By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Change is always a challenge, but the Waynesville High School girls’ soccer team saw a great deal of growth during the second half of last season under the guidance of first-year head coach John Box.
“While the expectations were high, the learning curve proved to be pretty steep during the first half of the season,” said Box, who enters his second year at Waynesville, but is 148-35-5 overall during stints at Indiana high schools New Palestine (boys) and Heritage Christian (girls). “However, the girls really focused during the last half of the season and made a fantastic turnaround, culminating with the defeat of Glendale for the second time in school history.”
Heading into the 2018 season, the Lady Tigers, who finished 9-12 overall and 5-4 in the Ozark Conference, look to continue to make positive strides, but will be without 2017 graduates Krystina Zabek and Trinity Sigler.
Zabek scored 12 goals and had six assists, while earning first-team All-OC and Team Best Offense honors. Sigler recorded four shutouts and had 160 saves and was Team MVP last year and is now playing at State Fair Community College.
Box said he will miss the energy that Zabek and Sigler brought to the field and the inspiration they provided.
Key returnees for Waynesville include all-conference selections Sierra Zadravecz, Jessica Dwyer and Savannah Crocket. Zadravecz is a senior defender who was a second-team all-conference pick; Dwyer, a junior midfielder, also was second-team all-conference, and junior midfielder Crocket was named to the all-conference first team.
“They all bring a solid technical ability, and a true competitive spirit,” Box said.
Another key player from last season is junior midfielder Emma Kersten (first team All-OC), who was lost at the end of 2017 because of a torn ACL.
Box is looking for his newcomers to make an impact once the season gets going.
Cristaliz Vazquez is a freshman defender/midfielder, Vanessa Blake is a freshman forward and junior transfer Rachel Evans is a midfielder.
“These incoming players have a tremendous amount of potential,” Box said. “Each player mentioned has made the transition to the level of play that is expected at the varsity level.”
As Waynesville prepares for this season, Box is encouraged by how the Lady Tigers finished 2017, even though it ended with a 1-0 loss to Columbia Rock Bridge in the Class 4 District 9 semifinals.
“The conference should be a positive experience, as we tied for fourth last season,” Box said. “The districts are always a challenge as we have Rock Bridge, Sedalia Smith-Cotton and Jefferson City. The only thing we can ask is that we improve throughout the season and make a better showing during district games.
“I think the biggest gains from last season will be our biggest strengths coming into this season, and that is teamwork. As we finished up the season, the communication and teamwork were outstanding.”
Waynesville will host a jamboree that will include Rolla and Crocker – the date is to be determined. The season-opener will be against Columbia Hickman on March 17 at Ozark, followed by a second game against Columbia Battle.
“The game is the best teacher,” Box said. “As situations arise, the game will provide the lessons and solutions.”