For the McPherson High boys soccer team, the season began just after the stroke of midnight Sunday and eventually wrapped up at the start of Monday evening.
Fall practices for all MHS teams began Monday, with the soccer team beginning with a 2-mile midnight run. The team later returned to McPherson Stadium for its first actual workout that ended at 6 p.m.
For Bullpup coach Chris Adrian, who has churned out several successful teams, it was a good first day.
“Overall I am pleased with the first day of practice,” he said. “The midnight run went really well and was an exciting way to get things going. These guys have worked really hard all summer to be ready for the season, so in a sense it really didn't feel like the first day of practice for most of them. We've got a lot of new faces on the team this year, so getting the old and new players on the same page will be a big focus for the week.”
Adrian was expecting about 35 prospects, but was just under 30. However, his mainstays all appeared to be in good form, headlined by the duo of Andric McGill and Patrick Munsey, who are rare four-year varsity players.
Meanwhile indoors, Christy Doile began her 11th year as volleyball coach with a huge turnout of 39 players, including 25 in grades 10-12. The Bullpups have been on a magnificent run, especially the last six years. The highlight, of course, was a state championship in 2012 and last year they were within one victory of another championship, losing in the title match to Bishop Miege.
“I was happy with our leadership and our enthusiasm to be at practice,” said Doile, whose team started at the rise-and-shine hour of 6 a.m. “The level of intensity was spot-on and I'm thankful to the group of girls that set the tone.”
The Bullpups were hit hard by graduation, including All-Staters Megan Pedersen and Magan Alexander. Yet Doile has the program at such a level she just turns to the next wave of players in an attempt to keep the bar high. This year, though, she has about the least experience she’s had in the last six years, but returnees Rachel Dossett, Mandi Cooks and Brooke Schrag are a good starting point.
For MHS girls tennis coach Tyler Brown, it’s about quality and not quantity.
“We are right at 12, which is perfect to have — six for varsity and six for JV,” Brown said. “This also means we need everyone to stay healthy and not miss for any reason otherwise we don't have a full team which will be stressful.”
The Bullpups do have the top returning doubles team in Class 4A as Ellea Ediger and Rachel Ivers took second place last year to an all-senior team from Wichita Collegiate. Maisie Edmonson is another returning state player.
For Jace Pavlovich, he began his second year as Bullpup head football coach with slightly fewer numbers than he would like. He reported about 80 players for four grades, but at some point he’d like to see that number close to 100.
A bonus for Pavlovich was that the team had several camps this summer, so it was more about refreshing what the players learned then and building on it.
“We had a great first day,” Pavlovich said. “Our kids have put in a ton of work this summer and it showed. We did not have to install and teach any of our schemes today with our older guys because of the summer work they put in. We were 23-of-24 passing in our 7-on-7 session. Last year Day 1 we were 3-for-24. Defensively we are ahead of the game as well. Our guys have retained our assignments and key reads well. All told, it was a great start, but there is plenty of work to still be done.”
Pavlovich commented on AVCTL Division III, which has undergone big changes for football only. Maize South and Andover Central have dropped down from Division II, Circle has moved up from Division IV, and El Dorado and Rose Hill will move out of Division III to Division IV.
“It’s stacked,” Pavlovich said, noting Maize South and Andover Central were two of the better teams in the state last year. The Bullpups, though, won't have Andover Central on the schedule as they have retained Rose Hill.
MHS, of course, opens with longtime powerhouse Buhler and then plays Maize South, both games at McPherson Stadium. He said to look out for a Augusta, a team that came into town last year and snuck out with a victory, which left a bad taste in the mouth of the Bullpups.
The only first-year coach at MHS is Aspen Frey, who moves up from assistant cross country coach to the head job. The Bullpups took advantage of some nice, cool weather on Monday for a 6 a.m. workout and the numbers were solid.
“We had about 30 high schoolers and 20-25 middle schoolers,” Frey said. “Wow, these kids are eager and motivated this year. I can tell they ready to see what all they can accomplish this year. I am also already impressed with the leadership on our team. We have some upperclassmen who are taking the initiative to teach our underclassmen and middle schoolers the ropes. It's going to be a successful season.”