Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2007

Soccer enjoys best season yet

June 14, 2007

So it wasn't the ending the girls soccer team had hoped for -- not the one they'd dreamt about. With the program's third season now in the books, De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said he doesn't have many regrets, however.

How could he? De Soto cruised to its best season, finishing 11-7 after the team was 8-6-2 in each of its first two years.

"I'm very happy with the season," Erpelding said. "We fell short of one of our goals -- we wanted to win the regional championship. But we got to that game and we won more games than we had in the past, so I was happy."

There's more breakthroughs to come, Erpelding said. He hopes in the coming years De Soto will play heated games with every opponent it schedules. As is, he said the Cats saw plenty of breakthrough performances this season.

The final such breakthrough was perhaps the most important -- De Soto won its first post-season game. The Wildcats easily handled Basehor-Linwood, 4-0 at home in the first round of the regional tournament. The win let the Cats continue their season, and gave them a chance at the regional crown.

Though De Soto lost that game, a 3-0 setback to St. James Academy, the season ended on a high note.

"Winning our first regional game was huge," Erpelding said. "That was a huge breakthrough, to finally win a playoff game, and to do it in that fashion. We completely controlled Basehor."

It was obvious the Cats might be on to a special season from the start. They won their first five games, taking an opening-day victory from Gardner via a Carly Stanley double-overtime goal, and capping the run with an 8-2 shellacking of first-year club Tonganoxie.

The team picked up De Soto's first-ever soccer victory against Kansas City Christian -- boys or girls -- with a second half that saw the Cats score three times to win 3-2.

"Coming back from 2-0 to beat Christian, that's pretty awesome," Erpelding said. "That might have been one of the biggest (games.)"

De Soto ensured it would at least equal its record from the previous years with a 7-0 victory at Ottawa, then beat Immaculata and Bonner Springs to close out the regular season. The team beat Basehor in the first round of the regional playoffs, notching a 4-0 win, before finally falling to St. James in the regional title game.

It was a step up, Erpelding said, but he's still anxious to see the steps the squad can take in the future. De Soto hung close against much bigger schools such as Blue Valley (losing 3-2) and Topeka Seaman (a 1-0 loss), but still couldn't win any of those games.

Finding another breakthrough season certainly won't be easy, however. The Cats lose five seniors: Jeni Hill, Katie Beck, Kate Beaver, Lidia Flores and Janeth Jacabo.

Beck was nearly irreplaceable as the team's sweeper, and was so good she became the first girls soccer player to be named to the Class 5A-1A first team all-state squad.

Hill was fourth on the team with four goals, but second in assists and a constant threat to outrun any defense from her forward position.

"If not for Katie Beck at sweeper, we probably don't win 11 games," Erpelding said. "She was the backbone of our defense.

"We're also going to miss Jeni because she was willing to give the ball up. He'll miss her speed and ability to stretch the defense."

De Soto returns plenty of talent, as well, and it's from that pool that Erpelding sees the potential for an even better year in 2008.

The Cats will welcome back their top three scorers: Stanley, who had 21 goals and nine assists; Nicole Radcliffe, 16 goals and seven assists; and Danielle Price, 13 goals and 11 assists.

The team also will welcome back goalkeeper Megen Bedford. The goalie in each of the program's three seasons, Bedford recorded 86 saves in 2007 and recorded 3.5 shutouts.

"I was happy with the development of the players," Erpelding said. "They were all better by the end than they were at the beginning. And they're excited for next year, so that's a good thing."

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