Conditioning first priority for Cat soccer squad
De Soto soccer coach Darren Erpelding said it took all of about 30 minutes to start concocting ways to replace the seniors his team will lose to graduation.
It took him even significantly less time to figure out what next year's team needed and what this year's team lacked -- a little fitness.
It's not that his Cats were out of shape, Erpelding said. It's just that nearly every time they took the field, they butted heads against someone in better shape, and as teams around the area become ever more competitive, that's not an edge his Cats can afford not to have.
"I looked at all the teams we played and we were only more athletic than three of them," Erpelding said. "We have to do whatever we can to become more athletic and stronger and that's going to start right now."
Those that make it through the training -- Erpelding said he's pushing for winter lifting and a summer running program with the cross country team -- stand to see a much different team come 2007.
De Soto will lose a number of its most prominent players to graduation, and Erpelding said those that return will have a busy job if they're to fill all the right holes.
The Wildcats finished the year 9-9, and have plenty of memories of all shades to look back upon. Senior Brady Seaman won two home games for the Cats with dramatic overtime goals, and the team played some of its best soccer late in the season when it won five times in seven games.
The team also suffered through some dry spells. For the second year in a row, the Cats hit an ugly mid-season patch where they just couldn't score -- they had five goals in a five-loss streak, four of which came in one game.
The team's season ended on an equally up-and-down ride. After beating Maur Hill in the opening round of the regional tournament, De Soto jumped to a 2-0 lead at Basehor. It wouldn't hold, however, and the Bobcats rallied with three goals in the final nine minutes of the game for a crushing 4-2 victory.
"We know we got better every game of the season," Erpelding said. "We can take that into next season. We were ahead of Basehor, but there are still things we need to do so that doesn't happen."
As for the scoreless patch, Erpelding said this year's stretch was more encouraging than last years, but both share one thing in common -- a highly anticipated game against Kansas City-Christian factored in early.
There's plenty of reason to get worked up against Christian, and fellow soccer powerhouse Maranatha. Christian won its second-straight state title this season and Maranatha advanced to the state semi-finals. But Erpelding said the emotions his team built up, then had come crashing back down in those games often led to more than just one loss.
"It's definitely a positive to play them because it's a measuring stick for where we're at and where our program's at," Erpelding said. "But next year we won't put nearly as much focus on those games.
"A lot of that's my fault. We want to beat those guys so bad and show we're as good as they are, and the let down is huge and we can't recover from it very fast."