There's no question graduation can be a nasty word for many coaches.
Free State High soccer coach Jason Pendleton was hit hard by it this year. Several impact players from last year's 9-7-2 team are gone, including goalkeeper Justin Howell and midfielders Bryan Spangler and Kayvon Sarraf.
Despite the glaring losses, though, the Firebirds still have several impact players back, giving Pendleton hope Free State's success will continue.
"We have some guarded optimism," Pendleton said. "We have a good nucleus of kids who have been with us for several years now. They are accustomed to the high expectations."
That includes the return of senior Scott Schumaker, who looks to move up from defense and play center-midfield this season. Schumaker blew out his knee before last season, but has started varsity since he was a freshman. His knee is healthy now, and Schumaker no doubt is itching to play again.
"He's the leader of the team," Pendleton said. "He now has the physical size and speed to match the soccer know-how that he's always had."
Also returning is senior Joel Angelone, a second-team All-Sunflower League forward that led the team with 21 goals a year ago. He scored 10 as a sophomore in 2001, and brings experience to a position that seems to thrive in it.
"Sometimes you play really well, but you lack someone up top who can finish," Pendleton said. "Joel's a proven finisher."
Free State starts its season Sept. 4 against Olathe Northwest.
The Lions no doubt are poised for scoring with the return of several impact offensive players.
Among them is junior Jake Brewer and seniors Ian Legler and Ibriham Bah, who both scored in the Lions' scrimmage Wednesday at the fall sports jamboree.
Bah scored the first of the varsity's two goals at the scrimmage, but unfortunately, Bah has a pesky knack of jumping offsides before the pass is on the way.
"He can be a super outstanding talent," LHS coach David Platt said, "if he can stay onsides."
Also returning is senior goalkeeper Sean Hargis, but maybe more importantly, he has competition for the starting spot he secured all of last season.
"We have a very dependable backup in Ross Miller," Platt said. "That's going to force a great competition for the spot."
The Lions open tonight at Manhattan with hopes of improving last year's 2-14-2 record in a positive manner.
"You can't really forget about last season," Platt said. "On the same side, our goal is just to play hard, play smart and to show class on the field. If you do those right, good things will hopefully happen."
Seabury Academy boys soccer coach Shawn Sherlock has no book on how to start a high school varsity soccer team.
But he seems to be on the right track.
"Tradition all has to start somewhere," Sherlock said. "And we're starting our traditions this year."
This season is Seabury's first crack at varsity soccer, a sport that's almost unheard of for Class 1A schools. But the Seahawks have 15 players, more than enough for a starting lineup.
Even more important for Sherlock, though, is a claim he has one team, not 15 individuals.
"Everyone's giving 100 percent," Sherlock said. "We're light years ahead of a lot of programs when it comes to working together as a team."
Case in point: During the preseason, Sherlock had all of his players sit down and write their goals for the season. Where past teams Sherlock coached usually had individual goals -- such as making All-State -- the Seahawks had a strikingly different approach.
"Nobody has any individual goal outside of becoming a better player," Sherlock said. "A lot of them are team-focused in the goals that we make. That's was one of the things I was really striving for."
Seabury's inaugural game will be Sept. 2 at the Barstow Invitational. The Seahawks' first home game will be Sept. 16 against Olathe Christian.