By Rusty Whitcher
Coming off a record-shattering season, the Hesston College women’s soccer team has some holes to fill. Gone are the goals from single-season and career-leading scorer Mikaela Zook along with a core of defenders. Hesston finished the season last year with a school record 15 wins, falling in the playoffs to highly-ranked soccer powerhouse Butler Community College, 4-1.
With the departures, Head Coach Bryan Kehr is optimistic about his team.
“We actually have over half of the scoring coming back,” Kehr said. “We have 43 of 81 goals coming back. We have some good leaders.”
Allison Ebersole returns after scoring 19 goals as does Mika Matsuda who scored 15 goals. Matsuda finished second in the nation last season, tallying 27 assists.
“I’m pretty excited about our core group on defense and our midfield,” Kehr said. “We have some people who I think are going to score some goals. Soccer is a lot about touch and control of the ball and about moving without the ball. We have some work to do to be on the same page to see the runs to be made. We’ve been working hard.”
The Larks finished undefeated at home last season, a goal Kehr would like to duplicate.
“I’d love to be undefeated at home,” he said. “We have some difficult challenging home games this year. Ottawa University’s JV is our first home game, Allen County will be a handful.”
Kehr said this group is a fun group to be around and is looking forward to growing together on and off of the field. He believes this squad has a lot of potential to be competitive, a sentiment echoed by Ebersole.
“I think we have good potential to have a great season,” she said. “We just need to keep pushing ourselves. We need to work on attacking and making runs to get open and moving the ball more, and I feel like our defense is pretty solid.”
Hesston opens its season on Monday, Aug. 29 with Ottawa’s JV at 5 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. match with Allen County Community College on Wednesday, Aug. 31. From there, the Larks slide down to Texas for two matches over Labor Day weekend.
This year, the playoff format is different for Region VI soccer. Instead of playing a two match series with Northwest Kansas Technical College, the Region is divided into and East and West format. After playing each team twice in the respective divisions, the top four from each side will play off in an eight-team format. Along with the Larks, the West is made up of Hutchinson Community College, Barton Community College, Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College, Pratt Community College, and Northwest Kansas Tech.
“I encourage people to come out and see a game,” Kehr said.