Special to The Citizen
Jared Byrne has big shoes to fill in replacing the only head coach the Park Hill South girls soccer team has had since the school first opened its doors in 1998.
After serving as an assistant on Joe Toigo’s staff last season, Byrne inherits a squad that finished 7-11 a season ago and bowed out to Class 4 District 15 champion Liberty in the first round of the tournament. Despite losing a few key members along the back line, he’s excited about how the roster is shaping up for 2018.
“We’re all just really excited to get the season going,” said Byrne, who previously led the Truman boys’ and girls’ programs before coming to South. “We have a good balance of veteran players and a great group of incoming players, as well.”
Defender Lexi Maddox, a first-team Class 4, District 15 pick and second-team all-Suburban Conference Red Division selection, is now running track and cross country for the University of Missouri while Kallen Mazeitis, who was tabbed second-team all-district and honorable mention all-conference, and goalkeeper Brooke Montgomery, honorable mention all-conference, graduated. However, the Panthers will be led by a strong cast of returning midfielders.
Kate Eischens, Lia Fricke and Ryanne Serrone-Brown will be tasked with providing senior leadership to Byrne’s inaugural team, while he also expects a good class of freshmen to be able to come in and contribute right away. Eischens earned all-region recognition last year as a defender while also picking up first-team all-conference and district honors. Serrone-Brown was a second-team all-conference and district performer and Fricke garnered honorable mention honors in the conference.
Junior Macie Bolger and sophomore Aubree Koren also received all-conference accolades last season at forward and defender, respectively. Among the freshmen expected to see varsity playing time are midfielder Adah Anderson, defender Sofia Fatino and forward Abi Riley. The balance of the roster has Byrne and assistants Makenzie Gillaspie, Matt Semkin and Ryan Harris bullish on the team’s chances of bouncing back from a sub-.500 season.
“The goal is always to improve each game and build toward the playoffs,” he said, noting the ultimate goal is a state championship. “We have a really strong conference with Liberty and Liberty North leading the way, but we don’t lack confidence in our ability to compete for a conference championship.”