By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Greenwood Lady Bluejays will have a new leader on the sidelines this season as Melissa Kuhar takes over the reins of a program that last won a district title in 2015 and had a winning season in 2012.
New to the area but not new to coaching soccer, Kuhar has been encouraged by what she has seen and what she has heard about the Lady Bluejays.
“There is a solid group of players within the program,” Kuhar said. “The team last year had the ability to score goals and be in games. Of the eight losses last year, five of them were only one-goal games, which means there is so much potential there.”
Kuhar has spent the past two seasons (spring and fall of 2021) as the assistant women’s soccer coach at Drury University after serving three years as an assistant at Bethany College in Kansas. She also has coached at the club and high school levels and looks to bring her three-pronged approach to the Lady Bluejays.
“Defend and attack as a group – I want to score goals and keep the ball out of the back of the net,” Kuhar said. “If we do this as a group and not separate units, I think we can win games.
“Commitment to the process – Improvement will take time and I have really stressed to the girls that success will happen, but they need to trust the process.
“Desire for growth – I want to see each player on the team get better throughout the whole season. If I can accomplish this, our team will have growth.”
Greenwood graduated three players from last year’s team that finished 7-8 overall in defender Mallory Montgomery, a Class 1 All-District 6 second-team selection; midfielder Sam Scott, all-district second team; and goalkeeper Shield Bartee.
“It makes me super-excited knowing that the program is so close to having a winning season and getting past the first game of districts,” Kuhar said. “My goal is to take it one game at a time and find a way to win the close games.
“We will have a dynamic attack that is going to score goals, and we have a super-solid defense that should be able to keep the ball out of the back of the net. If we can put all the pieces together and pay attention to the small details, we will have success.”
Greenwood has an experienced group returning, as well as others who are coming out to play in Kuhar’s first season.
• Annabelle Sonnemaker, senior, forward – All-district first team. “Solid attacking player that I am hoping can score a lot of goals for us and have a good amount of assists,” Kuhar said.
• Elise Dlabach, senior, goalkeeper – All-district first team. “Will be solid for us in the net.”
• Reagan Rosen, senior, midfielder – All-district first team. “Will be a huge lock-down defender for us and will be key in helping us win some games.”
• Tess Fowler, junior, defender – All-district second team. “Will be a solid piece for us on both sides of the ball.”
Kuhar also will be looking to sophomore Chelsea Isackson and freshman Anna McQueary to contribute this season. Isackson didn’t play last year, but Kuhar says she brings value to the team, and McQueary will be a key piece on the backline.
As the Lady Bluejays prepare for their season-opening Greenwood Classic on March 23, Kuhar is hoping to revive a program she feels is on the verge of something special. Those one-goal losses and a 1-0 district loss to Class 1 fourth-place finisher New Covenant Academy give Kuhar hope for the future of the program.
“I want the girls to come together and understand that they are good enough to win games – a little self-confidence can go a long way,” Kuhar said. “I truly believe that Greenwood Girls’ Soccer will have a winning record this season. I think we might surprise some people, which is always a fun thing to do.
“There is a lot of talent in this program; they just need to realize they are good because there are so many people, including myself, that know they are. I also want to grow the interest in the program. I want people to come out to the games, I want the younger kids at Greenwood to get involved and I want people in the area to see that Greenwood has some really good athletes that can win games.”