Lee’s Summit North soccer coach Ryan Kelley began preseason workouts knowing he had some talented players coming back. What he didn’t know was who would lead them.
“We’ve got to figure out who’s going to step up, who’s really going to be the leader for this group,” Kelley said. “It’s a pretty big hole we’ve got to fill.”
North’s established leaders of late left with last season’s eight seniors. Gone were players who led both on the field and by example, like Parker Moon, Cole DeRousse and Cade Rowlette. If North hopes to improve on last year’s 15-8 record and advance to a district championship and beyond, Kelley knew he had to find some new leaders.
And some new ones are turning up.
“We’ve got some guys who have started to step in and figure out how to do that role,” Kelley said. “I think some guys have identified themselves as wanting to be the leader and starting to step up and be a little bit more vocal and trying to keep us on task. We’ve got guys that definitely can fill the role; they have to get more comfortable and confident.”
So far Kelley has seen three Broncos willing to take on that role: junior midfielder Kyle Rock, senior forward Mitchell Petersen and senior goalkeeper Colin Dooley. All three are returning starters, and they all offer something different on the field.
“Kyle Rock is a very good player for us and on the field he brings that credibility,” Kelley said. “He’s a very positive guy. Mitchell Petersen, when things get a little off-track, he’s been the one trying to get us back into it. Colin Dooley tries to be very vocal and push the guys. He’s a senior and he wants the team to be very successful this year.
“Hopefully between those three guys we’ll have some leaders who will try to pull this team together.”
Petersen, who had six goals and five assists last season, will also be counted on to help lead the Broncos’ up front. Senior Brennan Larsen is the top returning scorer with seven goals and three assists, and speedy junior Dasean Ransburg had three goals and eight assists during an injury-hampered season.
Kelley wants to see all three around the goal, but he expects most of the goals to come from Petersen and Larsen on the flanks.
“Both have a lot experience getting around the goal and finishing,” Kelley said. Mitch really started to define a little bit of a groove in scoring. He’ll definitely be a key for us in the attack.”
Rock will be one of the keys to the Broncos’ veteran midfield. Solid on set pieces – most of his five assists last year came on corner kicks – Kelley said he also has the ability to break down defenses and find opportunities around the net. Sophomore Devin DeRousse and senior Christian Mesias could contribute goals from the midfield too.
“Kyle does a great job of helping us establish our possession and knocking the ball around and being able to penetrate,” Kelley said. “He’s definitely the one that’s going to help us create a lot.”
Dooley, who recorded eight shutouts last season, will be starting his third season in goal and providing a strong anchor for the Broncos’ experienced defense. Senior Zane Daugherty and junior Ryan Templeton - last season’s two starting center backs – return, but Kelley said the two flanks are still up for grabs. But with Dooley in the net, Kelley already has plenty of confidence in the Broncos’ back third.
“You’re comfortable knowing Collin’s back there and it going to take a real quality shot to beat him,” Kelley said. “He’s an excellent goalie and he’s definitely very motivated and driven this season, not that he wasn’t in the past.”
Kelley expects the defense to be the backbone for the Broncos as the other parts of the team develop. He won’t have to wait long to see how much progress they’ve made. North opens the season with three games starting Saturday in the Liberty Invitational tournament. After that they will dive into Suburban Gold Conference Play and then take part in the KA-MO Tournament at Blue Valley North.
“We have players we kind of have to bring along, so I think it is going to be a team that is going to have to grow,” Kelley said. “We may take a couple of lumps early, but this is definitely a team that’s really confident. They have high expectations of themselves.”