PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — The Team of the Week stories bounce back this week.

Shawnee Mission East girls soccer team (4-1) is off to a hot start, once that could carry them back to the state championship game.

You might say the Lancers are getting down to business because some of it feels unfinished. SME is off to a strong open to its season, using a strong defense to power their victories. In fact, three of the Lancers’ matches this season have come down to one goal.

“I think we’re hungry to get back out there and win state. We got so close last year,” Maggie Nottberg, Lancers center midfielder, said.

East wants one more victory than it found a season ago — when it lost in the Class 6A State Championship Game to Blue Valley West. 2022 sees SME ranked number one in Class 6A with eight starters returning from last season.

“We always talk about how it’s 16 postseason games to get ready for when it really counts,” Jamie Kelly, who has been the Lancers head coach for the past 14 seasons, said.

Kelly leads a program with three state championships, but none since 2000. Kelly said keeping the ball on the ground and concentrating on stopping the other clubs’ attack has served as a cornerstone of his program.

“One thing they’ve really done is stay humble. With that kind of success comes a lot of expectations on their part, but also, seeing everybody’s best shot. Knowing we are a measuring stick against other teams because they have dreams of playing for that state title,” Kelly said.

“Our ultimate goal is to win state this year and to win our league. We have a really tough schedule. I believe in our team, and I think we can do it,” Emily Moseley, Lancers midfielder, said.

“We’ve done a great job of shutting out our games thus far. We’re good at kicking it up the field,” Nottberg added.  “I think we’re all super stoked.”

A lot is expected from a Lancer club that returns 12 of its 16 players from a year ago. East hasn’t missed the regional playoffs in Kelly’s 14 seasons as head coach, and 2022 could produce the school’s first state title in more than two decades.

Shawnee Mission East hosts Olathe East (2-4) on Tuesday afternoon.

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