St. James boys seek own soccer successes
Rick Enna knows something special is brewing at St. James Academy.
The second-year Thunder soccer coach got a firsthand look at it last spring when he guided the St. James girls' squad to the Class 5-1A state championship - the first state crown in the school's history in any sport.
The Thunder boys have their work cut out for them if they want to match the girls' feat. Enna isn't making any predictions how far the boys will go, especially coming off of a 4-12-1 record in 2007. What he will predict is they'll be vastly improved in their quality of soccer.
"I think there's a lot of excitement about building on the tradition," Enna said of the school's growing soccer presence in the state. "I don't feel any pressure on the guys because of what the girls did. It's more about the excitement for our school and what we're accomplishing."
Enna said he and assistant coaches Jeremy Aranda and Shane Rapp like the talent pool they have returning. Just like all other sports at St. James, the soccer team will have seniors for the first time.
All-staters Joe Kelling and Mike Huppe will anchor the Thunder defense. Enna said they'll also look to Matt Straub and Zack Kohlrus to provide a spark, in addition to an extensive group of other contributors.
"We've got a number of high-caliber players coming back, and we've got a great supporting cast from sophomores through seniors that we're excited about," Enna said. "We've got a lot of guys that we think will have breakout seasons."
If a breakout season is to happen, St. James will turn plenty of heads in the process. It opens the year at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at defending Class 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas. After that, the Thunder play in the Fat Cat Tournament at Blue Valley West. There also are games against Blue Valley West, Blue Valley North, Kaw Valley League defending champion Basehor-Linwood, traditional power Shawnee Heights, Kansas City Christian and Catholic schools Bishop Miege, St. Pius X, Bishop Ward and O'Hara. In fact, the Thunder will play every Catholic school in the area except for Rockhurst, a Missouri powerhouse that will be on the 2009 schedule.
The regular season should provide plenty of preparation before St. James heads into postseason play and tries to compete for a Class 4-1A state championship.
"We feel that by playing such high quality opponents, come playoff time there shouldn't be any surprises," Enna said.