By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Branson didn’t just set a season record for goals in 2018.
The Pirates shattered their old mark by a considerable margin.
Branson netted 92 goals last season – doubling the previous mark of 46.
“We hope to continue to emphasize our attack,” said Branson coach Dave Brenner. “From the top of our formation to the back, we want to put pressure on our opponents and take advantage of any chances that are presented.”
The Pirates’ offensive explosion keyed a strong campaign. They won 15 matches for the second straight season.
But in 2019, they’re aiming higher. They want to clear the 15-win mark for the first time in seven years.
“It will come down to how quickly our team can blend together,” Brenner said. “This season we expect to grow every day in each position. We will have a mix of experience and youth, which is exciting.”
Branson returns its leading scorer in senior forward Kyle Sutton.
The 2018 First Team All-COC selection is poised to become Branson’s all-time leader in goals and assists.
He enters the 2019 season with 39 goals and 21 assists for his career. He needs eight goals and 12 assists to set the respective records.
Returnees Cris Abarca (senior) and Gaige Efird (junior) will spark Branson’s attacks from the midfield.
Returning defenders Garrett Wicker, a senior, and Alex Brenner, a junior, will anchor Branson’s backline.
“Defensively we want to be confident on and off the ball and limit the opportunities that we give other teams,” Dave Brenner said.
Another season of 15 or more wins would give Branson its best three-year run since the Pirates won 44 combined games between 2012-14.
The Pirates have only surpassed the 15-win mark once in program history – in 2012 when they finished 16-9-1 overall.
Last season, Branson finished 15-10 overall after losing to top seed Ozark in its district opener.
The Pirates were held scoreless in only two matches last season.
“This year, we want to lower that to zero,” Brenner said.
The Pirates graduated a six-player senior class.
Forward Dwight Hyde (second team), defender Blake Stoner (second team) and Justice Webber (forward) were all-conference selections.
Hyde, who led the team in assists, now plays at Rockhurst. Stoner players for Evangel.
The Pirates also graduated center back and captain Brady Brashers, center mid Nino Stiglianese and goalkeeper Garrett Smith.
Key newcomers include two sophomores and two juniors. Sophomores Carlton Epps (forward) and Brayan Barboza (wing), along with juniors Jonathon Ficarra (wing) and Diego Paz (wing) will take on more prominent varsity roles.
The Pirates have had a productive offseason, Brenner said. He’s eager to see the on-field results.
“We have a core group that has really worked this offseason to develop the younger players and create a strong bond for the whole team,” Brenner said. “We are excited to see how much our younger players have developed once they get to put themselves up against the other schools in our conference.”
Branson begins the regular season September 3 at Carthage.