Lionel Karyea has been around soccer for many years, but this spring marks the first time he has been tasked with the new role of being a head coach.

Karyea was an assistant girls coach at West Salem High School last season before moving up to the top spot and taking over a team that is coming off an MVC championship.

Lionel Karyea mug

Karyea

But things are going pretty smoothly through the first six games.

“The support system and the team have really been super supportive of what we’ve been doing so far,” said Karyea, whose Panthers are 4-2 after opening the conference season by shutting out Tomah on Tuesday. “It’s been really exciting, and the girls, families and assistant coaches have been so supportive during my first year as a head coach.”

So far what Karyea has been doing with the team has proven successful. The Panthers, whose MVC title last spring was their first, have been able to put a large amount of trust in the team’s big group of senior leaders.

Senior Sam Olson has already scored 11 goals after getting three in West Salem’s 6-0 win over the Timberwolves on Tuesday. Junior Kara Gavaghan has been helping out on the assist side, providing Olson with a majority of the passes that helped the senior find the net.

Sam Olson mug

Olson

Kara Gavaghan mug

Gavaghan

So far the Panthers have outscored opponents 31-16, which includes a 14-2 victory against Altoona. Despite having two losses so far, Karyea knows that his team is hungry for success and is motivated to dominate in conference after last year’s championship.

“We want to win it again,” he said. “So our motto this year is ‘No excuse.’ No matter what we’re doing, we don’t make an excuse and we just go out here and play.”

HOLMEN PRODUCES FIRSTS FOR COACH: The Holmen girls soccer team has showed coach Khyl Berndt a few firsts already this season.

Even though the Vikings are a young team composed of a strong core of sophomores, the group has been very effective offensively, according to Berndt. Besides that, Berndt also believes that this year’s group is one of the stronger attacking teams she’s had in awhile.

“It’s the first time in a long time that we have a very strong offensive team,” said Berndt, whose team has scored 20 goals. “We have girls creating opportunities and passing a lot stronger and maintaining possession of the ball much more this season.

Khyl Berndt

Berndt

“It’s also the first time I see us as a strong attacking team. We’re a team with a deep bench. We don’t just have 11 players on the field ready, but we have a whole bench ready to rock, too.”

The strengths of the team have been shown already as the Vikings (4-1, 1-0) have only been defeated once this season, a 6-2 setback at the hands of River Falls. The Wildcats used that victory to start a three-game winning streak that has also included wins over Onalaska and Eau Claire North.

On the other hand, the strength in experience has radiated in games like a 2-0 win over Central, a team that beat Holmen twice last season.

Although Berndt isn’t surprised by the young team’s success, she has been impressed by the stellar performances coming from junior goalkeeper Alexis Treadway. Of the Vikings four wins, three of them have been shutouts.

“Alexis pleasantly surprised me coming out on the varsity field for the first time this year,” Berndt said. “She has played varsity in the past, but she hasn’t seen this much playing time. The girls are very confident in her, and she found confidence in herself, and the coaching staff has found confidence in her, too.

“She’s really in front of the goal willing to sacrifice herself for anything that comes flying at her.”

Sarah Waara can be reached at sarah.waara@lee.net or via Twitter @sarahjane016