by Michael Smith
Grain Valley boys and girls soccer coach Brett Lewis is getting an early look at what his teams will look like during the fall and spring.
This week, he is running the annual boys and girls soccer camps which gives him a chance to evaluate incoming freshmen and the teams as a whole.
The boys soccer season will begin in August, while the girls won’t see high school action until March.
So far, through three days Lewis has been pleased with the turnout at camp and he said the increased numbers should help improve the depth both teams were lacking during the 2022 season.
“Last season, I felt like we only had a couple girls subs that could step in and play at the varsity level,” Lewis said. “Next season, I think we are going to have six, seven or eight subs that can play at the varsity level, which will be really, really helpful for us.”
Added senior Lexie Nicholson: “We have a lot more here than the past couple of years. We used to have the boys and girls together, but this year the boys and girls did separate camps because of the big turnout.”
One of the benefits to that will be having fresh players to come in during games, allowing Lewis to consider using more of an aggressive, high-press style of soccer.
“If we have the legs, it makes things so much easier,” Lewis said. “Our outside backs can press a little higher. Formation and tactics wise, we may look to add another midfielder in there. When you have more players that can play at the varsity level, it allows you to play multiple different formations and players can play different roles. There will be more options for us this year.”
And that depth will be enhanced by a talented freshman group coming in for the girls side.
“Reana’s little sister Radley is coming up, and she’s good, too. She will help us out a lot. And Lexie’s sister Taylor is a good, little player. We have several good freshmen. It’s exciting for us as a program.”
Lewis noted the depth should improve for the boys team, as well.
“Guys who didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, will get a lot of playing time this year,” Lewis said. “We have some younger players coming up for the boys, too. We have a really good freshman coming in (Cohen Hackworth), who broke his fibula in May. He’s technically out right now. He will be back on the field in August."
“We will have some sophomores who will find themselves in starting spots like Alex Furman, David Roberson and junior Campbell Childers. They are all guys who didn’t start last year and will now be key, good starters for us.”
During the camp, the players have been working on possession and passing drills and having fun in 11-on-11 scrimmages.
Later in the camp, Lewis will divide the players into teams to compete in intrasquad scrimmages called the World Cup tournament in which the teams pick what country they represent.
The camps and the tournament will be especially beneficial for the boys, whose season will start in a month in a half.
“The boys use the camps as a preseason to the preseason,” Lewis said. “It’s competitive and we play a lot of small games. By the time tryouts start in August, we already know a ton about the players.”
For the girls, the camps are all about building chemistry with each other.
“We want to have open arms for the underclassmen,” Sophie Giuliano said. “The camps are good for team bonding and we get to know everyone and we try to get a feel for the season coming up.”
Junior Sophia Giuliano, left, and senior Lexie Nicholson are among the players who participated in Grain Valley's summer soccer camp this week. Photo credit: Michael Smith