FENTON, Mo. — The best soccer season in Neosho history ended with a pair of losses at the state championships.
The Wildcats were blanked 3-0 for the second straight day, this time falling to Webster Groves in the Class 3 third-place game at World Wide Technology Soccer Park.
Neosho finished the year with an 18-10 record, and coach James Carter said his team will take the positives out of this first trip to the state semifinals.
“You don’t often see a team take a big leap forward in one year,” Carter said. “More often then not it is a one step at a time. For us to win a sectional game last year was a step for us. Now, we got to next step; we won in the quarterfinals and got here. That is a big step for the program. This team has done more to push us in the right direction than anyone. We have had a some great players and great teams, but this is the first time in the final four. It just comes one step at a time.”
The Wildcats had averaged nearly 3 goals a game the previous 13 contests before reaching Fenton but couldn’t get much going against foes from suburban Kansas City or St. Louis.
Webster Groves provided more of a task to stop offensively than Platte County did on Friday in the semifinal game.
The Statesmen (21-7), last year’s state runner-up, scored twice in the first half but both times they were wiped out due to an offsides call. Neosho managed only one shot on goal in the opening 40 minutes and that came with three minutes left in the half.
Kayden Wood stayed busy in goal for Neosho and stayed in the contest after getting kicked by Webster Grove’s Sam Stevens on a diving save attempt in the fifth minute. Despite some verbal protest from Carter, no call was made against the Statesmen.
The play foretold what was a chippy game between the two teams that featured a total of 41 fouls called — about one every two minutes. There were eight yellow cards issued, but no red cards were pulled from the head official.
However, late in the game, a Webster Groves played pushed a Neosho defender after battling for a possession and no call was made on that play.
“I don’t think we played bad today and or were real nervous,” Carter said. “We ran out of a steam a little bit but they were playing so hard today. The kids played hard and represented us well. That’s not easy to do when you don’t have calls going your way.”
Webster Groves scored two goals in the 49-second span in the second half, both coming from Ben Winkelman. The first came in the 56th minute and the second in the 57th, with assists going to Owen Culver and Stevens, respectively.
Culver provided the helper on the final goal, scored by Chris Campbell, in the 64th minute.
The game was the final one for six Wildcat seniors, which includes starters Dylan Collins and Yahir Ruiz and reserves Etian Pupo and Ryder Schnackenberg.
“It was an amazing experience to do with a team I love and the fans that always support us no matter what,” said Ruiz, who had one of the eight shots on goal and was the team’s leading scorer this year. “I feel this is a huge step for the program. Knowing we can go far we can learn and keep building.”