CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — As a final dress rehearsal before the regular season arrives, girls soccer teams from Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction and Carthage converged on Bulldog Stadium on Monday night for a preseason jamboree.
The round-robin format allowed each team three scrimmages. Below is a look at each team’s season outlook.
Josh Thompson is now in charge of the Joplin girls soccer program.
Thompson inherits an experienced group.
“We have a lot of returning starters and our girls have really high expectations,” Thompson said. “They’re definitely looking to win every game they come into. I think they’re confident and they have a good mindset right now. Our team is definitely full of strong returners.”
On the pitch, the Eagles will be led by senior forward Emma Briley, a four-year varsity performer who earned first team all-conference honors a year ago. Briley, who has signed to play at Drury University, scored 21 goals last year.
“Emma’s certainly someone our girls will look to as a goal-scorer,” Thompson said. “She’s a team captain and she has the experience.”
Also back for the Eagles is Mari Katheryn Saunders, a junior defender who garnered second team all-conference recognition last year.
Other returning performers for Joplin include senior midfielder Shli Kinkead, senior forward Ravyn Price, junior defender Annabelle Erisman and junior forward Madeleine Farber. Sophomore Mya Johnson is a candidate to play goalkeeper.
“Our girls expect to compete in every game and we’re excited for the season,” Thompson said.
The Eagles, who went 11-11 last year, begin the season on Monday, March 25 at Parkview. The team’s first home date will be Tuesday, March 26 against McDonald County.
In 2018, the Cardinals captured a district championship for the first time in program history.
Second-year coach Nick Harmon lost a large group of standout seniors from last year’s squad that went 14-7, but he added the expectations remain high.
“We had a great season last year and looking at this team, the pieces are there to repeat what we did last year,” Harmon said. “We just have to have girls step up and play like they’re capable. We lost a lot of seniors, but I feel we have a lot of talent coming up. We’ll be young this year and we’ll have some younger girls in big roles. But it’s a good opportunity for them to step up.”
Sophomore Mileah Metcalf started last year and will be in an attacking role this year. Trinity Dobbs is a returning senior who can play forward or midfielder. Sophomore Ella Metcalf and freshman Delaney Duke are possibilities in goal.
Harmon noted he expects freshman Anea Bemo to contribute nicely.
Webb City hosts Hillcrest on March 21.
Carl Junction coach Ed Miller will rely on a solid core of returning players and a group of youngsters.
“We have some varsity players back with experience and we’ll have a strong freshman class that will help us out,” Miller said. “We’ve got a good mix of players. The girls have had great attitudes and they’re very team-oriented.”
Junior forward Izabella Burgess, senior midfielder Addie Tholen and junior midfielder Jenna Capra are the team’s most experienced returners. Freshman forward Kadynce Arnold is expected to contribute nicely, Miller noted.
Junior Ashley Stokes and sophomore Bryn Neria are candidates to start at goalkeeper.
“Both are doing a great job in practice,” Miller said.
Also of note, junior Dani Wrensch is back in action after missing last season due to an injury. Miller noted there are a number of underclassmen who are competing for varsity spots for the Bulldogs, who won four games last year in a season that was plagued by injuries.
The Bulldogs open the season on March 26 at Hillcrest.
Taylor Beck is now leading the Carthage girls soccer program.
Beck is a former standout at Carl Junction who played collegiately at Missouri Southern.
“I’m super excited,” Beck said. “We have a good group and they are working really hard. They do everything we ask.”
The Tigers will be led by senior forward Brianna Marquez, a first team all-conference performer last year.
“Brianna controls the game from the middle,” Beck said. “She can distribute the ball and she has really good kicks. She’s just a solid all-around player.”
Junior twins Jezuri Lopez (forward) and Jenari Lopez (defender) are other key returners who Beck feels will contribute nicely. Also back is senior goalkeeper Sydney Peters.
Marquez, Peters and Jenari Lopez were recognized on the all-district team last season.
The Tigers, who won seven games last year, are at Monett on March 21.
“We only lost two players from last year’s team,” Beck said. “We have a solid group. We had about 50 girls try out and we had more than 30 girls at preseason workouts. I feel like the program is growing and we’re very excited for the season.”