Park Hill South coach Chris Farmer definitely finds it easier to say who is back than who is gone.
An astounding 19 seniors helped the Panthers to a third straight district title and a second straight appearance in the Class 4 quarterfinals to cap the 2016 season. Eight signed to play at the collegiate level, and 10 earned postseason honors, including all-state defender Colton Smith, midfielder Ryan DiBernardo and forward Tyler Pisoni.
Now an almost completely turned over roster inherits the task of maintaining Park Hill South’s prestige, and much of the job will fall to members of last year’s unbeaten junior varsity squad.
“I think they were hungry,” said Farmer, entering his second season. “Since they’ve been freshmen, they’ve had a big class of guys ahead of them, and they’ve never really gotten the opportunity that a lot of them think they deserve and which they honestly probably did deserve. But you can only play 11 guys, and it gets backlogged so I think they’re hungry for that just to prove we were good.”
The seniors accounted for 72 of Park Hill South’s 73 goals during a 20-3-2 season that again concluded with a frustrating 1-0 playoff loss to Rockhurst. The Panthers conceded the winning goal in the waning minutes a year ago with the potential of overtime looming.
Only seven returning players were even on the postseason roster last season, and none of them played significant minutes.
“This group of guys we’ve got now are very skilled, it’s just going to be the experience piece that we’ll have to see how that plays out as the season goes along,” Farmer said.
Zach Nay, a senior, midfielder tallied one goal a year ago, and none of the returners for Park Hill South had an assist in 25 games. Mark Allred, a junior, returns as the only experienced goalkeeper after appearing in six games and allowing one goal as a sophomore backup to Noah Brizendine.
Lacking any real credentials, this year’s lineup will focus on cohesion to produce results.
“We had a lot of good guys last year and sometimes it was hard to work as a team because there were so many different styles,” Nay said. “This year I think that everyone is humble so we’re going to be able to rally behind a game plan, and hopefully, that’ll bring us success.”
Park Hill South enters the season with a streak of 31 straight wins in Suburban Conference Red Division play, dating back to the final game of the 2013 regular season. The Panthers have been ranked in the top 10 to finish each of the past two seasons, having come in at No. 6 last year.
Nay, Allred and seniors Isaiah McGilchrist (midfielder), Kyle Werth (defender) plus juniors Carson Lindsay (midfielder) and Moti Sarbessa (midfielder) and sophomore Ty Rouse (defender) will be some of the new names trying to keep with tradition.
“The last three years that group set such a high standard,” Farmer said. “We hope we can continue that obviously, and with these guys, as hard as they’ve been working these past couple of weeks, I think we can do it. It’s not going to be easy because it never is, but I think they’re capable of achieving of what the guys last year did.”