By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It is often said that it takes a full cycle of student-athletes for a coach to really implement their system.
Ed Miller is entering his fourth season at Carl Junction, this could be Miller’s most talented group top to bottom. With the Lady Bulldogs coming off a district championship run and returning nine starters and 12 total letterwinners, expectations are high in CJ.
“It feels great to be on top again,” said Miller. “I’m hoping it gives the girls confidence and also purpose to work hard and defend their title.”
Leading the way will be senior All-COC selection Izabella Burgess.
“She has played soccer for a long time and we hope that experience in club and at the varsity level in high school will pay off and give her some poise around the goal,” said Miller.
Senior GK Ashley Stokes is also back after starting for each of the last three seasons. She recorded seven shutouts as a junior and has gotten better each season according to Miller.
Miller is also excited about the return of Jenna Capra and Dani Wrensch.
“They’re both experienced,” said Miller. “Jenna has played varsity last three years and has worked on and improved her shot and first touch for this year. Dani had a great year for us last year coming back from knee injury and we look for her to get even better this year.”
One of the biggest keys will be the depth provided by a loaded sophomore class, led by Kadynce Arnold, Tessa Miller and Kaylee Cronister. The group saw valuable minutes as freshmen and will again be in the rotation and playing pivotal roles this spring.
“That group of players push one another to get better,” said Miller. “They are really competitive which helps their drive each day in practice and in games. We had four of them starting for us last year so we excited build off last year success. We have another good group coming in and they are several going to push for varsity playing time. We also feel practices are going to be a lot more competitive with our depth on varsity team this year.”
The biggest key for Carl Junction will be continuing to reestablish the program’s legacy.
From 2013-16 the program won four straight district championships, averaging 19 wins per season. Last season was the first time since that run that CJ had been back to the state tournament.
All the returning experience and talent has this team eager for what could be in the spring. Miller believes that if they can continue to become more explosive offensively and win tight games, this could be a special season.
“I feel our biggest problem last year was finding ways to score goals, that’s what put us in those situations,” said Miller. “We feel that we have more depth this year on the varsity level and hopefully this year we can find ways to put the ball in the back of the net.
“For us to be on the other side of those one goal losses we have to find ways to score more goals and create separation from those teams. I think with the back to back freshman class and good senior class we will the depth on varsity we haven’t had in while.”
Carl Junction will open the 2020 season on March 26 at Parkview. The Lady Bulldogs will open their home slate on March 20 against McAuley Catholic.