Its opening day Tuesday for Kansas City Kansas Community College's young but very promising women's soccer team.
The Lady Blue Devils will kick off the 2017 season with four straight home matches starting Tuesday against State Fair at 7 p.m. Dodge City will follow Sunday at noon with Blue River Sept. 1 and the Jayhawk Conference opener against Neosho County Sept. 5, both at 5 p.m.
For Shawn Uhlenhake, its season No. 2 as head coach but only his first full season of recruiting and he's landed a bevy of 15 high school standouts, all but one from Kansas schools.
"Our goal is to change the culture of the program and I think this is a good first step with the players we've brought in," says Uhlenhake. "The majority of the freshmen played in the first or second divisions of their club league play and most were team captains and team leaders."
With nine returning sophomores and one transfer, Uhlenhake has built the depth the Blue Devils lacked a year ago. "We identified holes from last year and filled them with quality players," he says. "This provides a lot of competition for training, something we did not have last year."
With more depth, the competition for starting positions is even more heated – competition that should begin to sort itself out in the three home non-conference games starting the season. "By the time conference play starts, we should have a good idea of who we want on the playing field," says Uhlenhake.
The fiercest competition starts in goal where three freshmen – Jessica Hill of Shawnee Heights, Morgan Longstreth of Olathe Northwest and Caitlin Cordes of Wichita East – are locked in a battle for starting job.
Sophomore captain Bailey Zinser of Lansing and freshman Carmen Rush of DeSoto will anchor the defense along with sophomores Brenna Stoffle of Leavenworth and Shaytel Nieto of Sumner Academy and freshmen Mike'e Odell of SM North, Audrie Wooten of Olathe North, Joanna Filbert of Tonganoxie and Shayla Lee of Benton High School.
Veteran Marisol Rangel of Sumner and freshmen Madison Plake of DeSoto and Natalie Zink of Leavenworth will be the mainstays at midfield where they'll be joined by sophomores Emilie Lutz of Toronto, Canada; Joseline Oregon of SM North and Ana Suarez and Alejandra Jiminez, both of Sumner; and freshmen Trinity Rosberg of SM North and Katelynn Danzer of Springfield, Mo. The Blue Devils lost two other top midfield prospects in Kaitlyn Rose of Bonner Springs and Micayla Nemnich of Topeka Seaman, both of whom suffered torn ACL's in high school. Both will redshirt this season.
Marivel Gomez of Jarrel, Tex., returns at forward where she's being challenged by freshman Itzel Almanza of JC Harmon and Joanna Filbert of Tonganoxie and Bishop Ward sophomore Serena Ortiz, a transfer from Missouri Western.
The Blue Devils are coming off a 5-7 season. It's the most wins in a single season for the young program and now Uhlenhake wants to take it to a higher level. "Our goal is to make the playoffs for the first time in history," he says. The Blue Devils play a 17-game schedule with a record 11 home contests. "Butler County is the heavy favorite in the Jayhawk Conference and Johnson County is always in the conversation," says Uhlenhake. KCKCC will play home-and-home games with all six Jayhawk rivals, Allen County, Neosho County, Coffeyville, Cowley, Butler and JCCC.
Uhlenhake is being assisted by Katie Kelly, a collegiate All-American at Marquette, who played professionally for five years; and Kenny Mayer, who is coaching the goalkeepers after working with goalkeepers with the Kansas City Comets.
Very young lot of freshmen on the field. Good provide lott comeptionat for trainining, have depth, something we did not have last year,. \
All Kansas but two.
FORWARD – Marivel Gomez, Itzel lbackup – Lost 2 to torn ACL who would have hlepd at end of high school seasons.
Freshmen identified holes from last year and filled with quality players. First true recruiting class. We're cautiously optimistic. Very young, change culture of the program, think good first step with the players we've brought in. Majority first or second division of their club kleague play and most of them were captains, team leaders.
Goal is to make playoffs for first time in history, four from each side.
Play 12 conference games. 11 home games. Butler heavey favoritie JC always in the conversation.
3 nona conference to start season – by time conf. play starts good idea of who we want on the playing field.