FSHS boys soccer leans on senior leadership during uncertain offseason

photo by: Carter Gaskins

In this file photo, Free State's Joon Chun (19) looks to make a play in the first half Tuesday night at FSHS during the regional semifinals on Oct. 27, 2020.

In an offseason of uncertainty, the senior class has become more important than ever for the Free State boys soccer team. And they showed that during the team camp last week, which went Monday through Thursday.

FSHS has yet to name its new head coach for the upcoming season, as it looks to replace Hussam Mohammed after he stepped down in the spring. That has made the leadership of the senior class instrumental throughout the offseason.

“With the uncertainty of the coaching situation, it has been important for us to step up and lead,” senior left forward Andrew Henderson said. “We feel kind of a chip on our shoulder. We feel like we need to take charge of the situation a little bit.”

Henderson is a part of a huge senior class that features Aaron Neff, Aidan Odom, Aydan Works, Dawson Pfannenstiel, Evan Wilson, Hunter Young, Isaac Hamadi, Jackson Bone, Joon Chun, Jacoby Sieber, Logan Schwab, Nate Ankenbauer, Tyler Rasys, Simon Pool and Trevor Sidabutar.

All of them have played their part from a leadership standpoint during an unusual summer. It is a role that Henderson has been looking forward to since his freshman year, as this will be his fourth season at the varsity level.

“I looked up to those leaders when I was a freshman, and saw the work ethic and the enthusiasm and desire they had for the program,” Henderson said. “Now that I’m finally at that age, I see where they got that drive and enthusiasm from and hope I can put it to use this season as well.”

Neff, meanwhile, wasn’t as sure that he was ready for the position. Yet the center back has been doing an excellent job all offseason of leading by example.

“There has been such great senior leadership in this program,” Neff said. “It’s hard filling that role. There’s just a lot of guys that just do not have the motivation, and you really just have to be positive and 100% all the time.”

Chun, who is a four-year impact player as the team’s striker, will also guide the team both on and off the field this fall.

Free State’s summer camp was really the first glimpse at how the seniors would set the tone for the upcoming season. The Firebirds had about 60 players in attendance, which included introducing new members to the program.

Nathan Mangold, who is an assistant coach for the boys soccer team and was the head coach of the girls soccer program last spring, credited the older players for a smooth camp that was directed by two assistants.

“We were able to start to identify how our seniors are going to lead,” Mangold said. “We lost a good chunk of seniors last year. We have a good group this season, but they lead a little differently.”

As for what is different, Mangold said that a few of the seniors have been more vocal than last year’s group. The rest of the senior class helped by doing things the right way, as players led drills throughout camp.

“We want to hear the players’ voices because it’s their team,” Mangold said. “The coaches don’t get to kick the ball, we don’t get to slide tackle or we don’t get to make any decisions on the field. We just play the players in their best spots and put them in positions to succeed.”

The Firebirds will have a head coach by the start of the fall, but the team camp served as the stage setter for the upcoming season. After losing to Lawrence High in the regional opener, Free State is aiming for a deeper postseason run.

“I think this team is capable of anything we put our mind to,” Henderson said. “With the first round exit in the playoffs last year to LHS, I think we have a lot of motivation going towards the playoffs — really to make it something special.”


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