Preps notebook: Top area boys soccer storylines entering 2019 season

Baldwin coach Matthew McCune talks to senior Jacob Bailey during a quarterfinals match with Kansas City Christian Tuesday at BHS on Oct. 30, 2018.

The 2019 soccer season officially began Friday with multiple area teams in action.

In a battle between two area teams, Eudora’s boys soccer squad bested Bishop Seabury by a 4-2 margin at EHS. It marked the second year in a row that the Cardinals claimed the season opener against the Seahawks. But both teams had plenty of positives from Friday’s tilt.

Lawrence High’s boys soccer team dropped a 2-0 decision at Manhattan, a team that finished as a runner-up in Class 6A in 2018. Yet the Lions have plenty of potential on this year’s squad and could improve on their 6-9-2 clip from a year ago.

Tonganoxie fell in a close match in its season opener, suffering a 2-1 loss to Kansas City Christian at THS. Cuyler Kietzman scored the lone goal for the Chieftains in the first match of the year.

While only one team started off in the win column, this season has a chance to be an exciting one for multiple area boys soccer squads. With that, let’s take a look at the top boys soccer storylines in 2019:

New era for Free State soccer

Head coach Hussam Mohammed will kick off a new era for FSHS boys soccer this week, as the team travels to Olathe South at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

With Mohammed as the only new soccer coach in the area, it will be interesting to see if the Firebirds can get back above .500. Free State has won seven games in each of the last two years, going 7-8-2 in 2017 and 7-8-1 in 2018.

The talent is there for the Firebirds, and many of the seniors have been playing together for a long time. Ashton Owen, Oliver Frankenfeld, Hayden Robbins and Jacob Appleman are all key members of a tight senior class.

Free State will begin 2019 with three road matches against Olathe South, Seaman and De Soto. The team’s first home tilt will be against Shawnee Mission North on Sept. 17.

Hartzler, Bishop Seabury hungry for more

2018 was a season to remember for Bishop Seabury’s Harrison Hartzler.

As a sophomore, Hartzler scored 19 goals from the right wing position and was recognized as Journal World’s Player of the Year. His athleticism has always been something special, but Hartzler put in the work this offseason to do even better this fall.

Hartzler will play outside back for the Seahawks, who went 9-3 last season before injuries prevented a potential deep run in the playoffs. BSA will have to replace six starters, but it brings back plenty of production.

Senior midfielder Freddy Comparato was involved in 80% of the team’s goals last year. Evan McHenry was also a double-digit scorer last fall, while freshman forward Beck Oldridge is expected to make an immediate impact. Goalkeeper Tony Jung, who played defense against Eudora, scored his first career goal in the season opener.

“We are introducing a new formation, which will help us better utilize our players’ skill set,” fifth-year head coach Ivo Ivanov said. “But it might take a couple of matches before everyone starts reading (on) the same page.”

Bishop Seabury (0-1) will travel to Pembroke Hill at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Can Baldwin reload?

Baldwin had the deepest postseason run among area boys soccer squads last season.

The Bulldogs, who went 12-5-2, finished one match shy of making it to the state tournament. Baldwin will have to reload in order to replicate that level of success, as it will have to replace 10 seniors from last year’s squad.

But there are some talented players on this team. Senior defender Jordan Barth, who is also a captain, started every game last year for one of the best defenses in Class 4A. Senior midfielder Tyler Wales is also back after starting every match last season.

Junior Grady McCune, a two-time All-Frontier League selection, led the Bulldogs in assists with 10 in 2018. Caden Prather, a senior defender, is fast and can attack from the back. Sophomore defenders Devin Prather, Francisco McGuinness and Michael Garber are all expected to make the leap from junior varsity.

“Even though we lost a lot of quality players and experience, our expectations are high,” fourth-year head coach Matthew McCune said. “We have (a) schedule that will give us some excellent competition and prepare our young squad for the postseason.”

Baldwin hosts Paola at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Eudora poised to take another step

As the only area team currently in the win column, the Cardinals have plenty of reason to be optimistic about their chances in 2019.

Last season, Eudora went 9-7-2 to record its first winning record in program history. The Cardinals bring back plenty of experience, including 18 juniors who will compete for varsity action.

Senior captain Caden Willits, who was a second-team all-state selection as a junior, will embrace a leadership role. Senior center back Brant Arnold is ready to take another step in his final season. Junior forward Keaton Herron paced EHS in goals as a sophomore with nine scores.

Junior captain Dylan Meyer had an impressive campaign last year, in which he was named second-team all-state. After a five-score season, Alex Kooken should be more of a focal point this year at center forward. Daniel Grosdidier, Kale Breedlove, Camden Ridinger, Isaac Lewis, Jace McCormick and Colby Lawhorn are all key returners for the Cardinals as well.

“We have a team that could win a lot of games. We also have a team that could be very average,” fifth-year head coach Darren Erpelding said. “It is going to come down to effort, energy, excitement and if we can do the little things right.”

Eudora (1-0) will travel to Maur Hill-Mount Academy at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Can Tonganoxie win close games?

In order to improve on its 6-9 record, Tonganoxie will have to win the close matches this fall.

The season opener didn’t go their way, but the Chieftains believe they have grown in late-game situations. Junior all-state defender Abel Mendoza should make scoring difficult for opposing teams, while senior forward Javier Tujillo has the speed and finishing touch to be a huge offensive threat.

Sophomore Grayson Sonntag, who had success as a wrestler last winter, will control the middle of the field as the team’s midfielder. Junior Jacob Howell will hold things down in the net as Tonganoxie’s goalkeeper.

“I believe this team will be more dynamic and even more fun to watch than a season before,” third-year head coach Jon Orndorff said. “You will see many different players step up in each game.”

THS (0-1) will travel to Maranatha Christian Academy at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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