JC girls soccer team welcomes early test

Lady Jays battle for the ball at midfield during Tuesday's scrimmage.

Junction City took a lot of rain Tuesday afternoon, but it stopped right in time for the girls soccer team’s Blue-White scrimmage at Al Simpler Stadium.

With all the school’s spring sports programs having to make adjustments after the rough winter Kansas endured this year, the girls soccer team spent a good chunk of practice time indoors. But, even though the weather conditions weren’t perfect Tuesday, fifth-year head coach Mitchell Dehoff was thankful to be outside.

“It just feels good to be outside again,” Dehoff said. “Those first two weeks, it just felt like we were just indoors battling the weather a lot. The weather got a little better over spring break for the players, who were here and able to take advantage of that. We have a lot to do, but we’ve been making a lot of progress over the time we’ve been outside. The ladies have been locked in and just completely focused on improving every single day we’re at practice. You can really see it in the way they play.”

With some fans on hand to get their first glimpse of the team this season, the Lady Jays participated in three 20-minute periods of soccer. The Blue team won by a score of 4-0, as an own goal opened up the scoring load. Laura Campbell, Vittoria Benoit and newcomer Maja Bellika knocked the other goals in. 

Bellika, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, was a noticeable presence on the field in this one. This will be her first and only season with the Lady Jays, but Dehoff is happy to have the senior on board. 

“You can just tell that she spent a lot of time playing,” Dehoff said. “Very, very good presence on the ball; very calm and smooth operator when the ball gets at her feet. That’s going to be incredibly helpful for us this year.”

The ball was dominated in possession by the Blue squad for most of the game, primarily composed of varsity players. They gave themselves a lot of chances to score with their success moving the ball. Although they didn’t capitalize on all of their scoring chances, Dehoff is encouraged that they can improve in that area.

“I really like how they’re combining working together to move the ball forward,” Dehoff said. “A lot of quicker passes between our outside midfielders and forwards to spring people forward. I saw a lot of good crosses and hopefully we can put more in the back of the net when we create that much, but a lot of good opportunities to score tonight.”

The Lady Jays finished last season 6-11, falling to Wichita Northwest in the Class 6A Regional by a score of 10-0. 

This season will begin Thursday night against Manhattan High School at Al Simpler Stadium. Manhattan was crowned regional champions in 2018, its eighth consecutive title. Starting the season off against a team that has had a lot of success won’t be easy, but Dehoff welcomes the early-season challenge.

“There’s good and bad things about it,” Dehoff said. “Manhattan is, in my opinion, one of the better teams in the state of Kansas. It’s difficult to start against an opponent like that first thing out of the season, but it also lets us know what the standard is for everybody else. If we can rise up and compete against Manhattan, we can rise up and compete against anybody. I think it’s a challenge, but I like the challenge right at the beginning because it just wakens everybody up and everybody has to be locked in for that first game.”

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