Assigned the task of replacing a 12-player senior class for the second straight season, Park Hill South boys soccer coach Joe Toigo braced himself for a rebuilding year. At the very least, he was certain there would be some early-season growing pains.
The Panthers opened the season with five consecutive victories, and they won the 33rd annual Olathe Tournament on Saturday.
Park Hill South defeated Blue Valley North 3-2 in the championship game after wins against Olathe East and Olathe South earlier in bracket play. The Panthers preceded the tournament with an overtime victory against Lee’s Summit.
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“That’s four games in a row with a playoff atmosphere and playoff tone already,” Toigo said. “That’s big. We’ll see. It’s very early, but we have a group of kids working hard together. We’re excited to see where this goes.”
Tanner Alderson scored twice in the championship victory against Blue Valley North and Carson Cavitt-Wells scored once. The team’s projected top striker, Dylan Kintner, has three goals and two assists in the first five games.
But it’s been the team’s defense that has impressed the coaching staff the most. Seth Hudson leads that group. He has split time between the defensive midfield and the center of the back line.
“We’ve been pretty tough to score on,” Toigo said. “That’s been the most pleasing thing to see because that’s a fairly new group in the back. Most of those guys graduated last year. So we had to replace a lot, and we’ve looked good doing it so far.”
Smithville soccer streak
Smithville soccer coach Jon Reed decided long ago that he didn’t need to issue any season-long goals to his players.
For a program that has won 12 straight Midland Empire conference championships and 12 straight district championships, the bar has been set — even if the objectives aren’t specifically communicated.
“A lot of these kids were in kindergarten when we won our first district title and this streak started,” Reed said. “They’ve followed the system and been in the system — whether it’s on the JV team or the varsity team — long enough to understand what the expectations are.”
An inexperienced group is charged with keeping those streaks alive. Reed says this year’s team is the youngest during his 17-year tenure.
Smithville has started a lineup this season featuring zero seniors. It graduated eight of them last year.
“That being said, we still have a lot of talent and athletic players,” Reed said. “But it’s going to take them time to learn how to play together and play in the system. We’re obviously way behind where we usually are at this point in the season.”
Smithville is 3-2 through its first five games. Reed says he has turned to junior Trent Williams to take over a leadership role. Williams is a three-year starting forward and the “engine that makes us go,” Reed said.
To help a young defense, sophomore Sam Aviles has shifted from the midfield to take over at central defender.
Soccer classification changes
For the first time in Missouri high school history, soccer has been split into four classifications.
The largest 64 schools were placed in Class 4, the next 64 in Class 3, the next 64 in Class 2 and the remainder in Class 1.
The Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association released its first installment of rankings under the new classifications
St. Pius X is ranked sixth in Class 2 after it reached the Final Four in Class 1 last fall.
Park Hill South is ranked seventh in Class 4. Smithville is eighth in Class 3.