The sun was shining, and the mood, as it always seems to be at Free State High’s soccer practices, was light and fun on Monday afternoon.
Such is the way coach Kelly Barah likes to keep things, even leading up to Tuesday’s regional playoff game, in which FSHS will play host to Junction City at 6:30 p.m.
“We don’t think of this as work,” Barah said. “We take every practice seriously, but we always emphasize the importance of having fun.”
Barah also suggested that the fourth-seeded Firebirds (9-6-1) will pay no mind to Junction City’s 6-9-1 record.
“We have one premise, which is, we don’t worry about the other team, we don’t worry about the referee — we worry about what we’re doing,” Barah said. “So we don’t really care who we’re playing or what their record is, but any information we may have (about their style) never hurts.”
This season’s strong performance is not the only reason to be bullish on the future of the FSHS soccer program.
The junior varsity dominated, outscoring opponents 72-6 on the way to an 11-1-3 record. Those who contributed to the memorable JV season: Marti Belot, Ciara Carey, Kaithlin Dunbar, Tanna Fanshier, Liza Farr, Jessica Ferguson, Jenna Giele, Victoria Gilman, Hanna Heline, Annie Hierl, Maren Kahler, Paige Kallenberger, Rachel Longren, Rosemary Newsome, Amanda Schaller and Sunina Upshaw.
Seventh-seeded Lawrence High (4-12), meanwhile, will play at No. 2 Washburn Rural (10-5-1) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Topeka. LHS will look to avenge a 5-0 defeat against Rural earlier this season.
First-year LHS coach Joe Nemzer said the girls have responded well to his scheme.
“You don’t care about what’s been done to this point,” Nemzer said. “The best team on that specific day is going to win. We don’t anticipate losing; we’re going there trying to win.”