By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Webb City Cardinals soccer team is looking to build on the momentum it gained during the 2017 season.
The Cardinals enjoyed one of their most successful seasons in recent memory, according to coach Nick Harmon. They finished 9-13 overall and 1-7 in the Central Ozark Conference Large division. On the plus side, the Cardinals won an overtime game (1-0) against Carl Junction in the Class 3 District 12 semifinals before falling to Neosho (3-1) in the championship game.
“They pushed the program to a new level with their work ethic and accomplishments on the field,” Harmon said. “Going into this season, we feel that our 2018 crew will have something positive to build (on) and continue pushing the program to accomplish more.”
First, Webb City will have to overcome the loss of seven talented seniors. Goalkeeper Collin Keatts was a first-team all-conference and all-district selection; Jamie Black, defender, was second-team all-conference and first-team all-district; Sean Sluder, midfielder, was first-team all-district; Riley McFall, forward, was second-team all-district; Cody Schultz, midfielder, was second-team all-district; David Maynard, defender, was second-team all-district; and Quentin Shanks, defender, also graduated.
Keatts will be playing at Crowder College, while Sluder and McFall join Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
Senior forward Manuel Cornelio, who earned first-team all-district honors last season, returns to lead the Cardinals. Harmon describes Cornelio as “great with his feet, with a powerful shot.”
He will be joined by senior midfielder Connor Mahaffey – “strong on the ball, vocal leader on the field;” and senior defender Mason Phillips – “fast, great attitude and a leader in the back.”
“Graduating so many seniors, it will take time for this group to establish their own identity and style of play,” Harmon said. “Our biggest challenge will be determining which pieces of the puzzle go where, and adapting our tactics based on their strengths and weaknesses.”
Harmon also will be looking to his newcomers to fill the void left by the seniors.
“We have several underclassmen (sophomores who have significantly improved in the offseason) and incoming freshman who will be in the mix for varsity minutes,” Harmon said. “I anticipate a lot of competition for playing time. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes down come tryouts.”
The Cardinals will participate in a jamboree before opening their season on the road at College Heights.
“Despite us losing seven of our core starters from last year, we certainly see ourselves as a contender for the district championship,” Harmon said. “In regards to the conference, I think finishing in the top half would be a significant accomplishment for Webb City.”