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story.lead_photo.caption In this 2019 file photo, Daelyn Scheulen of Jefferson City defends Lee's Summit West's Hope Dietrich during a Class 4 sectional game at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. Photo by News Tribune / News Tribune.

Enough with practice, the Jefferson City Lady Jays are ready to start the soccer season.

"The girls are working hard and we're having fun," Lady Jays coach Dal DuBois said as Jefferson City will begin play today against the Camdenton Lady Lakers at the 179 Soccer Park. "They're really, really excited to get back out on the field and get the season going."

A lot has changed since the Lady Jays last played a match. Jefferson City claimed the district title in 2019 to advance to the state tournament and was looking to use that as a building block in 2020.

But the pandemic halted the season before it started last spring. And pushed back DuBois' debut as the head coach until today.

"The seniors lost a lot by missing their last year of playing high school soccer, it could have been a good season for us," DuBois said. "It was devastating, not only for us, but for all the spring sports."

Riley McKee, a sophomore, will get the start on goal.

Delaney Kaiser and Jessica Shanks, both seniors, will start in the back on defense along with sophomore Leah Kolb. Maya Saint, a junior, and freshman Cassie Leary will split time in the other spot.

"There will be others back there, but that's the core," DuBois said.

Daelynn Scheulen and Lindsey Ruff, both seniors, will start in the center midfield positions. Chasity Pendleton, another senior, and junior Ava Canale will start outside. Grace Kempker, a junior, will be a key reserve.

The forward spots will be held down by a combination of senior Ella Berendzen and freshmen Emily McMillian and Izzy Schmidt.

DuBois said the players aren't locked into just playing one position.

"We're forced with numbers, instead of being specialty players, we're going to rotate around and play multiple positions," he said. "We have well-rounded players and they will be able to handle it.

"It's all about the next player stepping up."

Jefferson City has 27 players out this season, which will allow for full JV games as well as varsity contests. That will be big to develop depth.

"Once we get a little deeper into the bench, things have the possibility of dropping off," DeBois said. "We are going to need to continue to work on developing our depth as the season goes along.

"We need to concentrate on the JV players to get them ready to go if we need them. We know injuries can happen and we will need somebody to step up."

The Lady Jays have embraced the team-first philosophy.

"We have heart, we are ready to go," DuBois said. "We have worked so hard, the girls have put so much into it and it's really starting to show."

Jefferson City's schedule is a series of difficult tests throughout the season.

"It's filled with talented teams and strong programs," DuBois said. "I'm excited to see how we play. I would rather be tested throughout the season instead of facing tough teams when you get to the postseason."

It will be the last soccer season for home games at the 179 Soccer Park. Next spring, the Lady Jays are scheduled to play at the new facility scheduled to be built on campus with a turf surface.

"We love 179, it's one of the best facilities in the state," DuBois said. "But this will be a big step for us. It will be great to start practice right away after school and get things going."

Action will begin today with the JV at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity around 6:45 p.m.

"We have heart, we are ready to go," DuBois said. "We have worked so hard, the girls have put so much into it and it's really starting to show.

"I know we're prepared and ready to go to start the season."

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