By Jason Lawrence
Special to the Citizen
Despite all of the success the past four seasons have brought the Park Hill girls’ soccer team, with three Suburban Red Conference titles and three district titles, the Trojans are hungry for more.
“We’re looking to continue to build off of our success over the last four years,” said head coach Brandt Bell, who has compiled a 90-42-6 record in five seasons at the helm. “Our goal is to break through the quarterfinals after coming one game short at state the last three years.”
The Trojans went 18-6-2 last season, finishing second in conference play and winning the Smithville Invitational and the Class 4 District 16 title before bowing out in the state quarterfinals to Lee’s Summit North, the eventual state runner-up. Gone from that team, however, are two-time all-American defender Jenna Winebrenner — a four-time all-state, all-conference, all-district and all-region performer who is playing at Notre Dame — and three-time all-conference, district and region defender Chais Wright, who graduated early to play the spring season at the University of Kansas, as well as versatile starters Andie Powell and Meg Feeley, who filled a variety of starting positions last season.
The Trojans are not lacking for veteran experience heading into the 2018 campaign, however. Two-year senior captains Alison Walls and Kelbey Emerson will buoy the front- and back-ends of the lineup and are each coming off of all-conference, district, region and state seasons. Walls, the 2016 Suburban Gold Offensive Player of the Year, recorded 17 goals and 10 assists from her forward position during her junior campaign. She has signed to play with Division I Drake.
Last year's team had a fourth Division I signee in Sarah Hibbeler -- Southern Illinois-Edwardsville -- who is out this year with an ACL tear.
Emerson followed up consecutive conference Goalkeeper of the Year awards and a school-record 23 shutouts in 2016 with nine shutouts as a junior.
Bell, who is assisted by Natalie Morrison, Andrew Cline and Kayla Curran, also returns a slew of juniors who contributed last year as sophomores, including junior midfielder Ayana Weissenfluh, who was limited due to injury last season, but still scored five goals and recorded four assists following up an all-conference and district performance as a freshman; defender Aleece Noble; and midfielder-forward Mackenzie Sackuvich, who scored six goals to go along with three assists last year. Also returning is all-conference and district sophomore midfielder Dragana Andonovski, who racked up 12 assists to go along with a pair of goals.
The veteran coach also expects big things from his freshmen both this season and into the future.
“We have a very talented freshmen group,” Bell said. “We’re excited to see what they can contribute; not sure who will fit in where, but have high expectations for the class as a whole.”
With expectations high, Bell expects his team to once again compete for the conference title, but anticipated Lee’s Summit West, which lost in the state semifinals to Lee’s Summit North last season, as the early favorite for the top spot with competition from the Broncos as well as Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs South.
“All of our conference games are tough,” he said, again pointing out key matchups with the three Lee’s Summit schools and Blue Springs South, as well as the Bob Durig MOKAN Invite, which takes place in late March and features teams from public and private schools on both sides of the state line. “We’ve also got big non-conference matches with St. Teresa’s Academy, Liberty and Park Hill South (on the schedule).”
The Trojans open the season March 16 at Lee’s Summit before opening the home portion of their schedule at March 20 against Lee’s Summit West at the Park Hill School District Soccer Complex at Park Hill South High School.