After training throughout the summer, fall sports are about to get started at Lawrence High.
Some teams are ready to compete for a state championship, and others want to give younger athletes a chance to step into the spotlight.
Here is a look at all of the Lions’ fall sports programs:
Not many teams in the state can match the talent and experience of Lawrence High’s football team this season. The Lions boast 18 returning starters, including 11 two-year lettermen.
Looking to improve from last year’s 5-5 record, the Lions are led by linemen Amani Bledsoe, Trey Georgie, Nate Koehn and Jacob Unruh, quarterback Alan Clothier, running backs JD Woods and Trey Moore, linebackers Price Morgan, Tanner Green and Konner Kelley, and defensive backs Ivan Hollins and Coulter Strauss.
They are also looking to get big contributions from linebacker Matt Jacobson, defensive back J’Mony Bryant, offensive lineman Mark Greene, and receiver Luke Padia, along with a few sophomores.
“Our good players will need to step up and make plays,” 17th-year coach Dirk Wedd said. “This team has a lot to prove. Biggest challenge is playing three out of our first four games on the road.”
Lawrence starts the season against Blue Valley West at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at home.
Lawrence’s volleyball players didn’t finish last year the way they wanted, losing nine of their final 11 matches. They plan on doing a lot more winning this season.
“This team is versatile with hitters that can play in multiple positions allowing us to utilize multiple offenses,” ninth-year coach Stephanie Magnuson said. “Six seniors all with varsity experience will provide energy and leadership.”
The Lions bring back senior outside hitter and all-league selection Caroline Dykes, middle blocker Nesreen Iskandrani, defensive specialists Nicole Owens, Nicolasa Kenney, Katie Murrish, and setters Kyleigh Severa and Laurel Bird.
Magnuson also hopes to get a lift from outside hitter Olivia Morgan, right side hitters E’lease Stafford and Amelia Dunlap, and middle blocker Lexi Anglin.
The season starts in a home dual against Blue Valley Northwest at 5 p.m. on Sept. 1.
Lawrence’s boys soccer team finished with an 8-7-2 record last season and hosted a playoff game for only the third time in school history.
The Lions were happy with their accomplishments but want to take it up a level this year.
LHS will have five returning starters: senior all-state midfielder Piper Hubbell, senior defenders Brennan Davies and Sam Dykes, junior forward Cain Scott and junior midfielder Charlie Carr. The Lions are also hoping to see a big season from junior midfielder Ebrahim Diagne.
“We feel good about the season since we have several returning starters and the team has excellent chemistry,” sixth-year coach Mike Murphy said.
The Lions will go on the road and play Manhattan in their season opener at 6:15 p.m. Friday.
After falling short of qualifying for state as a team last year, Lawrence’s gymnastics team has the pieces to score more points this season.
The Lions will be led by senior Ashley Ammann, who finished eighth at state in the floor exercise last season, and junior Jordyn Leon, who tied for 19th place in the uneven bars at state.
Sophomore Eliana Seidner and Ja’Mya Dye also return from last season while third-year coach Brooke Kissinger said the team has a few freshmen who are expected to help the Lions compete.
They begin in the Shawnee Mission West quadrangular on Sept. 9.
Both of Lawrence’s cross country teams finished near the bottom of the Sunflower League standings last season, but there’s optimism that they can make a big jump this year.
The LHS boys return a number of runners from last year, including seniors Nathan Pederson and Kai Blosser, juniors Garrett Prescott, Darius Hart and Noah Mercer, and sophomores Carson Jumping Eagle, Jackson Hoy and Carter Shook. Pederson was the only runner to qualify for state last year, while the team adds junior Ben Otte and freshmen Gary Schmidt, Sebastian Lepage and Buster White.
The girls’ team will have seniors Shaye White and Aimee Neilsen, juniors Christina Cho and Mikayla Herchell and sophomore Lacey Greenfield. They hope to get contributions from freshmen Katie Ahern and Morgan Jones.
What makes the two teams better this season?
“Many of the runners have worked hard during the summer and are stronger than last year,” coach Brian Anderson said.
The first meet is on Sept. 5 in Manhattan.
After helping a doubles tandem finish eighth in state last season, fifth-year LHS girls tennis coach Chris Marshall hopes to have a few players celebrate similar success this season.
The Lions return Erin Ventura, Caroline Baloga and Natalie Cote from last year’s team that finished seventh in the Sunflower League. Marshall is hoping Madison Mask and Betsy Smoot can also make a big impact this year.
With 28 girls on this year’s team, the Lions will have plenty of girls competing for spots to fill out the varsity lineup.
“Our biggest challenge this year will be finding which girls play the best together and most consistent,” Marshall said.
LHS starts the season in the Leavenworth quadrangular on Sept. 3.
After graduating the team’s only varsity player last season, Lawrence’s girls golf team will be essentially starting from scratch.
The Lions only have two golfers this year — freshmen Beatrice Lopez and Emily Johnson. Both of them are expected to play in mostly junior-varsity meets this year to gain experience and confidence.
“This most definitely qualifies as a building year,” first-year coach Jennifer Schmitt said. “Our team consists of freshmen ladies who are working hard and gaining strides day by day. While our turnout has been lower than anticipated, Emily and Beatrice have given us reason to believe that in the upcoming seasons (we) will see great things.”