Over the summer, The Forum will be catching up with a different Bearcat team each week for our ‘State of the Program’ series where we will check in on where the program is now and what new faces they are bringing in for next season. We began that series with women’s basketball and volleyball. Today, we move on to soccer with coach Marc Gordon.
MARYVILLE, Mo. — The Bearcat women’s soccer program underwent its first coaching transition in 15 years last season with Marc Gordon taking over the program.
Gordon’s first season came with many of the growing pains you’d expect from a program getting used to a new coach, but despite a 2-15 record last season, Gordon could see the progress the team made throughout the season with a 3-2 win at Southwest Baptist highlighting a late-season stretch.
“We have a solid core,” Gordon said. “We can defend pretty well, but we just need to continue to work on the ability to score goals.”
If the program is going to make the strides that Gordon hopes to see in his second year, the first big key would be increasing the depth of the team with a talented recruiting. Gordon hopes he accomplished that with the additions of 11 freshmen and a junior-college transfer.
Midfielder Manuela Gonzalez will join the team after spending the past two seasons playing with Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
The 5-foot-3 Olathe East product scored eight goals and assisted on eight more for a Cavalier team which went 11-7-2 overall and 9-1-2 in the Jayhawk Conference last season.
“She is going to bring some experience,” Gordon said. “She is super competitive. She is very technical, has a very good soccer I.Q. and just (brings) some leadership qualities.”
Among the Bearcat freshmen, Gordon added five players from the Kansas City metro area. Grace Goetsch is a 5-foot-5 goalkeeper from Shawnee, Kansas, and Mill Valley High School.
“Grace has a very good presence in the goal,” Gordon said. “She is a great communicator and I think, in seeing her in high school and club, she really commands her back line. ... She may be considered undersized with her height, but she is an exceptional goalkeeper.”
While Goetsch figures to help out the Bearcat defense, Lee’s Summit North forward Kaylie Rock hopes to give the Bearcat offense a boost. Rock was a First-Team All-State selection in Class 4 as a senior after being a second-team pick as a junior.
“She is very good and dangerous if she is turned and facing you,” Gordon said. “She is very technical, fast and she is long. She can take advantage of space behind the back line. She is very athletic like our current forwards, but brings an additional finishing ability that she’s shown in club and high school and we believe she will have that same success at this level.”
Sara Watson comes to the Bearcats with a connection to the program already. Hailing from Olathe and Spring Hill High School, the defender is the twin sister of Bearcat sophomore Anna Watson.
“She was a natural fit I think with her twin sister on the team,” Gordon said.
Caroline Sanders is a 5-foot-8 player from Shawnee, Kansas, and Shawnee Mission Northwest. She brings a versatile skill set to the Bearcat lineup.
“She can play in the midfield, she is a central type player, but I am projecting her probably in the back playing in the defense,” Gordon said. “Very versatile and very skilled.”
Smithville’s Kaitlyn Case also adds to the offensive end of the field. The 5-foot-3 midfielder/forward was a Second Team All-State pick in 2018.
“Kaitlyn is a scrappy kind of forward,” Gordon said. “I call her a goal poacher. She always puts herself in the right spots. ... Very versatile.”
The Bearcat staff stayed in the Midwest footprint for another midfielder with the 5-foot-7 Grayson Seevers from Topeka, Kansas.
“She is a very athletic, very out-going, team-minded player,” Gordon said. “Dynamic in the midfield and a attack-minded player.”
The recruiting efforts also extended north of Maryville with the Bearcats pulling Teagan Blackburn and Clara Kidder from the Omaha metro area.
Blackburn is from Council Bluffs-St. Albert and was a Second-Team All-State selection in Iowa as a sophomore and junior before becoming a First Team All-State pick as a senior.
“Teagan showed up at our residential camp last season and we couldn’t really figure out why Teagan was still available,” Gordon said. “She really shined while she was here. ... She had some D-1 looks that she was considering, but when it all came down to it, I think our location was beneficial. ... She is very athletic and strong.”
Kidder joins the Bearcats after graduating from Marion High School in Omaha. The 5-foot-3 player hopes to make an impact on the Bearcats’ midfield.
“She has great skills, great touch and can play in the midfield,” Gordon said.
The Bearcats also will bring in Paso Robles, California, product Atiana Stratman. Stratman thanks to a connection with current goalkeeper Alexis Serna Castillo.
“When I went to go watch Alexis play, Atiana stuck out,” Gordon said. “She did all the things that are needed in the midfield.”
The Bearcats went international with their other two additions.
Merel Marting joins Northwest from Riemst, Belgium. She comes to the Bearcats with experience playing for a German club team.
“She actually flew in and spent a 48-hour visit with us,” Gordon said. “She was extremely tired, but just a super dynamic player and has clearly been around soccer her entire life. ... She is an attacking-minded player for sure.”
Emilie Swaerd is a native of Rykkinn, Norway. She led her prep team in Norway to an 18-2 record before committing to join the Bearcats.
“She likes to have the ball and be a distributor,” Gordon said.
The Bearcats open their season Sept. 6 at Drury.
*For more from Gordon, visit the Maryville Forum’s YouTube channel for the full interview.