By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Carl Junction is excited to get back on the pitch after a disappointing 2018.
A program that lost four games by a single goal will now look to regroup in 2019, despite the loss of All-COC midfielder, current Missouri Southern freshman, Stormie Riggs.
The good news is Ed Miller’s fourth edition will feature six returning starters and eight total letterwinners that will look to resurrect a proud soccer tradition.
Senior Addie Tholen is the lone senior returner, but she is joined by a strong crop of juniors that carry experience.
Isabella Burgess, Emma Lewis, Jenna Capra and Adrian Bittner are all back for Miller, while classmate Ashley Stokes is projected to be the team’s goalkeeper.
Fellow junior Dani Wrensch, also a basketball standout, can rejoin the program this spring.
“I think having varsity experience always helps with the transition of speed of the game, making quicker decisions, and dealing with the pressure as well,” said Miller. “There is also the physical element and speed of the player in the varsity game.”
Miller believes he also has some sophomores and a quartet of freshmen that could push for varsity minutes this season.
The challenge ahead of the Lady Bulldogs is one that Miller fully understands after 21 years as a coach.
Carl Junction averaged 17 wins per season from 2010 to 2015. That stretch included four district championships and three Elite Eight runs.
Now, the conference gets even tougher with Joplin joining the COC and Miller is now tasked with reviving a program that is looking to reclaim its place as one of the top programs in Southwest Missouri.
“Those early years of CJ soccer had a lot of club players that travel and played and when they graduated we had a drop off of club players and soccer experience players,” said Miller. “We have a good freshman class coming in and expected another one next year. I think we have a good group girls this year that want to work hard get back to our winning ways.
“We need to have a great attitude and work ethic to help make that happen. We need to always put our team first and of course we could all use a little luck.”
Carl Junction will open the 2019 season on March 26 at Hillcrest. CJ will host Bolivar on April 1 in the home opener.