Since winning it all in 2014, Lee’s Summit’s boys soccer team has been slowly but surely climbing back toward the top.
Is this the year the Tigers finish the climb?
“We hope we’re close,” Lee’s Summit coach Dave Wiebenga said. “It’s kind of the vision we have, to get to the final four again.”
Lee’s Summit won that Class 4 state championship with a deep, experienced and talented team. It’s taken some time, but now Wiebenga feels he has that type of team again.
After finishing 9-8 and exiting in the first round of districts in 2016, Lee’s Summit bounced back last season to finish 13-8 with Suburban Gold Conference and Class 4 District 12 championships. And with all but two starters and six seniors returning from that team, the Tigers feel optimistic about rejoining the state’s soccer elite.
“I think we’re ready,” Lee’s Summit forward Keenan Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of good pieces. The midfield is just stacked; the defense has a lot of great players. Offense? We can score a lot of goals.”
Johnson, a senior, led the Tigers with 12 goals last year. Wiebenga expects him to be even more productive this year, but he won’t be the only Tiger putting the ball in the net. Senior Caleb Ranney, a starter who suffered a knee injury at the end of last season, is expected back soon. Wiebenga said Alan Reyes, a junior who played junior varsity last season, has been impressive since practice began.
And midfielders like Jackson Wood, the Suburban Gold player of the year last season, Mason McQueen and Nick Froelich are also proven goal scorers, which means the Tigers will have plenty of options complementing their dynamic scoring leader.
“It will probably make life easier for Keenan because he can play off of guys,” Wiebenga said. “He won’t have to feel like I’m the only one. I can dish the ball. If I’m double teamed tonight well that’s going to leave somebody else open. It’s a good chemistry to have.”
Wiebenga expects the same kind of chemistry on the back line with every starter back except left back Eric Holm. Junior Ian Shores returns after being selected conference defensive player of the year. He leads a group that includes seniors Collin Kay, Jordan Johnson and Jordan Nickens along with junior Joey Achugo.
Jackson Wells also returns after starting last season at goalkeeper, but the junior’s starting spot isn’t secure. Wiebenga said he had six goalies capable of playing varsity, including Fort Osage transfer Kaia Tupinio, who started for the Indians last season.
“He’s doing a great job for us already,” Wiebenga said of Wells. “(The competition) is only going to make him better, which is going to make his competition better, which means whoever we decide to go with the first night we line up we’ll feel comfortable.”
Lee’s Summit’s journey to the top will head down a different road this season. The move to the Suburban Red Conference has the Tigers facing a new and unfamiliar league schedule. The districts haven’t been announced yet, but familiar foes Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit North will likely await there.
But no matter who the Tigers play, Johnson knows there’s one thing they’ll be capable of doing to assure their success.
“Just put the ball in the back of the net,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to score goals.”