by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys soccer team will have a few kinks to work out before its season opener Saturday against Liberty North.
The Eagles participated in a four-team jamboree Thursday at Blue Springs’ new soccer field that included Platte County, Blue Springs and Raymore-Peculiar.
Grain Valley didn’t face Platte County since both teams are in the same conference. The Eagles faced off against two tough teams from the Suburban Gold Conference, including a talented Wildcats team that made the Class 4 state final four last season.
The Eagles had two 35-minute exhibition games against Blue Springs and Ray-Pec and struggled as they yielded a goal against the Panthers and four against Blue Springs.
But despite not seeing the results the team may have wanted, head coach Brett Lewis noted that it was a valuable experience for his team.
“We see this jamboree and we are playing some bigger schools, ones that have 2,100 students. We see this as a great opportunity for growth. We established the pattern that we have to get better every day. We usually see tremendous growth from Game 1 in the jamboree to the final game of the season.
“Some of the guys are still trying to figure the rules out and we are still trying to build chemistry. We’ll get better. I have the expectation that later on in the season, we will be competitive and right there with Blue Springs.”
Against the Panthers, the Eagles surrendered a goal in the eighth minute and came close to scoring a goal when senior midfielder Austin Schmitt knocked a header off the post that ricocheted away from the goal.
When they played Blue Springs, the Wildcats scored four goals in the first 20 minutes as Grain Valley was shaky on defense. The Eagles had just one shot on that one, a 40-yard attempt that sailed over the Blue Springs goal.
In that game, any time the Eagles got into the attacking third of the field, Blue Springs stopped them and cleared the ball before a Grain Valley player could get a shot off.
“We were served a slice of humble pie today,” Lewis said. “We have to increase our intensity in practice because you are not doing your teammates any favors by going soft on them.”
“We struggled to make just an 8- to 10-yard pass tonight. I think our fitness had a little bit to do with that. We have to open up our midfield and make sure they are always open for the back four. We got to fix the movement with the front two a little bit.”
Junior goalkeeper Landon Jaynes was a bright spot for Grain Valley as he made a pair of diving saves against Blue Springs. He is competing for the start job along with seniors Isaac Laws and Ryan Lampe.
“We have three goalkeepers that are all really close to one another right now,” Lewis said. “I keep challenging them and telling them that I am waiting for one guy to step up and be the guy. I think Landon Jaynes made some strides today. This is really a goalie battle where the guys are neck and neck.”
The Eagles will play their first game at 2 p.m. Saturday against Liberty North in the Harrisonville Invitational.
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