Even in early March, well before facing the first competition of the season, Harrisonville girls soccer coach Dan Coleman could sense an attitude developing on his team.
A swagger, perhaps?
“It’s kind of a weird thing to say at this point before we’ve even played a game,” Coleman said. “But I think they know they have the potential to do some special things.”
It might not be too early for Harrisonville to have a little swagger, considering the experience and talent coming back from an 11-11 team that reached its district final last spring. The Wildcats have two prolific goal scorers back, as well as a solid goalkeeper among a group of seven seniors. And they also have some young talent, which Coleman believes will make for a good mix.
“We’ve got a good corps of seniors that have been really working hard over the last couple of seasons and working towards this moment,” said Coleman, who is in his 13th season of coaching the Wildcats. “They want to put something together and make a nice run both in the conference and postseason play. We’ve got four freshmen who have proven they can contribute at the varsity level, and then we have a good mix of sophomore and juniors.”
At the heart of that mix are senior strikers Eleanor Dick and Payton Sandy, center back Lilly Harold, senior goalie Baylee Streit and fellow seniors Landon Getz and Jacey Moreland. Dick and Sandy will spearhead the Wildcats’ offense, just as they did last season when they finished first and second on the team in scoring. That shouldn’t change even if Coleman mixes up their attack a little bit more this season.
“We’d like to attack from the flanks a little more this year,” Coleman said. “Last year we isolated ourselves sometimes offensively. We’d like to be more diverse in our attack.
“But they’re going to be key components. Whether it’s themselves putting it in the back of the net, or they’re setting the table for somebody else, they’re going to be key.”
Harold will be a mainstay on the defense along with Streit, who will be starting her fourth season in goal. Last year Streit recorded five shutouts, the last one in the Wildcats’ 3-0 win over Camdenton in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 13 tournament.
“There’s good security there, and we’ve seen her grow and develop both in skill and confidence,” Coleman said. “It’s definitely satisfying to know you have somebody you can trust back there between the pipes.”
Coleman hopes that security and experience will help the Wildcats improve on last year’s up-and-down-season, which included four one-goal losses. And a little early swagger couldn’t hurt in that regard.
“Obviously a lot of work has to be done between now and then, but they know the opportunities are there,” Coleman said.