Shawnee High School opens its 2011 soccer season today, and it will be at least one more year before Shawnee’s players can step back into the familiar surroundings of Class 5A.

Shawnee High School opens its 2011 soccer season today, and it will be at least one more year before Shawnee’s players can step back into the familiar surroundings of Class 5A.
All of Shawnee’s sports ascended to the top classification a couple of years ago, but all sports other than football and soccer were able to slide back into 5A to start the 2010-11 school year. Soccer remains locked in Class 6A for one more season, as does football this fall.
“It makes it tough, in 6A, but they’ve handled it well. They understand you have to adjust,” said Justin McCain, Shawnee’s girls head coach. “I was proud of the way they handled it last year, and they’ve got a good attitude and work ethic about it this year. I think ultimately this will make us much better in 5A.”
Shawnee’s soccer programs should be able to return to 5A in 2012, as long as Shawnee High School’s average daily membership (ADM) numbers fall into the 5A guidelines with the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA).
McCain’s crew lost seven players to graduation last season, but the Lady Wolves return five starters. Seniors Jaimie Arnold, Summer Little and Whitney Heer, along with junior Emalee Staude, were regular starters in 2010, and senior Bethany Hall started in several games.
Shawnee’s roster is not complete for today’s 5:30 p.m. season opener against visiting Guthrie. Micaela Yu remains with the Lady Wolves’ basketball team as they prepare to play in this weekend’s 5A area tournament.
With much of the renovations done to Jim Thorpe Stadium, Shawnee’s home soccer games will be played there this year. Home games last season were played at Oklahoma Baptist University.
McCain said youth soccer players who wear their jerseys to Shawnee’s home games will be admitted at no cost.
Shawnee’s district, for the second year in a row, includes powerhouses Mustang, Westmoore, Edmond Memorial and Norman North.
“Those are the four major schools and all four of those schools will have a good shot at state this year,” McCain said.
Other schools in Shawnee’s district are Putnam City West, Lawton Eisenhower and U.S. Grant.
Mustang reached the state semifinals in 2010.
Shawnee’s girls finished last season at 8-5 overall and 3-4 in the district, and they did not reach the postseason. As 5A members, the Lady Wolves made the playoffs in 2008, and they made the state quarterfinals in 2007.
“We’re a young team,” McCain said. “Even though we have some upperclassmen, we’re young in varsity experience.”
The Lady Wolves will participate in the Noble Tournament March 3-5. Shawnee won that tournament last year.
McCain is assisted this season by Marinne Burnham and Arturo Diaz. Both are in their second year as assistants at SHS. Burnham is a senior at Oklahoma Baptist, and Diaz is a sophomore.
Shawnee’s Wolves are under the leadership this season of an England naive who has high hopes for the Wolves and their second consecutive 6A showing.
“We’ve got the basic nucleus for a decent team, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be,” said Paul Marshall, SHS boys head coach. “We’ve got to build on it and get people to want to come out and play. Hopefully we’ll do as well as we can this season.”
Marshall, who played soccer in York, England, moved to Oklahoma in 1991. He immediately began coaching recreational soccer at the YMCA, and refereed games and played on club teams at Oklahoma Baptist and in Oklahoma City.
“I’ve been coaching rec soccer for quite a long time, and I finally decided to give them a little bit of my experience here,” Marshall said.
The Wolves were coached last season by Tito Schwabe.
The Wolves have a handful of returning starters, and will be joined by Orges Lieshaj, an exchange student from Albania. Seniors Jaime Angel, Micah Henson, Leif Lena, Korbin Williams and Tyler Young were key components in Shawnee’s lineup last year.
Young will join the Wolves following the completion of basketball season.
“He’ll be a great acquisition,” Marshall said.
Shawnee’s roster includes more than a dozen freshmen and sophomores combined, and Marshall sees a lot of promise in them.
“We’ve got some pretty good players in the freshmen class, some skilled players, so the future looks good from that point,” he said.
The Wolves went 0-7 in district play last season, and will face the same rocky road of opponents this time as they await next year’s return to Class 5A. Norman North won the 6A title last year, and McCain said the Shawnee boys face the toughest of all 6A districts.
“It’s going to be hard for them, but my goal is for this program to compete no matter what level we’re playing in,” Marshall said.
Making the transition from recreational soccer to prep soccer “is different,” Marshall said, “but I feel more comfortable because you can actually work to a higher standard here. Here you get more out of them, because it’s a whole other level.”
Marshall’s assistant coaches this season are Elliott Freeman and former SHS player Sebastian Barahona. Both are OBU students and are in their first year of coaching at Shawnee.
“They’re settled down,” Marshall said of his assistants, who he praised for their relationship with the players. “The attitude in the locker room is so good. It’s so uplifted.
“It’s like they’re excited to play, and I like that.”
Note: For a look at Shawnee’s 2011 soccer schedule, and the boys’ roster, see the Scoreboard. The girls’ roster was not available at press time.