Bobcats lead KVL with 8 on all-league lists
A soccer team's starting lineup is made up of 11 players.
Eight of the 11 starters on the Basehor-Linwood High School team were honored by the Kaw Valley League coaches last week.
It was yet another first for the program and remarkable recognition of the balance and skill of a team that finished 13-5-1.
"I was very pleased," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent said. "Having that many kids on it capped off a great season."
Austin Knipp led the league (and the Kansas City metro area) with 35 goals, and for the fourth year in a row was a no-brainer selection for first-team offense. Sam Seaman, junior, earned his second straight nod for the first-team defense. Two other juniors, Stephen Millison and Ryan Sirridge, were named to the second team offense.
Both set career highs for goals this year, with Millison getting 15 (the seventh-highest total in the KVL) and Sirridge getting nine.
Aside from those four first and second-teamers, the Bobcats also had four players named honorable mention. Justin Gripka, a sophomore, was named honorable mention for the offense despite not scoring a goal all year. He made the list on the strength of his 16 assists, which ranked him among the league leaders. Another sophomore, Tanner Bowers, also got an honorable mention, after his deft touch and determination led him to six goals and five assists.
Sophomore defender Mitch Mallon and junior goaltender Matt Murrell filled out the list.
Basehor-Linwood tied Mill Valley for the most award winners. The Jags had four first-teamers, three second-teamers and one honorable mention. Lansing had six players earn awards and Perry-Lecompton cemented its status as the league's surprise team by getting seven players on the list.
There was nothing surprising about most of the BLHS selections. Knipp had established himself as a shoo-in every year, and he occasionally overshadowed some of his teammates, but this year the Bobcats finished near the top of the league and there was no way to overlook them.
All of the BLHS award-winners besides Knipp will be back next year, which is more than any other KVL team will return.
"A lot of the coaches showed that they know Basehor-Linwood's not going to be a one-hit wonder," Vincent said. "We had a lot of great players backing up Austin."
Now that Knipp has played his last game with the Bobcats, Seaman becomes the most decorated player on the team. He said making the first team was a nice surprise that would improve his college soccer prospects.
"I'm glad I got it again," Seaman said. "I didn't think I played as well this year as I did last year."
Seaman and his defensive mates didn't have to play flawlessly to win most games this year. With Knipp leading the way, the Bobcats exploded for a school-record 79 goals, an average of just over four per game.
The defense gave up just under two goals a game this year, not a bad average, but perhaps not up to the team's potential. Seaman will return to anchor a defense that includes Mallon, Alex Ziegler and Jonas Box, all of whom have started together for the last two years.
"In the defense, the more cohesion you have and the more they play together, the better they're going to be," Vincent said. "This year the offense had a breakout season and next year I believe the defense will showcase their prowess."
The Bobcats' defense will also have help from Murrell, who will enter next season as the league's top keeper with Lansing's Alex Burton and Mill Valley's Blake Elliot graduating. And even without Knipp the Bobcats shouldn't exactly be hurting for goals, not with Sirridge, Bowers, Gripka and Millison all coming back with another year of seasoning.
Mill Valley and Lansing are always tough, and Perry-Lecompton and Piper are teams on the rise. But the Bobcats will go into next season with a legitimate shot at their first KVL championship.
"If everybody works hard and gets bigger and faster this summer, I think we can sweep the league," Seaman said. "Hopefully we can all become better to compensate for losing Austin."