New Kansas City Kansas Community College women's soccer coach Shawn Uhlenhake has put 'community' at the forefront in building his first Lady Blue Devil team.
Sixteen of the 24 members of the 2016 team played at Kansas City Kansas high schools. Two others come from Leavenworth County and two from nearby Shawnee Mission North High School. "We will always have a group of athletes from the local high schools," says Uhlenhake.
The Blue Devil roster includes five graduates of Sumner Academy, four from J.C. Harmon, three from Piper, two from Wyandotte and one each from Washington and Bishop Ward.
The Blue Devils open the season this coming Monday at Blue River Community College in Independence and then open at home against State Fair Saturday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m.
"Right now, we're still in the process of sorting out what everyone's role is on the field," says Uhlenhake, who was not hired until mid-April because of a change in coaches. "I definitely feel it's a team with the potential to get better. The overall attitude has been great, everyone shows up for training and does everything that we ask. All in all it's a fun group with which to work."
While there are nine sophomores on the roster, only six played last season –Cheyann Lake, Katie Trzok and Jessica Ibarra, all of Piper; Liz Falcon of Harmon and Veronica Samaniego of SM North, all of whom are defenders; and goalkeeper Hannah Bishop of Van Horn in Independence.
However, two other sophomores have past KCKCC experience, midfielder/defender Heidi Chavez of Bishop Ward who played on KCKCC's first women's team in 2011; and Friday Landford, a forward from Harmon who played two years ago. Norma Montes, a Harmon grad who transferred from Maple Woods, rounds out the corps of sophomores as Hannah Bishop's lone challenger at goalkeeper.
"We expect the sophomores to show the way, not only on the playing field but how to handle classes, training and other facets of lifestyle off the field," said Uhlenhake, who has named Cheyann Lake and Veronica Samaniego sophomore captains along with freshman captain Bailey Zinser, a midfielder from Lansing.
Two freshmen, Joseline Oregon of SM North and Emilie Lutz of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, are the main challengers to Landford at the forward position while midfield and defensive positions are wide open.
Freshmen midfield candidates include Marisol Rangel, Shaytel Nieto and Amber Chavez, all of Sumner Academy; Carolina Sotelo and Jennyfer Lucero, both of Wyandotte; Wendy Salinas of Harmon; Karla Gonzalez of Washington; and Marivel Gomez, a midfielder/defender from Jarrel, Tex.
For the first time, the Blue Devils will face each of their Jayhawk Conference rivals twice as part of a home-and-home format. Other teams in the conference include Johnson County, Cowley College, Butler County, Coffeyville, Neosho County and Allen County. Non-conference foes will include Blue River, State Fair and Maple Woods.
A 1997 graduate of Topeka High School, Uhlenhake played on four teams that qualified for national tournaments – two each at State Fair and Lindenwood University. He began his collegiate coaching career at Barton County for one year before coaching both the men's and women's teams at Western Texas College the last four seasons.
Uhlenhake is being assisted by Katie Kelly, an All-American defender at Marquette University. A Kansas City native who helped St. Teresa's Academy win three Missouri state high school championships, Kelly played one professional season with FC Kansas City and five years in Sweden, Germany and Finland before retiring at the end of the 2015 season to begin a career in coaching.