Learning how to win has been a speedy process for the South girls soccer team and first-year coach Chelsea Breen.
The Titans won four games all of last season, but eclipsed that mark by the second week in April with their 5-3 start to the season. South plays East at home on Thursday in its third City League contest.
“It has to do with our huge and talented freshmen class and the maturity of our senior leaders,” Breen said. “We definitely have more of a winning mentality this season. We’ve already overcome a lot of the mental troubles that we had the last few years.”
Last season it was not unusual for South to fall behind early and then allow that to snowball into a blowout loss. Now the Titans are the ones delivering the devastating blows, as three of their wins have come by four or more goals.
Senior Mia Garcia has been key in goal for South, and freshman Kayla Beaver has excelled as the team’s sweeper. Leading goal scorers so far have been Sheree Molina, Melonie Baca and Kaelee Kimmel.
A difficult slate of game remains for South, but optimism on the team is high as South chases a winning record after winning a combined seven games the past two seasons.
“They really have surprised me,” Breen said. “I expected a lot out of them, but they keep raising the bar for what this team can accomplish. They do a lot of things you can’t teach. I’m excited to see what they can do.”
That has yet to come, as the Hornets are 5-1 entering Thursday’s home game against Hutchinson with their only loss to Class 4-1A’s top-ranked team in Trinity Academy.
“It gives the new kids a ton of confidence,” Burger said. “We’ve had some close games and I think they’ve developed some fortitude and character to fight through those close-game situations and win those games and not settle for ties or a loss.”
Valley Center has leaned heavily on its three returning starters, who happen to be its only three seniors, Bailey Hogan, Brittany Thorne and Courtney Yochum.
Burger said the upcoming three games — Hutchinson, Eisenhower, and Derby — will determine which way the Hornets’ season swings.
“I’m reserving judgment on saying just how good this team is,” Burger said. “These next three games will be huge for us.”
Then came tryouts, where Rooney discovered one of the strongest Goddard freshmen classes he has ever seen. Five freshmen have already earned a spot in the starting lineup.
The moves weren’t a distraction for the incumbents, as Goddard has started with a 4-3-1 record and plays at Buhler on Thursday.
“I think it’s made those returning players considerably better,” Rooney said. “They recognized how good the freshmen were that came in and I think it’s pushed their game to a different level.”
Kenzie Klaassen and Maria Casenove have led the team’s offense, while Bethany Terry has been a force in the middle for the Lions.
“I think what has improved this year has been our ball possession has been remarkably better,” Rooney said. “We’ve out-shot all but two opponents and that’s huge.”