In his fourth year as Junction City’s head girls soccer coach, this year’s team features the first senior class Mitchell Dehoff has coached for four years.
“We have three four-year starters,” Dehoff said. “With senior night tonight, we have another that’s been on varsity all four years. A couple have been with me three years, and a couple are kind of new this year.”
Senior Lady Jays Journey Tenant, Laura Campbell, Tamika Allen, Katelyn Craft, Maja Bellika, Jaylynne Lechuga-Adame, Yuuri Schott and Emma Beamer stood at midfield with their families as they were honored before Thursday’s Senior Night game. And it didn’t take long for the seniors to make some noise in their final home game.
Just 30 seconds into the game, the Lady Jays garnered a corner kick in the Topeka West zone. Senior Laura Campbell booted the ball into the box, finding the feet of fellow senior Emma Beamer. The ball got to senior Maja Bellika, who put a head on the ball and sent it into the back of the net to put Junction City up 1-0.
“Coming out right at the beginning, getting that early goal always helps,” Dehoff said. “Would have loved to put in a couple more after that. They were just focused all night; (in) one goal games, one mistake can turn that into a tie or maybe even a loss.”
Playing with a one-goal lead early in the game did a lot for the Lady Jays’ confidence for the duration of the game. Topeka West had chances during the game, but they were quickly wiped away by the Junction City backline before they became too much of a threat. Dehoff credited the team’s great defensive effort.
“A lot of it had to do with what we did Monday night at Washburn Rural,” Dehoff said. “We ended up losing the game, but that’s one of the best teams we play all year. In the last 34 minutes of that game, they didn’t score. We brought that confidence and energy into this one. We got a real quick start right away and put them under pressure, won the ball back, got it down the field and got that early corner kick and we just attacked it. A little bit of a lull there in the middle of the game, but we were able to find that energy again in the second half and just kept on pressing.”
With JC’s 1-0 lead holding into the late stages of the game, the Lady Chargers began sending their defensive players onto offense with hopes of tying the game. But, the Lady Jays responded to that by doing the opposite, helping them survive the Topeka West attack.
“It was really 11 people playing defense tonight,” Dehoff said. “Team defense; our back line played fantastic. The midfield did a great job of covering up and closing the ball down. Our forwards and our wings also got in on the job, and were really attacking the ball and just making sure Topeka West wasn’t comfortable on it. It kind of took them out of what they wanted to do offensively.”
The Lady Jays ended up holding onto the 1-0 lead and leaving Senior Night victorious. With smiles on their faces, the Lady Jays went through their high-five line with their fans for, maybe, the final time for some.
Dehoff’s remaining time with his seniors is dwindling down; it’s a group he watched grow before his eyes. But even though their high school careers are coming to a close, their impact will continue.
“Just to see them grow and develop, not only as players and athletes, but as people in the last four years is one of the reasons why I do this,” Dehoff said. “They’re a great group of young women and I can’t wait to see the special things they do in the future. They’ve contributed so much to the soccer program. We are miles ahead of where we were four years ago as far as establishing a culture and environment that we want as a soccer program. And it’s down to the hard work of a lot of our seniors.”