By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Waynesville Lady Tigers will look to turn last year’s close losses into victories this year, while continuing to improve, as they head into the 2020 season.
“Last year, we came into the season with high expectations due to having a solid senior class,” Waynesville coach John Box said. “We were a talented team that underperformed. We were close in most of our games, and our inability to take advantage of other team’s mistakes was the deciding factor in several games.
“We did have success as we closed the gap on many sides, and good progress was made on the field. The successes were not based, necessarily, on our wins and losses, but on how much we have improved as individuals and as a team.”
The Lady Tigers finished 8-15 overall, 3-5-1 in the Ozark Conference and came up short to Sedalia Smith-Cotton (6-4) in the Class 4 District 11 semifinals.
Lost to graduation is a talented group including Jessica Dwyer, Tsitlia Medrano, Savannah Crockett and Rachel Evans.
Dwyer, a midfielder, was named to the all-district first team and now is playing at Culver-Stockton College.
Medrano, a defender, earned all-district and all-conference first-team honors and is playing at Central Methodist University.
Crockett, a midfielder, and Evans, a midfielder, both were named to the all-district second team.
“The experience each player possessed will be the element missed in the upcoming year,” Box said.
Box has a strong group of returnees he expects to play well together and to be competitive this season, keyed by junior goalkeeper Vanessa Blake and sophomore midfielder Mary Henry.
Blake earned first-team all-district and all-conference honorable mention honors last season.
“Vanessa is maturing nicely into a well-rounded goalkeeper as a junior,” Box said. “Her shot-stopping ability is developing, and she has a clear command of the box.”
Henry was named to the all-district second team as a freshman.
“(Mary’s) freshman year was a great debut, but injuries kept her sidelined for a good portion of the year,” Box said. “We are expecting big things from her this year.”
Box also is looking for sophomore Kaitlyn Vanbelkum to make an impact this season.
“Kaitlyn was a great asset to the team, but as a newcomer, it wasn’t easy for her to compete against mature seniors,” Box said. “This year, she is developing nicely, and it will be an excellent year for her.”
Waynesville will host a jamboree on March 16 with Rolla and Dixon, then open the regular season at home against Columbia-Hickman and Columbia-Battle on March 21.
“The senior class this year is just three student-athletes, and that provides us with a solid year of growth and time to develop the underclassmen,” Box said. “We have a good core group of players who work well as a team. We look forward to an outstanding season this year.”