By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Joplin High Schools boys’ soccer team suffered some offseason roster losses – both to graduation and injury – but the Eagles are focused on maintaining program progress.
Joplin’s increased its win total each season under coach Luis Percovich, who begins his fourth season this fall.
“Our goals will be to (finish) as high as possible in the conference and fight for a district championship,” Percovich said. “We know the road will not be easy and we may have to adjust some things along the way, but I believe the team is up to the challenge.”
Joplin finished 16-9 overall last season. The Eagles fell 1-0 to Ozark in their district opener.
Joplin begins its first season in COC-Large competition this fall. Instead of trips to Rolla, West Plains and Waynesville, the Eagles will face nearby schools like Carl Junction, Carthage, Webb City and Neosho.
“It is always exciting to play the neighboring schools, but now there is that extra incentive for all teams,” Percovich said.
Senior forward Ethan Merino led Joplin in scoring last season. He’ll team with sophomore Quinn Grantham, who played on varsity as a freshman, as Joplin’s primary scoring options.
“They’re two players we will need to have big games and put the ball in the back of the net if we are to compete and have success,” Percovich said.
The Eagles will miss the presence of seniors Sam Stovern and Andrew Romero, who suffered season-ending injuries in the offseason. Romero was an all-conference defender in 2017.
“This adds to the rebuilding process, but there are a lot of players hungry for more playing time,” Percovich said.
Joplin’s seniors this year include: Aden Clevenger (defender), James Hernandez (midfield), Blake Dean (midfield), Andrew Griesemer (defender) and Rodimiro Garcia (forward).
Joplin graduated eight seniors, including four all-conference performers, from a team that finished 16-9 overall.
Garrett Nimmo (goalkeeper) and Jonathan Loden (defender) were first team All-Ozark Conference selections; Laden also made the Southwest-Central all-region team. Both players signed to play collegiately at Central Methodist.
Landon Moore (forward; second team all-OC) and Nick Sloan (honorable mention all-OC) graduated as well.
The Eagles enter 2018 with a retooled defense.
“Defensively we will be younger this year and have been working hard to make sure we are prepared and capable of minimizing any potential mistakes,” Percovich said.
Juniors likely to see varsity minutes include: Rashawn Davis (forward), Michael Landers (midfielder), Darien Giddens (GK), Jackson Reynolds (defender) and Landon Vowels (defender).
Connor Simon, a returning sophomore midfielder, also played varsity last year.