By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Aurora boys’ soccer program continued its recent upward trajectory during the 2017 season, and the Houn’ Dawgs’ senior class looks to make more history in 2018.
Having experienced three straight winless seasons in the mid- to late-2000’s, the Houn’ Dawgs enjoyed success in 2016, going 11-8, while improving to 15-7 last year. Each of those seasons ended with a loss to Logan-Rogersville in the Class 2 District 12 semifinals.
“Our team last year set school records for wins (15) and shutouts (8), which made our year a lot of fun,” said Curtis Bishop, who enters his 20th year as head coach, “but we did not achieve our goal of a district championship.
“I knew we would match up well with our speed, offense and defense, but I was pleasantly surprised how our defense held up game after game to set our shutout record.”
The key to Aurora’s success in recent years has been due to its feeder program, which includes youth camps, junior high and high school offseason workouts, and indoor competition.
“Players have come into our program better prepared and skilled,” Bishop said.
But the Houn’ Dawgs will have to replace some key pieces to that success with the graduations of Miguel Gallardo, Denny Mayne, Gavin Mcfee and Alex Hamelink.
Gallarado, who was a first-team Class 2 District 12 and All-Southwest Central Region selection, tallied 16 goals and 16 assists in 2017. He also leaves as Aurora’s record-holder for goals scored (40), and holds the No. 2 spot for points over four years.
Mayne also was a first-team all-district pick for the Houn’ Dawgs. He scored 15 goals and added seven assists last season. His point total for his four-year career puts him at No. 5 on the list.
Mcfee was an honorable mention all-district selection in his senior season.
The 2018 senior class made significant contributions not only to Aurora’s season, but to its program.
“Our four seniors were outstanding for the program and accomplished many things as a class,” Bishop said. “They leave as the winningest class with 43 wins.
“It is always difficult to lose players every year and this year is no exception. But when players graduate, it opens up opportunities for other players to step up and continue what the seniors accomplished. They are all incredible young men who will be successful contributors in their adult lives.”
The cupboard is far from bare, however, as the Houn’ Dawgs prepare for the fall. Aurora has 17 players who are either returning to varsity action or who got some varsity experience last season.
Those players (class and positions) include: Spencer Briggs, senior, midfielder/striker; Jordani Perez, senior, striker; Patrick Reyes, senior, goalie; Jairo Hedrick, senior, fullback; Samuel Salas, junior, midfielder; Julius Jager, junior, fullback/midfielder; Kris Lopez, junior, fullback/midfielder; Nicolas London, junior, fullback/midfielder; Ignacio Ortega, junior, midfielder/striker; Eric Reyes, sophomore, midfielder; Blake Hamelink, sophomore, fullback/midfielder; Ryan Cline, junior, fullback/midfielder; Ian Brown, junior, fullback; Pablo Reyes, senior, goalie/fullback; Mark Hostetter, junior, fullback/midfielder; Caleb Lewis, junior, fullback/midfielder; and Clemente Reyes, sophomore, goalie/fullback.
“This group has worked hard to improve and they get along extremely well together,” Bishop said. “They want to take the team to playoff victories after last year’s disappointing finish and build on the success we have established in the program.”
In 2017, Briggs scored 8 goals and added 6 assists; Perez had 11 goals and 7 assists; Salas contributed 2 goals and 6 assists, while Patrick Reyes and Ortega scored 4 and 2 goals, respectively.
Bishop expects his returning players to contribute as the team moves forward in preparing for district play and a new-look Big 8 Conference, and notes that this senior group has an opportunity to leave as the class with the most wins in Aurora’s program.
“Our district may change this year, but it is always tough with Monett, Logan-Rogersville and Cassville involved,” Bishop said. “We start our new Big 8 Conference play this year, which is exciting as we add Catholic and Rogersville’s solid soccer programs. I expect us to compete every game and continue to improve.”
Bishop says that this year’s team’s cohesiveness gives it a solid foundation to build upon, and continued growth of his young players will be a factor in the Houn’ Dawgs’ success.
“We will need to find scoring from different players to replace our top scorers graduating,” Bishop said, “but I believe this group has the potential to score as well, if not better, than last year’s team.
“Graduation opens up opportunities for others to step up, but that is always a challenge each year.”
Aurora will travel to Cassville for a jamboree, which also includes McDonald County, on Aug. 21 before opening its season on Aug. 24 at Bolivar.