2010 Season Preview: New coach looks to build program with young team

First-year coach Bryan Kehr takes over as head coach of the Larks as Hesston looks forward to a competitive schedule in the always-challenging Region VI of the NJCAA. The Larks will play 18 matches, featuring many of the best teams in the region. The team’s roster includes seven sophomores and 12 freshmen.

Kehr comes to Hesston from Goshen, Ind., where he served as athletic director and instructor at Bethany Christian Schools. He launched the varsity girls’ soccer program at the school 11 years ago and led the team to four sectional titles and one regional title.

Former Hesston star forward Megan Gongwer, a member of the inaugural women’s soccer team in 2007, will serve as an assistant coach.

Returning players Jessica Davis (Newton, Kan.), Rachel Stoltzfus (Elkhart, Ind.), Leah Rittenhouse (Mt. Pleasant, Pa.) and Mandy Kanagy (Timberville, Va.) will provide valuable experience on defense for a young Larks squad. Those four will be joined by freshman Colby Troyer (Waterford, Pa.) who will make an impact at central defense. Kanagy and Rittenhouse will also see playing time at midfield, along with sophomore Megan Leatherman (Hesston, Kan.). Returning starters Kelsey Schrock (Wellman, Iowa) and Marly Richison (Houston, Mo.) will anchor the central midfield.

Freshman Amber Mayer (Wichita, Kan.) leads a strong class of goalkeepers and is joined by fellow newcomers Chelsea Gonwa (Brighton, Colo.) and Sarah Gillman (Knoxville, Tenn.) in the net, while Yolanda Aasheim-Conner (Centennial, Colo.) and Tiffany Pratt (Festus, Mo.), both freshman, provide exciting attacking options on offense.

Freshman Hannah Bachman (Tiskilwa, Ill.), Kendra Litwiller (Hopedale, Ill.), and Claudia Bacca (Dodge City, Kan.) could push for starting roles this fall while Vanessa Burkolder (Goshen, Ind.), Kayla Kuhns (Goshen, Ind.) and Sierra Wheeler (Bristol, Ind.) bring depth and balance to the roster.

“The team has been working hard over the summer to improve,” Kehr said. “Our returning sophomores have provided great leadership for our group, and the freshman class will certainly make an immediate impact on the program. One of our goals is to compete every day in practice and prepare ourselves for a rigorous schedule. Every time we step on the field we want to compete.”

Hesston opponents ranked nationally in pre-season NJCAA polls include Johnson County Community College (2nd) and Hutchinson Community College (13th).