By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Ozark High School boys’ soccer team welcomes back nearly its entire varsity lineup from a 16-win team.
Veteran coach Tom Davidson is eager to see how his veteran-laden team performs.
“I’m hoping we’ll have leadership from our seniors and growth from our soon-to-be juniors,” Davidson said.
The Tigers are in the midst of a successful, multi-year run. They’ve won 15 or more matches each season since 2015, including an appearance in the Class 4 state quarterfinals in 2016.
Expectations remain high.
“We’re looking for the same things we always do here at Ozark: competing for conference and district championships,” Davidson said.
This year, the Tigers return four all-conference players, all of which are seniors.
Lawson Spence (forward), Nick Rushing (defender) and Sean Smith (goalkeeper) were all first-team selections in the COC-Large last season. Tanner Shelton (midfield) received second-team honors.
Spence returns as one of the area’s top strikers. He had 26 goals and seven assists last season.
“He’s a dynamic player and will again assume the leadership role in our offense,” Davidson said.
Rushing played a key role for a defense that allowed 1.30 goals per match last season and recorded nine shutouts.
“Nick will be our defensive leader,” Davidson said.
Smith was one of three goalies selected to the 2017 All-COC Large team.
“He’ll have to be solid in goal in order for us to achieve our potential,” Davidson said.
With all-conference players returning in all areas of the field, Davidson hopes the experience translates to another successful season.
“We’re hoping to develop great team chemistry,” Davidson said. “I think we should be solid in all facets of the game.”
Ozark finished 16-10 overall last season. The Tigers fell 2-0 to Nixa in the Class 4 District 10 finals. Ozark graduated Payton Young, described by Davidson as a “solid role player.”
Ozark opens the regular season Aug. 28 at Carl Junction.
The Tigers will also compete in tournaments at Parkview and Rolla High School during the regular season. The non-conference slate includes matches against Glendale (August 30), Springfield Catholic (Sept. 6), Kickapoo (September 12) and St. Louis Vianney (Oct. 12).