After reaching the Class 1 playoffs for the first time in school history last year, the Maryville girls soccer team enters the 2013 season with even greater postseason aspirations.
Fully expecting to be back in the playoffs, the Lady Hounds are determined to take the next step of advancing once they get there.
"The team wants to go all the way to the state finals," said Maryville head coach Bayo Oludaja, now in his 11th season. "With their determination, they can do it."
The return of nine starters off last year's 16-3 history-making squad, all of which earned some form of all-conference or all-district recognition, makes the Lady Hounds a legitimate contender in Class 1.
It also leaves them with very few holes or areas of concern heading into the season.
"We've got depth, we've got speed and we have a growing number of players who understand the game," said Oludaja.
Experience-laden Maryville boasts at least two returning starters at all three levels of the field.
The team's two returning forwards—senior Alysa Stiens and sophomore Ashton Reuter—form what is perhaps the most potent scoring combo in the entire state.
Last year, they combined for a whopping 93 goals and 15 assists.
Stiens, a Northwest Missouri State signee, totaled 57 goals and earned first team All-MEC and all-district honors. Reuter made second team All-MEC as a freshman, scoring 37 goals with nine assists.
The Hounds have to replace their other starting forward from last year, McKenzie O'Donnell, who scored 15 goals and made honorable mention all-conference.
Returning in the midfield are junior Cassie Holtman and senior Naima Msechu.
Holtman was a first-team All-MEC and first team all-district selection last year, scoring five goals with eight assists. Msechu, a second team All-MEC honoree, tallied four assists.
The Hounds are still in the process of finding a new outside mid to fill the void of first team All-MEC selection Samantha Keller who scored seven goals last year.
Maryville's back line will look the same as last year with all four starters returning.
That group consists of senior Nicole Bickford, senior Emily Meyers, junior Anny Van de Ven and junior Chelsea Byland.
Bickford grabbed first team All-MEC and all-district honors last year. Byland and Van de Ven were honorable mention All-MEC players, and Meyers made second team all-district.
The team's new full-time starting keeper is likely to be senior Shannon Johnson.
Last year, she shared time with departed keeper Brooke Byland, a second-team all-district selection who made 138 saves.
The Lady Hounds make their season debut today in a road match against Kansas City Lutheran at 4:30 p.m.
Page 2 of 2 - Their home opener is Tuesday with Cameron.
Maryville's schedule heats up in April with the North Kansas City Tournament on the 19th and a road match four days later against Smithville that is likely to determine the MEC champion. Last year, the Lady Hounds lost to Smithville 2-1.
District-wise, Maryville's toughest competition figures to come from Bishop LeBlond again.
The two teams have met in the district finals each of the last two years, with the Hounds winning last year's encounter 3-2.