By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Nixa owns the area’s best district title streak, but you wouldn’t know it if you asked them.
The Eagles are focused on the here and now, not the past.
“Winning districts is always one of our goals, but we try to stay focused on the (moment) and get better every day,” said Nixa coach Evan Palmer. “We focus on the process, and results will come if we continue to improve as individuals and as a team.”
The Eagles won their fifth straight district championship last season. No local girls’ soccer program has a better active streak.
“We definitely want to keep the streak going but we don’t talk about it a lot,” Palmer said. “Again, it is about the process.”
If they want to make it six in a row, the Eagles will have to replace a significant amount of offensive production.
Nixa graduated eight seniors, including all-state selection Alex Johnson. She had a team-high 30 goals plus eight assists as a senior. Johnson is Nixa’s all-time career scoring leader (93 goals, 42 assists).
Johnson led her college team, the Maryville Saints, in goals (eight) this past fall. She was named GLVC Freshman of the Year and to the NCAA Division II All-Midwest Team.
Returnees like Chloe Cash (senior forward), Madisyn Pritchett (junior forward), Jayla Lakey (junior midfield/forward) and Erica Hartley (junior midfield) will be major factors in Nixa’s attack.
Cash (13 goals and 10 assists last season) is Nixa’s top returning scorer. Pritchett had six goals and eight assists last season, while Lakey and Hartley combined for nine goals and nine assists.
“Chloe (has) great speed and vision. We need her to carry even more of the offensive load this year,” Palmer said. “Madisyn is a great attacking player; we look for a breakout year from her.
“(Jayla) is a good, strong player. We need her to be an offensive threat. Erica’s great on the ball and (we’ll) need her to facilitate a lot of our attacks.”
In addition to Johnson, the Eagles also graduated forward Bailey Hunsicker (12 goals, four assists; now playing for Missouri Southern), midfielder Maycie Palmer (four goals, 13 assists; now playing for Drury University), midfielder Arianna Cobb (two goals, six assists) and forward Abbie Brandt (five goals, two assists).
“We lost 65 percent of our scoring to graduation, so finding consistent finishers will be a key to our success this year,” Evan Palmer said. “I feel we have the girls to do it.”
And despite the graduation of goalkeeper Marrissa Carpenter (no goals against in four games; now playing for MacMurray College in Illinois), defender Gracie Gimlin (now playing for Missouri Southern) and defender Beth Johnson, the Eagles return proven players in the back.
Goalkeeper Riley McClintock emerged as one of the area’s best freshmen last season. She’s joined by the junior trio of center back Annslee Glenn, defender/midfielder Liz Davis and defender/midfielder Hannah Lannutti.
“Riley’s an excellent, technical goalkeeper and smart,” Evan Palmer said. “Annslee will lead our defense. Liz has excellent vision and touch on the ball. We need her to start a lot of our attacks out of the back.
“Hannah’s a great defender, but we might need her to step into the midfield this year.”
Like you’d expect from a program with five straight district titles, Nixa will have a deep and talented roster.
Names like senior Hannah Ast (MF/D), sophomore Riley Woodward (MF), junior Hayley Clinton (D) and sophomore Ellie Osborne (F) will push for playing time.
“We have great team speed and skill, so we will be competitive in every game,” Evan Palmer said. “Defending and ball movement should be strengths as well.”
Nixa welcomes back junior Erin Crawford (MF) and sophomore Lizzy Shaw (D) from injury. Junior Lexie Rasmussen (MF/D) transfers in from Seymour.
And if that wasn’t enough…
“We have a great freshmen class,” Evan Palmer said. “There could be multiple (freshmen) that see varsity time this spring, but it is too early to tell who that might be.”
Nixa finished 16-6-1 overall in 2017. Lee’s Summit West defeated the Eagles 4-0 in the Class 4 sectional round.
Nixa begins the 2018 regular season March 20 at home versus Kickapoo.