Soccer up-and-comers will lead next season
If De Soto's last soccer game of the year is any indication of where the program is heading, the sky might be the limit.
Especially considering the talent that will be back combined with some impressive up and coming junior varsity players.
But the success the Wildcats experienced at season's end didn't show its face until the players started to heed head coach Mike Murphy's message of taking care of themselves on and off of the field.
"Kids don't always put themselves in the best shape to be successful," said Murphy. "They need to be involved in other sports or playing soccer to improve their athleticism...If not, they'll sit on the couch all winter."
Murphy also had concerns about the level of intensity at which some of his players performed.
"We need to be more intense whether we're practicing or playing in a game," he said. "I am of the belief that you play like you practice. Every kid has the ability to play with the intensity needed to be successful."
Murphy also questioned the leadership of a couple of his seniors. But one senior he knew he could rely on was Willie Meier.
"He is very coachable," said Murphy of his team's MVP. "Willie took care of himself, played in the off season, lifted weights and plays all of the sports. He led by his example."
The Wildcats started the year off with three straight wins over Bonner Springs, Highland Park and Piper by outscoring its foes by a 13-3 margin.
A 3-1 loss to rival Mill Valley started a 1-3 stretch for De Soto that saw its record dip to 4-3.
The Wildcats then got hot again by winning four of their next five games. The only blemish in that spurt was a 1-1 tie with Mill Valley.
But De Soto ended the regular season by losing three straight matches to Tonganoxie, Perry-Lecompton and Lansing by a combined margin of 2-13.
A season-ending win over Basehor-Linwood gave De Soto a vote of confidence going into post-season play with a 9-6-1 record.
The Wildcats then dispatched Basehor-Linwood for the second time in a week and Topeka Hayden before falling to Lansing 2-1 in a state quarterfinal match.
The close match to the Lions in their final game of the season impressed not only De Soto fans and coaches, but also coaches from around the state.
The Wildcats placed four players on the Northeast Kansas Soccer Coaches Association (NEKSCA) all-star team.
star team. Selections are made based on a team's record and how far it advances into the postseason.
Sophomore Jesse Smith, also named honorable mention All-Metro in The Kansas City Star, led the Wildcat vote getters on the team by earning a spot on the first team.
Meier was named to the second team, while fellow seniors Harley Mostaffa and Todd Manson found their way onto the honorable mention list.
The close match with powerhouse Lansing was a good stepping stone for next season.
De Soto has Smith for two more years, plus a good group of juniors coming back. Throw into that mix a solid group of junior varsity players that lost just one game this season and there's cause for more optimism.
"If we work hard in the off season by getting involved in other sports and working on our soccer game, we should be as good as anyone in the state next year," Murphy said. "We will have a lot of competition for starting spots next year. We will have some depth too."