Bobcats looking to turn the corner
A year after playing a losing game in terms of players available, Basehor-Linwood soccer coach Ken Couch is excited about the possibilities for the Bobcats now that he has a fully-loaded team.
It's a team that includes a number of younger players, including one of the area's brighter young soccer talents.
"This will be a better year for us," Couch said. "We ought to be able to play at least .500 ball. Lots of the young guys played indoor soccer with us over the summer. The game we play is played on a wooden floor so it's faster-paced. It helped the kids' reaction times. We've also had lots of the young guys working out two or three weeks ahead. Now that we've got the older guys coming in, they're giving confidence to the young ones. We're looking for a lot of teamwork between the kids."
All four classes are expected to contribute to this diverse team. Team captain Nick Box, whom Phelps labels, "a big benefit for us," leads the seniors. Couch has Box moving from defender to midfielder this season, yet he still retains senior leadership on defense in the likes of Michael Francis and Joe Tanner. Of Francis, Couch raves, "I've never seen him practice like he's practicing this year. I've never seen him practicing so hard."
The junior class adds starters Chris Prgomet at center-midfielder, Zack Lowe at goalie, Travis Daly at defender, and James Bishop as Couch's, "Number one sub." However, Couch wants everyone to be sure that the "sub" label doesn't make anyone doubt Bishop's ability. "To me, he's more of a starter than a sub, because I can play him in so many places," Couch noted. "He can go in at any place on the field and contribute." Couch also hopes for good things from junior Nick Rodriguez, but recently mentioned that he needed, "to see a couple of things from Nick."
The freshmen are a highlight of a strong underclassmen crew. Couch expects at least four freshmen to start for the Bobcats this season. Among the freshmen who stand the chance of seeing the most playing are midfielder Ryan Surridge, defenders Ian White and Sam Seaman, and forward Steve Millision who has been sharpening his skills all offseason by playing in adult leagues against bigger, faster competition. Couch also believes that at least three other freshmen should see significant playing time. Included among those to look out for are Kyle Allen and Sawyer MacGregor. "They both have a strong desire and knowledge of the game, they'll be contributors," Couch asserted.
Couch is also hoping for big things from sophomore Kyle Jones despite the fact that Jones will be out for the next two-to-four weeks with a stress fracture in his foot.
Yet perhaps there is no more anticipation by Bobcat fans awaiting a returning player as there is for forward Austin Knipp. Knipp, now a sophomore, is the team's returning MVP and school record-holder for goals in a season. Not content with earning those honors as a mere freshman, Knipp spent the rest of the season honing his skills in a Kansas City area premier league. Couch's praise for his young star is glowing.
"Austin has great anticipation for this season and for himself. He has the aggressiveness and determination you need in a scorer. In the games we won last year he called for the ball, demanded it. Against DeSoto he scored four goals. He loves the game and wants the ball. He's that good at it."
Still, even with the talent of Austin Knipp on his team, Couch realizes that his squad is going to have to rely on more than just one player. "We've got to keep this team pointed in one direction. It's not about one person. You know, I've never liked it when seniors on a team made the freshmen do things like pick up equipment. Everybody should contribute. For the seniors, I'd like them to know that they contributed to helping this program make a turn. It's been rough. I'd like them to see the work they've accomplished. They've earned it."