ESPN is branching out trying to earn eyeballs and advertising dollars in anything that looks like a sport. High School sports and the mythical national championship is one area they’ve turned their attention to. I’m pointing to that effort today to salute the Liberty Jays, the defending Class 3 champions of Missouri High School Girls soccer, who open the season with the #1 ranking in the Powerade Fab50.
#1 Liberty Jays (Liberty, Mo.) 0-0-0 NR
Missouri’s defending state champ Liberty gets the nod as preseason No. 1 behind a talented group of players. The lineup features a pair of US Soccer Youth National Team players in Shea Groom (Texas A&M) and Kaysie Clark (Missouri). The team is far from a two-girl show, as Kelsey Goff (Nebraska), Delaney Kiely (Oklahoma State), Kaely Tott (William Jewell) and Jenna Turner also project as impact players. Liberty competes in the MO-KAN Challenge against top programs from Kansas, the Heart of America Classic against other national caliber teams and ultimately faces the always-talented run of St. Louis programs in the playoffs. In addition, Liberty makes a late-season trip to St. Louis to face perennial powers St. Joseph’s Academy and Incarnate Word Academy. If Liberty can go undefeated against that schedule, there will be no dispute as to the No. 1 team in the nation — regardless of season (fall, winter or spring).
#12 Lee’s Summit North (Lee’s Summit, Mo.) 0-0-0 NR
The struggle between St. Louis and Kansas City for in-state dominance is well documented. In fact, the areas have split the last 10 large-school state titles. Usually, where there is one Kansas City team in the FAB 50, a St. Louis program resides near by. But this year, Kansas City gets the edge with defending champ Liberty starting at No. 1 and Lee’s Summit North, with two first-team and one second-team all-state players returning. Lee’s Summit North was a state quarterfinalist last year, losing to Liberty, which rolled to the state title. Lee’s Summit North’s key returners are senior keeper Caroline Stanley (Missouri), junior midfielder Allie Stephenson (Oklahoma State) and junior defender Courtney Licata.
In addition to these two teams, St Louis is represented at #39 by St. Joseph’s Academy and at #47 by Visitation Academy.
The POWERADE FAB 50 is released every Tuesday throughout the spring season starting on March 14. The spring-playing states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California (spring), Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (spring), South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.