By Chris Parker
Central soccer enters the Ozark Conference this season after playing without a conference. It is an opportunity the Bulldogs have been preparing for.
“Over the last five to six years, I have been adding OC (Ozark Conference) schools to our schedule for increased competition and the anticipation that we would eventually move into the OC,” head coach Chris Welch said. “Since that scheduling change, we have been playing at least 90% of the OC schools and have seen the competition and understand how to increase our own level of play.”
Welch enters her 17th season as the coach of the Bulldogs coming off of a five-win season last year.
Central will get its strength from its defense. The senior trio of Raye Hadi (defender), Duncan Livingston (defender) and Jacob Crum (goalkeeper) will be the leaders of the team in 2018. Hadi accounted for six assists to the offensive attack last season while Livingston had eight goals and two assists in addition to his defensive contributions.
Crum started nine games in goal and saw 77 shots on goal with 62 saves.
Junior Jung Woo So is back in the midfield after scoring 11 goals with one assist last year. Ahmed Benmakhlouf will be key up top in the offensive attack at forward. He had four goals and two assists last season.
Mark DonJuan (senior midfielder) and Ben Zeh (senior defender/keeper) also return to the varsity lineup.
Central will look to have success right away in the Ozark Conference.
“As a program, we have had many positive successes for our program over the last seven years,” Welch said. “An increased number of players entering the program with competitive soccer experiences (club) has provided us with a higher level of competition not only for us but also against the teams we play. We still maintain and strive for a diverse family of competitive players; we play for each other, our team and our program.”
Central opens the season on Aug. 25 at home against Lee’s Summit West.