Young soccer team opens year
The Chieftain soccer team would love to improve on last year's 7-9-1 campaign under Luke Denney.
Now in his second season at Tonganoxie, Denney will be lobbying for a winning season.
To do that, the Chieftains must replace seven seniors from last year's squad, including goal keeper Luke Brown and fellow mainstays Shane Cooper, Travis Andrews, Derek Sparks and Nick Volk. Courtney King and Jason Brammer also provided minutes for THS, while now-senior Levi Huseman headed back to cross country after playing for the soccer team last fall.
With the change in varsity personnel comes a change in formation and positions.
Denney scrapped last year's 4-4-2 formation in favor of a 4-4-3. Positions also have changed this year. For instance, with Sparks lost to graduation, Robert Kirch was moved from left back to sweeper.
"A lot of things have changed," Denney said.
The Chieftains, though, do have a talented class of seniors again this year, including Chris Colon, Kirk Rodell, Robert Kirch, Travis Schultz, Bradley Willis and Mike Tate. Also on the roster as seniors are Jake McGhee, Shane Gober and Jeff Gravatt.
The Chieftains were supposed to open the season Friday at home against Class 5A power Mill Valley, but after a few 15-minute delays, the game finally was called because of lightning.
The team then played Monday at Bonner Springs. The Braves opened with a quick 2-0 lead, but didn't look back. THS cut the deficit in half with a Rodell goal, but Bonner Springs responded with three more goals before the half. Colon then scored Tonganoxie's final goal in the second half as the Chieftains fell, 5-2.
Denney said mental mistakes and first-game jitters were culprits in the loss.
"I told them at halftime 'You're playing a good team getting thumped, but there's no reason you can't come back,'" Denney said. "Two goals is enough to win a game. You've just got to stop mistakes on defense and go from there."
Tonganoxie will be back in action at 6 p.m. Thursday against Basehor-Linwood in Basehor.
"Conditioning-wise we're in pretty good shape," Denney said. "Guys trained pretty hard over the summer and in two-a-days.
"Mentally I think they're ready to go, but the juniors have to step up and assume that leadership role."