By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
With the start of soccer season less than a week away, Joplin head coach Ed Miller said his team is making some adjustments in preparation for Ozark Conference opponents.
Some of the changes have been prompted by a realignment of soccer classes by the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Joplin will remain in Class 3, but the Eagles’ new district opponents will be Springfield Central, Kickapoo and Parkview.
“We still have a ways to go, but we have 10 returning starters,” Miller said. “The problem right now is we’re changing some looks from last season. We have some different stuff we’re trying to do.”
The class changes have resulted in a new lineup for Class 2, District 12, which will be comprised of Carl Junction, Carthage, Neosho and Webb City.
In Class 1, the District 12 teams are College Heights, Thomas Jefferson, Aurora, Cassville and Monett.
“What they’ve done is make all classes pretty much even,” Miller said. “Some of the smaller schools will have to play schools twice their size.”
Joplin, co-champion of the Ozark Conference last season along with Kickapoo and Waynesville, begins its regular season at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a conference match at Lebanon.
The Eagles’ first home match is scheduled for Sept. 4 against Waynesville.
“We just have a tough conference,” he said. “On any given night, anybody can beat you.”
The losses were few — in more ways than one — last season for the Eagles, who were 19-4-2 and lost just one starter to graduation among their two seniors.
Returning for the Eagles are backs Cole Shepherd, Griffin Locke and Will Krolman, midfielders Edgar Romero, Locke McAllister, Luis Santillan and Garrett Ward, forwards Joe Rice and Ryan Estus, and goalkeeper Brock Roenken. Santillan is a junior, McAllister is a sophomore and the rest are seniors.
“We return a lot of experience with these guys,” Miller said.
A deep bench will give Miller ample opportunities for substitutions, he said.
The reserves include Dominique Salcedo, John Ponce, Grayson Ford, Colton Maggard, Jeremy Loden and Waldo Gomez.
“It helps us out with their flexibility,” Miller said. “They can play several positions on the field.”