It’s that time of the year again for soccer. Over the past few months, the Chanute Blue Comets have been preparing and training for the upcoming 2020 season.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association voted in late July that sports will take place as originally scheduled. So despite the coronavirus spiking in the parts of Kansas, head coach Adam Wilcox and assistant coach Michael Villarreal have been urging safety and focus for their players at the Chanute Community Sports Complex.
“...We’ve kind of been taking the precautions that KSHSAA and our school put in place before kids can get out and work out: they have to get their temperatures; they have to make sure they don’t have a fever. I encouraged all the kids that if they feel sick, if they have some of those symptoms, then stay home,” Wilcox said.
“We had a few kids that ended up quarantining not for soccer, but back in the early part of the summer, they were out of state, then they came back, and they stayed away for the 10 days or two weeks. ... But once we got there and everybody got their temperatures taken, things went fairly well. We had to do some different stuff.”
Some of that included students bringing their own water bottles, not sharing, and using one plastic water bottle just once (no refills).
These kinds of precautions have been prioritized from the very beginning, and CHS student-athletes have been conditioning since June.
The soccer team then transitioned into training, working on passing accuracy and the speed of passing, team keep-away, and other passing activities.
“We do that a lot of the time. We don’t spend a whole lot of time on drills, that’s more of when the season starts,” Wilcox continued. “It’s a lot more ... playing and building, building relationships with other players, building the flow of the game. That stuff can only be built by playing together, so that’s really what our summer is based around is building those sports relationships.”
That could be imperative for the upcoming season, just one year after CHS finished with a 9-6-1 final record. Two years ago was a transition year, with Chanute embarking on its first soccer season, but in 2019 the Blue Comets won their first playoff game in school history after a comfortable 3-1 first-round West Region playoff victory.
But of the 11 starters from the 2019 season, just three players will be returning, including one playing the same position in consecutive years. With two players moving to new positions, there will be a new goalkeeper, centre-back, midfielder and striker.
Players who won’t be returning due to moving are former CHS defender Thomas Ramsey (Nebraska) and former CHS midfielder Filippa Kyed (Denmark). Kyed was an exchange student.
Other key players lost to graduation are Chandler Finuf (NCCC), Jacob Adams (Kansas State), Jay Brown (University of Pennsylvania), and Moi Kwek (Pitt State). Finuf (second-team All-SEK) was CHS’ goalie extraordinaire, while Adams (third-team All-SEK), Brown (first-team All-SEK) and Kwek (third-team All-SEK) were the heavy lifters when it came to goal-scoring.
“We lost a ton, so we are relying on a whole bunch of new players. That’s going to be the first time that (we have a) complete switch on the varsity team. For the first two years, it really had been that class of 2020 that was the backbone of our team,” Wilcox said. “Now we’re getting our first experience of totally retooling at every position.”
Over the last several weeks, junior Drayton Cleaver has proven he can step up and handle the goalkeeper position. Sophomore Xander Weilert has a good chance of being the new centre-back, playing a ton of minutes, while both juniors Miguel Ayuso and Kaleb Becannon have been exhibiting the ability to run the flow of the offense.
“On the field, we have been doing a lot of running combined with drills to help sharpen our skills before the season,” Weilert said. “Off the field, Coach V (Villarreal) has an optional weight-lifting group, which has improved and changed my play on the field. Everyone who has gone to that group could tell you how much it has positively improved their game. This year I expect to contribute high energy and physical play to our back line.”
Sophomore Easton Haslett has been putting it all together throughout these last several weeks, too, Wilcox noted.
“...All of a sudden something just clicked for him about a month ago, where he just got physically better, his touches got better, his technique has got better, it’s been crazy,” Wilcox said. “I know he’s been working on it and working out, but he’s a massive improvement from June to August, and you love seeing that.”
Also a sight to see are nearly 30 CHS student-athletes jockeying for positions. Up next, these athletes will participate in light conditioning this week before gearing up for the first day of practice next Monday, Aug. 17.
“I’m going to be in meetings with other coaches, making sure we have all of our COVID protocols in place to keep everyone safe. That’s what I’m focusing on this week, and then next week is the start of the season, and we’re going to start out just really taking a step back and looking, what do we have for this brand new team?” Wilcox asked. “We have a game pretty early... We play a game before September, and we start practices on the 17th, then 10 or 12 days later, we have a game, so we really are going to be pushing hard to get pieces in their places. It’s going to be a good scope for everyone. With all the new protocols, how will that affect the day-to-day training?”