SM East soccer team returns core of offensive talent for 2016 season

Coach Jamie Kelly is kicking off his tenth season as the head SM East soccer coach.
Coach Jamie Kelly is kicking off his tenth season as the head SM East soccer coach.

SM East soccer fans got a sneak preview of this year’s varsity team on Tuesday during the annual Blue-Black Scrimmages, a lineup that head coach Jamie Kelly predicts will dazzle on offense.

Though the program lost a wealth of experience to graduation last year — fully 14 varsity players from the 2015 team are gone — the returning core features players with a complementary mix of talent up front. Senior phenom Oliver Bihuniak, who spent his sophomore year attending school and playing soccer in Spain, is back in a key offensive slot for the Lancers.

“Just a gifted, talented, skillful player,” Kelly said of Bihuniak. “Very smooth on the ball, very graceful, vision is fantastic.”

Bihuniak will be aided by senior Stanley Morantz, who Kelly calls the team’s “enforcer,” as well as Clayton Phillips, Grayson Rapp and Tommy Nelson.

“Our offense is going to be great,” Kelly said. “We’re going to score a lot of goals this year.”

As for the defensive side of the ball, Kelly predicts his team will have some growing pains as new players adjust to the speed of the varsity game. But, he says, the team has potential.

Lancer fans will get their first chance to see the squad in competitive action this Friday as SM East opens its season against SM West at the Shawnee Mission Soccer Complex at 7 p.m. Kelly said the first game of the year, dubbed “Friday Night Futbol,” typically draws one of the most energetic crowds.

“Such a great atmosphere — it’s really the first athletic event of the season,” Kelly said. “Usually it’s the most stand-packed game of the season.”

The C and D squads were the first to take the field at Tuesday’s Blue-Black Scrimmages at SM East.