By Mac Moore, KSHSAA Covered
2022 State champion: Mill Valley
2022 State runner-up: Olathe West
2022 Review: Returning to the state’s biggest class for the first time since 2019, Mill Valley quickly adjusted to 6A competition. The Jaguars, led by 15 seniors, went 17-1-1 on their way to the program’s first state championship. They allowed just three goals in the first three postseason matches before holding state opponents scoreless the rest of the way. Now-graduated goalkeeper Colin Riley earned his 10th shutout of the season in the team’s 1-0 victory in the state final over the reigning champ, Olathe West. The Jaguars avenged their only regular season loss as the Owls defeated them late in the regular season. Nico Pendleton, son of Mill Valley head coach Jason Pendleton, delivered the game-winning goal with 12 minutes left in the second half as he capped off his one and only season playing for Mill Valley. Pendleton previously played for Sporting KC Academy and will play for Marquette University starting this fall. Olathe West, which was denied a two-peat and a third championship in four years, finished with a 18-3-0 record.
2023 Contenders: Mill Valley will need some less experienced players to step up quickly if the team wants to successfully defend its crown. The Jaguars will lean on senior Kael Drummond, junior Brady Robins and junior Nick Shrag as they look to replace six all-state selections, including 6A Midfielder of the Year in Pendleton and 6A Defender of the Year in Owen Peachee. Their state championship opponent will be in a similar predicament. Olathe West had five all-staters graduate, leaving senior midfielder Trey Mckee and senior defender Sam Delong as the key returners for the Owls. Dodge City should start the season as a strong favorite with how many of the team’s top performers are returning from an undefeated regular season in 2022. Seniors Aron Martinez, Angel Lopez and David Garcia return for the Red Demons. Martinez and Lopez were the top two goal scorers a season ago with 28 and 27 goals respectively while Garcia led the team in assists with 19. That firepower helped keep Dodge City undefeated until the team ran into Olathe West in the state semifinals. Shawnee Mission East has to feel close to that level as well after taking the eventual champs to their limit in two outings last season. On the shortlist of Mill Valley’s non-victory outings in 2022 were a loss to Olathe West in their first matchup and a 1-all tie against Shawnee Mission East. The Lancers once again ended regulation tied with Mill Valley in their rematch during the regional final. Mill Valley outlasted Shawnee Mission East via penalty kicks, 3-2 (5-4). Washburn Rural reached the 6A final four again after the team’s state runner-up finish in 2021. Rural lost to the eventual state champion once again, but this time it was in the state semifinals with a 1-0 loss to Mill Valley. The Junior Blues settled for fourth place, losing 2-1 to Dodge City in the consolation final. Shawnee Mission West put together a 14-4-1 record last year, although the Vikings had higher hopes for the postseason. The team won a regional championship for the third straight season, but have been unable to push past the state quarterfinals. For the last two years, the Vikings had their season ended by Olathe West, including a 3-1 defeat last fall. Senior Marco Hernandez and junior Sergio Hernandez return along with fellow all-state selection senior Phil Mutantika. Derby also looked to have a promising year, only to be derailed by the same team in the same round for the second straight year. The Panthers reached the state quarterfinals before losing Washburn Rural once again. Senior Jadan Denesongkham and junior Angel Vielmas return after earning all-state selections last season. Blue Valley West has been a perpetual state contender over the last decade, but has not been able to return to the state quarterfinals since the team’s state runner-up finish in 2019. The Jaguars started strong in the first year under new head coach Kyle Conley, despite graduating 17 seniors from the 2021 roster. Conley took the Blue Valley West job after previously coaching at Louisburg. The Jaguars won the EKL championship with only one loss in league play, although that 3-1 defeat at the hands of Blue Valley Southwest also contributed to a rough stretch for the Jaguars. They lost three matches over five games to close out the season. Blue Valley West fell in the regional semifinals with a 1-0 loss against Olathe East, finishing the year 9-4-4. Blue Valley North sported an impressive resume heading into postseason play last year, but got bumped off by Shawnee Mission West in the regional final. The Mustangs, who finished last year 11-5-2, will need to replace all-state defender Tate Wichman and six other All-EKL selections while returning the services of an all-state forward in senior Grant Garberg. Free State proved to be one of the biggest postseason surprises last year when the team won a regional title despite its losing record heading into the playoffs. The Firebirds knocked off Topeka High and Wichita West before losing Dodge City in the state quarterfinals. Free State finished with an 8-8-2 record. Junior midfielder JJ Zheng and senior defender Utah Hester return for a team hoping to build upon the surprise postseason run, but will have to do so without now-graduated goalkeeper Ben Barnett.
2022 State champion: Maize South
2022 State runner-up: Blue Valley Southwest
2022 Review: Maize South entered last year’s postseason as the top seed with an undefeated record, but the Mavs still had some tough challenges awaiting them along their path toward a state title. They had to outlast Andover in a 2-1 triple overtime classic, just to reach a state quarterfinals match-up with the most decorated boys soccer program in the state. Maize South needed to take down 17-time state champion St. Thomas Aquinas in the state semifinals, which set up a shot at the champ, Blue Valley Southwest. Not only had the Timberwolves won four of the previous five state titles, but three of those were victories earned at the expense of the Mavs. But this time Maize South raced out to an early lead and never gave Blue Valley Southwest an opening in this 3-0 shutout victory. Maize South won its first state championship in program history to cap of a 21-0-0 season. Vitor Geromel delivered his 42nd goal of the season to get Maize South onto the board in the final. Blue Valley Southwest finished its season 17-4-0, with its other three losses being by one goal each and against 6A teams.
2023 Contenders: Maize South will not only have Geromel return for his senior season, but also senior defender Caden Wait and senior forward Miles Edwards. Blue Valley Southwest had a few all-state selections graduate, but will still have experience across the pitch thanks to the returning all-staters in junior forward Crew Alvarez, senior midfielder Maclain Dahm and senior defender Michael Bernabe. St. Thomas Aquinas beat Newton in the consolation finals to end the season at 9-10-2. That may seem like a strange record for the third-place team in 5A, but is largely misleading as the Saints suffered seven of those losses due to forfeit after one of their players was ruled ineligible midway through the season. Now Aquinas will need to replace the scoring output from outgoing all-state players Barrett Kitts, Ethan Young and Anthony Consuegra. Those three combined for 41 goals last season. Newton, which lost in the state semifinals against Blue Valley Southwest, might have a tough time replicating last year’s success after graduating three all-state selections. Senior midfielder Jonny Galvan returns after a five-goal, 11-assist campaign last year, along with junior goalkeeper Abram Wall. KC Sumner Academy went undefeated in Meadowlark League play and won a regional title as the team finished the year with a 15-3-1. The Sabres owned the top seed in the 5A East bracket, but ended up losing 1-0 against Aquinas in the state quarterfinals. Sumner’s other two losses were at the hands of 5A state runner-up Blue Valley Southwest and Missouri-based St. Michael’s Archangel. Senior forwards Darrien Gates and Juan Hernandez return. St. James Academy won a regional championship, despite finishing the year with a losing record at 8-10-0. The Thunder lost to Blue Valley Southwest in postseason for the second straight year, losing 2-1 in the state quarterfinals. The Timberwolves won 2-0 against St. James in the same round in 2021. The Thunder return senior defender Liam Catano, along with a couple all-state honorable mention sophomores in forward Charlie Fasl and midfielder Grady Herrington. Andover finished 10-7-2 and won a regional title before losing to eventual state champion Maize South in the state quarterfinals. The Trojans will have a tough road to repeating that success after the graduation of all four of their all-state players. Andover Central is hoping to recover from its jaw-dropping, second-round playoff loss to Goddard last year. The Jaguars finished with a 13-3-1 record. Their only other losses were against eventual 5A state champion Maize South and fourth-place Newton. Juniors Nate Stephens and Cooper Carman will give the Jaguars two all-state returners who are still chasing after a deep postseason run. Emporia put together a 15-3-0 record last year and reached the regional final before losing 3-0 against Andover. Emporia lost three all-state selections to graduation, but will return one all-state honorable mention in senior midfielder Edwin Maciel.
2022 State champion: Bishop Miege
2022 State runner-up: Baldwin
2022 Review: Bishop Miege will have the chance to win the program’s eighth straight state title, which would tie the KSHSAA record for most consecutive state titles in any sport. Currently, Aquinas boys soccer (2003-10) and Central Plains (2014-22) girls basketball own the streak. Miege defeated Baldwin 2-0 in the championship final. The Stags powered through the postseason, racking up a 21-3 scoring margin over five matches. This was in a year that Miege started the season 0-3 before winning 15 of the next 18. On its way to state runner-up, Baldwin won its third regional championship in five years. But this was the Bulldogs’ first return to the final four since their 2013 state semifinal appearance. Baldwin finished the season 15-5-1. The team’s only regular-season loss against 4-1A competition was at the hands of Frontier League rival Eudora, a result which the Bulldogs avenged in a rematch against the Cardinals in the regional final.
2023 Contenders: Miege will need to replace the leadership of Xander Christian, but will otherwise be stacked with a roster full of returning all-state selections. Senior forward Cooper Greene and senior defender Austen Lopez should be standouts among this group. Baldwin graduated three all-state selections in midfielder Caleb Carr, defender Jesse Hopper and goalkeeper, but Carr’s younger brother Cooper will enter his sophomore campaign as an all-state second teamer looking to lead a slew of Frontier all-league selections. McPherson will be focused on reaching the state semifinals again after returning for the first time since 2017. It will not be easy for the Bullpups as they will need to replace a couple all-state selections. But junior midfielder Hayden Hoxie and senior midfielder Hunter Mendez should give them some solid leadership, especially considering their stellar play to help right the ship after a rough start last year. McPherson started the season 2-9 before turning things around on the way to a final four appearance. The Bullpups also finished in third place by earning a 3-2 overtime victory in the consolation final against Wichita Trinity. The Knights had already lost their streak of three straight appearances in the state championship match, instead falling to Miege 2-0 in this year’s state semifinals. Trinity seniors Trenton Womack and Elliot Casamento return as all-state selections. Kansas City Christian got knocked off by Miege in the state quarterfinals, but gave the Stags their closest battle in the postseason with a 2-1 score. Senior forward Isaiah Morris returns from a 34-goal campaign in which his team finished 14-5-0 last season. Bishop Ward put together a 13-5-1 season as the team reached the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history, before falling 1-0 against Baldwin. The Cyclones also reached the regional final in 2021, posting double-digit wins for two straight seasons after having won a total of 11 matches over the two prior seasons. Senior Ruben Luna and Bladimir Sandoval return as Kaw Valley all-league first team selections looking to keep their program pushing further in the postseason once again. Last year Buhler got right back to winning the regional championship, just one year after having the team’s three-year streak end with a regional final loss in 2021. Now the Crusaders will try to push their way back into the state quarterfinals once again. This time, they’ll be aiming for a return to the final four for the first time since finishing as 4-1A state runner-up in 2018. Buhler will need to replace 4-1A Co-Goalkeeper of the Year Jax Frederick, but will still have two all-state selections in senior forward Jaylen Cherry and senior defender Dawsyn Valdois. Augusta entered its regional final as the on-paper favorite with a 12-5-0 record going up against a team with a losing record, however the Orioles lost their final regular season match against this same upset-minded team, McPherson. Augusta fell 3-2 in overtime. Seniors Logan Ruddle, Cooper Buell and Cody Meckel look to return the Orioles to state after accomplishing that feat for the first time in program history back in 2021. Tonganoxie returns three all-state performers from last season, including Class 4-1A Co-Goalkeeper of the Year Jackson McWilliams. But Tonganoxie did get knocked out in the regional opener by Frontier League rival Eudora. Although the Cardinals graduated a lot of their top players, they will try to piece things back together with senior midfielder Christian Koehn returning. Independence suffered a stinging 3-0 loss against Wichita Classical/Central Christian in the regional final, ending the team’s season with a 15-2-1 record. In similar fashion, Rose Hill lost as the top seed in its regional bracket, although it was not as much of a surprise that the lower-seeded Wichita Trinity was better than its record of two games under .500 at the time. Rose Hill will try to improve upon its 10-5-1 record from last year as senior midfielder Scotty Carr and sophomore midfielder Luke Anderson return from all-state seasons.