Bulldogs to begin in Lawrence
When the Baldwin High School soccer team opens its season Monday, it will be playing its home opener in Lawrence.
The Bulldogs open their season with a home game against St. James Academy at 4 p.m. Monday. But, the game is being played at the Youth Sports Incorporated fields in west Lawrence.
"Due to the hot and dry summer, we determined our soccer field is not an adequate game facility," Activities Director Gary Stevanus said.
The Bulldogs will be playing their first three home games at YSI. Coach Gus Wegner said the change of location shouldn't affect the team, because many players have played at YSI before.
"Many of them have played in Lawrence and played on that field," Wegner said. "So that's nice."
BHS senior Travis Moore agreed the change shouldn't matter much.
"I don't think it will affect us at all really," Moore said. "Not too many people show up to our games, so I don't think it will be too big of a deal."
The game location for the other four home games for the Bulldogs, three of which are the final regular season games, has yet to be determined, according to Stevanus.
Wegner said the games might be played at Baker University's soccer field, which is adjacent to the BHS field. He was happy to hear that.
"It's important for the players to know that they have home games," Wegner said. "They will be on a nice field where the passes don't bounce. That will be nice. It's another example of the community working together."
Although the game location is different, that doesn't change the expectations the Bulldogs have this season.
"I can't wait, because the team is looking really good," Moore said. "We are playing in Lawrence, instead of Baldwin for our home game. Other than that, I am really looking forward to it. I think we will have a great season this year. Everybody is healthy, so we should be pretty good."
BHS sophomore Tracie Weege is ready to get the games going.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what the team has and seeing how good our stronger players are," Weege said. "We have some strong people coming up and we should do well this year."
Expectations are fairly high for a team that went 6-12 in its inaugural season last fall. The Bulldogs return almost every player from last year and have added some talent.
"Skill wise, we are in better shape with the instruction and the commitment that the kids have had," Wegner said. "Conditioning wise, we are about the same as we were last year, because I wasn't sure what we needed to face the teams this year."
One major addition to the team is Chuery Fernando, a Brazilian foreign exchange student. He has Wegner and the team hoping high this year.
"He adds talent and he is a cohesive member of the team," Wegner said. "Everyone likes him. He is not someone who demands the ball. He is a tremendous passer and he distributes the ball well. He shoots when he is open and he is very skilled.
"Last year we had a good group," Wegner said. "Every year you hope to improve and Fernando is a nice addition. I see him being a catalyst to the others around him. He is going to make the other players around him look good."
Weege said Fernando is very skilled and the team should benefit from him this fall.
"He has got a really powerful right foot and lots of tricks," Weege said. "He should help our team a lot."
The Bulldogs return several other players who were injured last year, but hope to stay healthy this fall.
Wegner said the team has a few small things to improve before its first contest.
"We still have some simple things to work on," Wegner said. "We have to work on those to make a complete package for Monday. We don't have many days."
BHS soccer fans can get one last chance to see the team play before Monday. The Bulldogs will be holding a team scrimmage at 8 a.m. Saturday at the BHS practice football fields, west of the school.
Then they come back Monday for their season-opening game. Wegner said he is unfamiliar with the opponent, but has a feeling they might be good.
"It's a team that we do not know too much about," Wegner said. "We've heard it's a freshman and sophomore team. We know many of these private schools in Kansas City are always good. If we come to play, and I think they will, we will do OK. We know we have the horses to do the job."