Pair of wins stand out in team’s winning season
De Soto girls soccer coach Darren Erpelding saying he plans an offseason overhaul of his team's workout and conditioning regime would seem a harsh indictment of the program's first seasons in existence.
But that's not exactly the case, he said while reflecting on his team's 2006 season.
It's much more a sign of potential he sees in his two-year-old program.
Erpelding said the De Soto program is doing well after recording its second-consecutive 8-6-2 season, but he's not satisfied with a pair of winning records.
"We made a lot of progress over the last two years and we ended the season a lot further along than we were last year," he said. "There are things we're going to change conditioning-wise to be better prepared for the end of the year so we're not peaking too early."
De Soto's season ended with a disappointing home regionals loss to Lansing, 3-1, but it's unlikely the Cats could have achieved the set preseason goal -- winning a regional title -- no matter how they fared in the rematch with Lansing. St. Thomas Aquinas -- the eventual Class 5A-1A state champions -- smoked the Lions 10-0, ending the game via mercy rule with nearly four minutes still remaining.
No, rather than worry about how the season ended, Erpelding said he's spent a lot more time thinking about how the middle stretch played out, and whether or not that contributed to the last portion.
De Soto rattled off seven straight wins, beating Immaculata, Lansing, Basehor, Gardner, Maranatha, Immaculata again and Ottawa by a combined score of 16-6.
The Cats stumbled into the postseason, however, falling to Kansas City-Piper and Blue Valley and tying Basehor.
"It's disappointing we didn't finish as high as we wanted to, but it will happen," Erpelding said.
The coach pointed to two wins as evidence of how far the team came since this ti/me last year.
First, the Cats knocked off a perennially strong program in Lansing the first time the teams met. De Soto eked out a 3-2 overtime win and did so despite falling behind 2-1 and playing minus team leader Carrie Buser.
Second, De Soto won a 1-0 contest with rival Mill Valley, avenging a 1-0 loss from the team's inaugural season in 2005.
"That was a huge stepping stone, to beat that kind of team and that kind of program," Erpelding said of the first Lansing game. "Then to beat our rival -- we didn't play our best game, but we were able to get the one goal and that's all that mattered. We outplayed them because we wanted to win more than they did."
Now Erpelding said the program is more ready to grow than it has ever been. A promising group of freshman will join what should be a powerful offensive squad in 2007.
Seniors Kaitlin Johnson, Jessica Blankenship, Andrea Young, Rachel Day, Jenny Oberhelman and Buser will be most missed on the defensive side of things. Offensively, the Cats will return the top three goal scorers.
Nicole Radcliffe led the team with seven goals and will return for her junior season. Jeni Hill -- who had five goals in her junior campaign -- and Danielle Price -- who had five as a freshman -- also return.
Megen Bedford will return in goal after what Erpelding termed a breakout season, and come next year's opening round of regionals, the coach said his team could be ready for the next step.
"Megen became a much better goalkeeper than she was the year before. She made some huge saves for us, and she's just going to get better," Erpelding said. "I'm very encouraged. We lose basically all our defense, three defenders and Carrie -- that's pretty big. But, we have our whole offense back, basically, and some freshmen coming up that are pretty darn good. We're going to be even deeper next year, and even better."