By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After winning 10 games in three-straight seasons, the Neosho soccer team took a step forward in 2018.
The Wildcats won 13 games and their second-straight district title. More importantly, they beat Parkview 2-1 for their first-ever sectional victory before losing to Glendale in the quarterfinals.
Head coach James Carter said last year’s success has provided something of a boost.
“However the boys are looking forward to the upcoming season,” he said. “They understand that it’s a new year and they will have to earn the right to get back to that level again.”
Neosho must replace four all-district players and two who earned all-conference honors: first teamer Brayden Johnson, a defender, and Angel Alvarado, a midfielder.
Carter said there are several capable players competing for those open spots this fall, and he looks forward to seeing who takes over leadership roles vacated by the graduating seniors.
Attendance has been great during summer workouts, he said. As many as 50 players have attended the summer training sessions.
“We strongly believe that will carry over into the regular season,” he said. “We have a core group of returners as well as some incoming players that are sure to contribute this fall.”
As far as returning starters, the Wildcats have a bunch; nine in all. They include Kayden Wood, Jason Roponei, Yahir Ruiz, Diego Vargas and Dylan Collins. Many others could also play key roles.
Ruiz, a senior, was a second team All-COC forward and a first team all-district player. Vargas, a senior, Roponei, a junior, and Collins, a senior, were all second team all-district picks. Vargas as a midfielder, Roponei as a defender and Collins as a forward.
“We are very much focused on the process of improving this year, and we trust that as we do that, positive results will come,” Carter said. “I look forward to seeing our young men internalize our program values and grow as people, as well as players as the year goes on.”
Neosho opens the season on the road at Nixa Sept. 3 and hosts Ozark on Sept. 10. The Wildcats will play in three tournaments; the Parkview tournament in September, Willard Fall Classic in October and Joplin Invitational in October.