By Chris Parker
Carl Junction soccer was hit by the injury bug last season. The Bulldogs started out with about 30 players at the beginning of the season before being knocked down to around 20 by the end of the season.
As a result, the Bulldogs never put a consistent lineup on the field as they dropped players from the offensive attack to the backline in an effort to keep games close.
They finished the season 9-14-1, but lost three games in regulation 1-0 and lost another four games in overtime or penalty kicks.
“This year we want to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net,” Carl Junction head coach Ed Miller said. “We kept the scores down and defended real well last year and were in a lot of close games.”
Eight seniors and seven starters graduated from last season’s team. Seniors Riley Kunce, Isaiah Durman and Andrew Doyle along with juniors Camryn Simon and Reese Vogel are the returning starters this season.
The Central Ozark Conference gets even tougher this season with the addition of Joplin, but Miller sees the competition as a positive for his team.
“It gets us prepared for our district,” Miller said. “We get to play some better teams and hopefully that experience helps us on the back of our schedule to get tournament ready.”
Juniors Mason Cooper, Zane Corbin and Couper Manning along with sophomore Colby Nance will contribute in the varsity lineup as well. Corbin is recovering from a torn ACL.
After last season, health will be the big focus in 2018 for the Bulldogs.
“Staying healthy (is key). We had so many injuries last year. It was just hard to re-juggle the lineup all the way through,” Miller said. “We are trying to stay healthy and keep people in the positions we start them out with.”
Carl Junction opens the season on Aug. 28 at home.