind a defense captained by Will Beachner, goalkeeper Zach Bolger has 17 shutouts.
4. Shawnee Mission East also getting national attention
Although the Lancers have fallen out of the NSCAA poll, they’re still getting votes, as they head into the Kansas Class 6A semifinals at 17-1-1. Led by forward Clayton Phillips (21 goals, 4 assists) and midfielder Oliver Bihuniak (13 goals, 12 assists), Shawnee Mission East could be a title contender — if it can get past undefeated Dodge City (19-0-0) in the semifinals Friday.
5. Several contenders in Kansas Class 4-1A
Class 4-1A might be one of the most competitive classes in Kansas this year. Basehor-Linwood comes in as one of the No. 1seeds, after an 18-1-0 season. The Bobcats have tallied 16 shutouts in 19 games and will take on a 10-6-3 Andover Central team in the state semifinals.
On the other half of the bracket are 14-4-1 Louisburg and 16-2-1 Bishop Miege, who will take on each other in the semifinals. Nine of Louisburg’s 14 wins have come via shutouts, and Miege — led by second-year head coach Nate Huppe — is entering its 11th state final four in program history.