SHAWNEE, Ks. — Soccer hopes are high at one Johnson County high school.

Mill Valley (14-1-1) has never won a Kansas state soccer championship, but the highly-ranked Jaguars are still alive in the KSHSAA boys soccer postseason. 

One might laugh that defensive behavior is common at Mill Valley. So far, the Jags have won 14 of their 16 matches for the year, earning them the number three spot in this year’s final regular season Kansas State Soccer Coaches Association poll. 

“We don’t like to give up goals,” Jason Pendleton, Mill Valley’s second-year coach said. “We would prefer a shutout.”

All coaches would agree with that, but Pendleton, who formerly coached at Blue Valley Southwest, puts a sharp focus on keeping the ball near the opponent’s goal, and making key stops at and near the net. It’s given the Jags eight shutout wins and potentially more.

“I think we are minimizing — or have, for the most part — minimized opponents opportunities against us in the final third. When we’re on, we’re tough to break down,” Pendleton said.

Mill Valley High School has never won a Kansas state boys soccer championship, and its players believe in the mission they’re given.

“Everyone works hard. The chemistry between everyone is good. There’s no hate on this team. Everyone works for each other,” Dylan Ashford, Jaguars Striker, said.

“Going all the way to state. That’s the end goal. As a team, I hope we can stay focused until the end.  Sometimes, you can lose focus, but overall, I think we’re going to be pretty well through,” Owen Peachee, Jaguars Centerback, said.

The Jaguars are earning the attention they’re getting as well. MaxPreps ranks them in the top 70 boys soccer teams in the nation, and the third best team in the Sunflower State, but the kind of attention they really crave is the kind you get when you hoist a state championship trophy to call your own.

The Kansas State Soccer Tournament begins on Tuesday for Mill Valley, when the Jaguars meet Shawnee Mission East for a trip to the state Class 6-A Semifinals.