Coming off the best season in school history, Derby's coach Paul Burke set a goal of returning to state this year. That goal is now in jeopardy because Derby’s returning goal scorer, Alan Flores was dismissed from the team for unexplained issues.
“It’s just something neither I nor the school wants to go into further detail about,” Burke said when asked for the reason Flores was dismissed.
Flores is regarded as one of the best forwards in the state of Kansas. As a sophomore Flores earned all-state honors from the coaches association, and was apart of the AVCTL all-league soccer team as a junior. Burke will now have to rely on his underclassmen to fill the void, which places a heavy burden on the coaching staff. Prior to losing Flores Derby was already undergoing a major rebuilding process after losing all of its defensive starters to graduation.
It doesn't help that its first game of the season will be against the returning 5a state champions, St. Thomas Aquinas at the Wichita South Tournament.
“Wichita South decided to give us the hardest game of our lives to open the season,” coach Burke said jokingly. “This game against Aquinas is going to fun and interesting, because it gives our boys something to look forward to. I’m excited. Instead of worrying about how many people we lost, we have a challenge to forward to. It helps us focus”
Last season Derby went 16-5 and finished fourth in the state, the best in school history. The team will rely heavily on its returners to provide the leadership Flores couldn’t. Returning this year will be juniors Hernan Vielmas, Caleb Brussow and seniors Thome Denesongkham, Tyler Willich and Austing King.
Burke said this year’s team will be different because they have to start fresh with new and younger players; however, the lack of experience and lose of Flores won’t alter his team’s expectation.
“We have a strong core of players returning from last year’s team, we will be asking some younger players to step in and fill some big roles, but they have the talent to do it. As a team we are looking at trying to get to our third straight regional championship game, and hopefully host it,” Burke said.
Burke said the players know that in the early stages of the season they’ll have to will rely on the offense to carry the load until the defense comes along. He also believes that his team’s success will be determined by how well they defend and not give up easy goals.
The players are up to the challenge.
“We’re confident that will we have a great defense despite being young, we’re one as team,” Vielmas said. “A lot that comes with have a great defense is team chemistry. We read each other well, because we’re all friends and we all spent the summer training and hanging out together.”
Derby’s new talent will get its first major test when they open the season Monday, Sept. 1 competing in the blue bracket of the tournament against powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.