By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's girls soccer team was very good but young in 2019 and the fact that several freshmen and sophomores saw time for the Junior Blues' 18-3-0 team that posted a runner-up finish in the Class 6A state tournament could pay big dividends this spring.
The defending Centennial League champions graduated some key seniors off the '19 team, but will build this year's team around returning seniors Izzy Entz, Brynn Fitzgibbons, Joy Ngibuini and Riley Palmer and juniors Reagan Allen, Belle Kennedy, Emma Krueger, Hunter McWilliams, McKenna Merrick and Sheriden Wichman.
Several newcomers are also expected to challenge for playing time, including junior Alandra Bailey and sophomores Hailey Beck, Addi Broxterman, Brooklyn DeLeye, Maya Hoge, Brianna Jones, Karsyn McMaster, Mackinly Rohn and Heidi Schieber.
"Despite missing an entire season last year, we return 10 players with varsity experience and some talented newcomers,'' Washburn Rural coach Brian Hensyel said. "We are excited to begin our season and look forward to playing a very challenging schedule.
"Our goals are to win the Centennial League and make a return trip to the Class 6A final four.''
Ngibuini earned first-team All-Centennial League honors in 2019, was the league newcomer of the year and a second-team All-State selection after leading the Junior Blues in scoring with 12 goals while Kennedy was a second-team all-league pick and was Rural's third-leading scorer.
Allen was second for Washburn Rural in assists in '19.
Washburn Rural opened its season with a 7-1 win over Centennial League foe Hayden, with Kennedy scoring three goals while Allen, Merrick, Fitzgibbons and DeLeye also scored goals.
Kennedy, Palmer, Allen, Rohn and Ngibuini were credited with assists.
The Junior Blues will host Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Friday at McElroy Field.
Other city teams at a glance:
Cair Paravel Latin -- Doug Woolery's Lions opened the 2021 season with a 7-1 win over Olathe Heritage Christian and will play at Hayden on Friday.
Hayden -- Hayden is off to a 1-1 start on the season, picking up a 10-0 win over Topeka West earlier this week.
Veteran Wildcat coach Klaus Kreutzer will build this year's team around senior Olivia Schmitz and juniors Abby Dodd, Elizabeth Dunshee C.C. Hammes, Kate Roeder and Riley Schmidtlein while top newcomers include Natalie McElroy and sophomores Jenessa Broxterman, Briehna Barnett, Noelia Cruz, Sloan Sims, Catherine Doyle and Piper Wrench.
"We're very young, but hope to compensate by hard work to be competititve,'' Kreutzer said.
Highland Park -- Colin Moriarty's Highland Park numbers are up, which could translate to a more competitive Scots team in 2021. Senior Isabella Carter and junior Aisya Taylor, both multi-sport athletes, are among Highland Park's top players.
Seaman -- Former Topeka High coach Tim Nussbaum takes over at Seaman and will build around a senior class that includes Riley Cowan, Kaycee Tanner, Hailey Hershey, Carson Becker, Audri Budge and Emma Meinholdt, while junior Avary Polter and sophomore Brooklyn Yingling are other top players.
Freshmen Morgan Tenpenny, Marin Schuler and Makena Schuler could challenge for varsity playing time this spring.
Shawnee Heights -- Shawnee Heights coach Nic Simons will build around seniors Emma Manrose, Bailey Hughes, Kyler Bowman and Hensley Brink as well as juniors Katie Mulligan, Sydnee Hadley and Tatum Hoage and sophomores Emily Loy, Peyton Hack, Lily Martin, Kayin Walter and Abby Fleischer.
Newcomers who could contribute for the T-Birds include Laura El-Koubysi and sophomores Isabelle Sanchez, Caroline Lejurne and Mackenna Lunsford.
"This year's team is fairly young,'' Simons said. "We have a wealth of sophomore talent that will be able to step in and pair nicely with our junior and senior players, who have been playing varsity since they were freshmen. We will made strides this season and hope to peak at the right time around the postseason. This is one of the deeper teams I have had in quite some time, so I am excited to see how they can adjust and handle this season.''
Topeka High -- Trojan coach Derek Snook will look to seniors Amerika Whetstone and Micaela Snook and juniors Luxanna Sands, Talayah Thomas, Adrianne Caracion and Mary Dietrick for leadership this season.
Newcomers that could figure into the varsity picture for High include junior Cheyenne Bahadur, sophomores Alexis Brosa, Sierra Carranza and Haley Carpenter and freshmen Ronnie Blancas and Avery Zimmerman.
"Not having a season last year hut,'' Snook said. "We have very few with substantial varsity experience. However, we are excited about this year's team. We are a young team, but we are looking to be competitive every time we take the field. Just getting to have a season will be a win for everyone this spring.''
Topeka West -- Top prospects for Josh Kutter's Chargers include senior Yasmine Bueno, juniors Miah Mosher, Teresa Turrubiartes and Heleena Hutton, sophomores Nicole Brewster, Abriela Martinez, Noelia Valenzuela Alvarado and Gloria Bolze and freshmen Noelle Eldridge, Maggie Murphy and Allyson Glenn.
"The team is avery excited to get back on the field,'' Kutter said. "We have some young soccer players joining us and they are ready to show everyone what they can do.''
Topeka West picked up its first win of the season Thursday night at Hummer Sports Park, with the Chargers taking a 2-0 victory over Highland Park.
Glynn and Mosher both scored goals for West and were also both credited with assists while Hutton picked up the shutout in goal for the Chargers.