Varsity Kansas

Kapaun's defense matures on field

Some might say Kapaun Mount Carmel has a young girls soccer team. They'd be right.

Others would say the Crusaders are stacked with veterans. They'd be right, too.

"In one respect, we're pretty young," Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said. "Our depth is young. But our starters — even though we only start three seniors, we have some experience."

Five of the eight players who have played in all nine of Kapaun's games this season are seniors or juniors; the other three are sophomores.

Where the Crusaders took the biggest hit is on defense, where the only returning starter is Ashley Howell.

Shepherd has had to go with youth to continue Kapaun's traditional strength in the backfield, and sophomore goalkeeper Laurel Lujano is another first-time starter.

The results have been positive — Kapaun has six shutouts and has allowed six goals in starting 7-2.

"They're learning on the job," Shepherd said of his defenders. "They're trying to learn each other, because they're all new to each other back there. They're getting some good experience this year."

Kapaun's offensive players aren't in need of as much experience. Any group that features Caroline Kastor, a senior forward who has signed with Kansas, isn't lacking in leadership.

Kastor scored 45 goals last season, and though her 13 goals put her well off that pace, she's doing her part by getting others involved. Kastor, Kristen Rathert, Victoria Schimming and Taylor Kruse have combined for 29 goals and 24 assists.

If the Crusaders are going to win their seventh straight City League title — they're 3-1 in CL play — it will likely be due to the offense, which has averaged more than four goals. "(Kastor) hasn't scored as many goals this year as she did last year," Shepherd said. "But we've got some players in the midfield that are taking pressure off her."

Putting it together — Before scoring 15 goals in its last two games, wins over Newton and Northwest, Maize wasn't having the offensive success it has become accustomed to.

In its previous six games, the Eagles totaled seven goals while going 3-2-1. After losing All-Metro forwards Leah Talley and Tia Stovall to graduation, Maize has retooled with playmakers such as Blair Terry and Miranda Holmes.

"We're still moving people around and seeing who goes where and looking for who has the right chemistry," Terry said.