As she starts her first season as the Raymore-Peculiar girls’ soccer coach, Jen Ogren already sees the first tentative steps toward a turnaround.
The Panthers haven’t had a winning record since 2014, which was the only instance during the past five years. Ray-Pec’s last district championship came in 2012.
Reversing that trend will take some time, especially with a young team, but Ogren already sees indications that it’s happening.
“They’re all in to change what used to be in this program and changing it for the better and competing more,” Ogren said. “Even the little things, like winning the 50-50 battles on the field, are definitely changing the face of what this team is all about.”
Ogren inherited a Ray-Pec team that finished 10-12-1 last year and 3-9 in Suburban Gold Conference play. The Panthers have some proven players, such as senior forward Kennady Orlick and junior midfielder Sydney Dosch, but Ogren also has to rely on several sophomores and freshmen.
Already, the Panthers got off to a promising start, downing Class 3 quarterfinalist Pleasant Hill 3-2 on March 21 in their season opener. The second match at Lee’s Summit West started strong before allowing four goals in the second half of a 6-1 loss.
Still, Ogren, a Ray-Pec graduate and all-state goalkeeper who played at the University of South Dakota, sees progress.
“We’re just young; we’re getting it,” said Ogren, who coached on the college level for six years before coming to Ray-Pec. “We’re changing the culture of this program to be all in and for everyone to compete and battle for 80 minutes, which we did tonight.”
Ray-Pec battled West, a Class 5 semifinal team last season, on even terms during the first 30 minutes with the help of four solid saves by senior goalkeeper Cassie Kruse. The Panthers also created two early scoring opportunities that ended with shots by Orlick and Emma Beltz that just went over the crossbar.
But in the 30th minute, West midfielder Kara Privitera caught Kruse off her line and rolled in an easy shot for the Titans’ first goal. Grace Heenan blasted in a shot from the top of the 18-yard box five minutes later and West took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
West made it 3-0 only six minutes into the second half when Kassidy Newsom scored the first of her two goals on a penalty kick after getting tackled in the box. Heenan scored her second goal two minutes later and Newsom added her second on a shot to the near post.
Dosch knocked in a header to put Ray-Pec on the board in the 59th minute.
“We just made little mistakes,” Ogren said. “They’re a great attacking team, and they showed it tonight. Little mistake turnovers in the middle, they’ll punish you for it.”
That punishment is just part of the growing process, one that Ogren didn’t see halted by one lopsided defeat.
“Even in one week from the first game to now, we’re just doing different things a lot better,” Ogren said, “and we’re looking to grow on top of that.”