By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Bolivar Liberators boys soccer team fell short of its ultimate goal of a district title last fall.
The Liberators went 8-13 and fell to the Parkview Vikings, 2-0, at the Class 3 District 11 Tournament.
However — with another offseason under wraps — the Liberators look to liberate themselves from an adversity-filled ’18 campaign — taking those lessons learned into the ’19 campaign.
Head coach Steve Fast likes both the tangibles and intangibles he’s seen from his team so far this offseason.
“We seem to have a better chemistry than we did last year,” Fast said.
The team returns seven full-time starters and one part-time starter.
Returning contributors include Quentin Hoffman (senior midfielder), Dylan Rowell (senior midfielder), Raif Fullerton (junior goalkeeper), Christian Warwick (senior midfielder/forward), Josh Francisco (senior goalkeeper), Trevor Nelson (junior forward), and Andrew Lewis (sophomore midfielder).
Lathan Martin (sophomore midfielder) led the way with four goals and four assists.
Hoffman led the team with four goals and two assists last season, and Rowell tallied three goals and three assists.
The Liberators only graduated four players off last year’s team — three of which were primary players.
And — looking to this season — fielding a nice mix of senior veterans and young up-and-comers has already paid dividends throughout various camps and scrimmages this summer.
Hoffman and Rowell look to serve as field generals this fall for the Liberators.
“As sophomores, they had excellent seasons,” Fast said. “It kind of dropped off a little last year. But, from what I have seen this summer, they are looking to make a strong return. We are looking for those two guys to get back to where they were.”
Amongst a strong freshman class, Zach Warwick (forward), Colin Ames (midfielder), Colton Rowe (midfielder), Jacob D’Agostino (midfielder), and Jaron Cleveland (defender).
“[They] could make and impact at the varsity level,” Fast said of the freshman core.
Warwick and Ames are potential freshman starters, Fast said.
This marks Fast’s 24th season at the helm, but having a nucleus intact to promote and epitomize chemistry and collective development already puts the team ahead of the preseason curve.
“We seem to already have better chemistry than we did all last year,” Fast said. “Last year, part of our problem was we were really young. At one point — in some games — I had six freshman starters. We did not have a lot of senior leadership and we were kind of all over the place. You never knew what you were going to get.”
Luke Richards is the lone all-district returner this season, and the sophomore defender figures to fit into the pool of depth that resides within the program’s confines.
Youth, once again, is one factor that carries into this season: a nice complement to the upperclassmen who will compete for starting roles.
“We are still going to be fairly young. I have freshmen who could potentially start varsity, combined with those who started last year — we could have seven or eight be freshmen or sophomore starters,” Fast said. “With just a year of experience for our younger players, mixed in with our older players, [it] has just really helped. They know each other better.”
Over the course of the summer, the aforementioned tangibles and intangibles were present during multiple team scrimmages: showcasing the evolution that’s taken place throughout the maturation process.
Added Fast: “You could just see the teamwork and the energy and the camaraderie had already improved from where it was last year.”
Senior defender Lance Rice returns and looks to give the defense another field general in which Fast and company can rely.