By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Year One at Webb City couldn’t have gone much better for head coach Nicholas Harmon, with his Lady Cardinals claiming the first district championship in program history.
Now Harmon is tasked with continuing to building the sleeping giant program, despite waving goodbye to All-COC graduates Sydney Dixon, Lily Spikereit, Lauren Bryan and Darci Land.
“The senior class last year was special,” said Harmon. “They created a positive culture for the program that demanded hard work and success. I think the girls this year learned a lot from the seniors last year. They learned an example to follow. At this point, I’m not sure who will emerge as leaders. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter much because all of them seem to have adopted that culture that the seniors last year established.”
Webb City does return six starters and nine letterwinners from last year, so the cupboard isn’t bare at all.
Leading the group of returners will be sophomore Mileah Metcalf and juniors Shyla Levens & Allison Cundy. Metcalf and Levens will guide the defense, while Cundy will likely shoulder a large portion of the scoring load offensively. Cundy also scored the game-winning goal in last year’s district championship.
“Mileah Metcalf, who played center back last year for us, will be a key returner,” said Harmon. “She is one of the best all-around athletes we have and she has been working hard this past off-season to improve her game even further.
“Shyla Levens will be another key returner on the back line. She is intimidating to play against because she is so strong and physical. Up top we are excited for Allison Cundy. Losing the seniors that we did, I see her picking up the goal scoring duties and putting quite a few in the net this year.”
Harmon also has a strong group of incoming freshman that will make practice even more competitive and push for varsity minutes.
“We have at least a dozen freshman coming out this year and I have seen some definite potential among them,” said Harmon. “I am excited to see them progress as we enter the season. Given that we graduated so many seniors, it is entirely possible that some of them see varsity time.”
Both freshmen and returners alike will see a new conference schedule with rival Joplin joining the COC. The Lady Eagles swept last year’s two meetings and also welcome a loaded freshman class.
The Joplin game will be just one of several huge conference matchups, including Nixa, Ozark and Republic.
“Joplin is a solid team and they have one of the best goal-scorers in the state,” said Harmon. “It will definitely foster competition which is great. We had a close game with them last year and I know the girls haven’t forgotten. The fact that it is now a conference matchup makes it even more exciting.”
Last year Webb City burst onto the scene and now it’s about proving they belong amongst the top programs in the Ozarks. While they’ll transition from the role of hunter to hunted from a district standpoint, they’ll do so with the confidence of being the defending district champions.
Harmon understands that there will be an adjustment period with some youth on the roster, but he’s also excited about his team using last year’s success as a springboard into this season.
“I think last year’s run has added tremendously to the program going into this season,” said Harmon. “The work rate and excitement throughout the off-season has been high. They are definitely ready to get started. There has been a change in expectations, particularly among the younger players. Last year was Webb City Women’s soccer first ever district title. Going into this year the expectation is absolutely to win.
“Obviously we graduated a number of starters and varsity players. That being said, we have a group of girls this year that are certainly ready and capable of filling those roles. In order to achieve success we will need younger players to grow up fast, and be willing push themselves outside of their comfort zones. We will have a number of girls in new spots so it’s going to take time to establish the cohesion that we had last year. Mistakes and setbacks are going to come. The key for me will be if they can respond to them in an effective way.”
Webb City will open the 2019 season at home against Hillcrest on March 21.