Big soccer contributions are coming from Wichita, and that might be a bit of foreshadowing.
Former Andover High midfielder Tommy Fiszel and Trinity Academy midfielder Emery May signed with Kaw Valley FC this week, and they hope this shows the soccer potential in Wichita, they said.
Kaw Valley FC is in its first season as a "pre-professional" team tied to Sporting Kansas City that plays in Lawrence and Topeka. Fiszel and Emery agreed their placement on the team is a stepping stone — an important one in their quest to reach to reach the top ranks.
The team is focused on bringing in Kansas-based talent, and that certainly includes players from Wichita, said Marcus Dudley, team president and general manager.
"The bottom line is there are a lot of very quality players in Wichita that are playing all over the place," he said. "And you're talking about two of them right here."
Wichita's high school soccer history isn't robust. Wichita-area schools have won 11 state championships in 65 tries, and the girls have just one title in 51 attempts. But the Wichita area is much more competitive in club soccer, Fiszel, May and Dudley said.
“There is talent," May said. "But there just aren’t enough opportunities for kids to play at the highest level.”
May plays for Division I Furman. He played in every match as a sophomore in 2017 and finished fourth on the team in points. He was named to the Eagle's 2015 All-Metro team.
Club soccer is where many local players earn scholarship offers because the college season coincides with high school, May said. Top players often turn away from playing on their respective high school teams because of the added risk of injury. But playing at Trinity was important for May's confidence.
He learned he could play with anyone in the country, he said.
"I would say club was where you learned a lot about technical ability, but something I learned at Trinity was leadership and being able to be a good teammate," May said. "Being able to play for your school in front of your friends is fun. It’s not the same as club. You’re playing for something, more than just yourself.”
Fiszel cited his connections from high school in helping him land a spot with Kaw Valley FC. He said he wishes he could have achieved more at Andover, but he certainly learned a lot as a Trojan.
Fiszel, a junior at Newman, was the Jets' second-leading scorer in 2017. He was named to the Eagle's 2014 All-Metro team. He also serves as a coach and player for Sporting Wichita.
“I definitely think that there’s potential," Fiszel said. "Wichita is a place where we can show great players. It's just the way we go about it, the way we present it.
“This is just another stepping stone so that kids I’m coaching now can play for the team I’m playing for now, or even higher."