By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mike Howard enters his final season as the Rolla High School soccer coach with the opportunity to reach a major milestone – 900 wins.
But for Howard, who has a combined 885-377-74 record with the boys (468-228-46) and girls (417-149-28), it’s not about him or the records.
“We will see how that plays out,” Howard said of the milestone. “It doesn’t really matter to me either way. We hope to have a fun season and to get better each day for the postseason.”
The Lady Bulldogs got hot at the right time last spring as they won the Class 3 District 10 title with a 2-0 win over Camdenton after having gone into the tournament on a three-game losing streak. They finished 10-12-3, ending the season with a 2-0 loss to Union, which finished fourth in Class 3.
“I don’t put too much stock into won/loss records, as the strength of schedule of schools is so different,” Howard said. “We didn’t win a game in our first five last season and we were 0-5 throughout the season in OT and games decided by PKs. So, I knew we would be OK in the postseason. I think we will be much-improved in 2020, but time will tell.”
And, while Howard has eight key returnees, he does have a couple of big holes to fill.
Carlee McCormack, a midfielder and defender, was named to the Class 3 All-State Second Team, Class 3 Region 3 team, was the Class 3 District 10 Player of the Year and was an All-Ozark Conference First-Team honoree. She scored five goals and had three assists, and now is playing at Webster University in St. Louis.
Elsa Wise, a forward, scored nine goals and had seven assists. She earned all-district first-team and all-conference honorable mention honors.
“The leadership that Carlee and Elsa provided will be greatly missed,” Howard said. “Carlee was a great defensive player for us and Elsa was a very solid attacking player.”
Back for the Lady Bulldogs this spring are:
• Kendall Mara, senior, defender – Named district defensive player of the year and all-conference first team; scored 3 goals and had 2 assists. “Very strong defensive player with a high work rate.”
• Maddie Lucas, senior, defender – All-district and all-conference first team. “We moved Maddie to outside-back last year and she had a great season for us.”
• Ellie Rodgers, senior, midfielder – All-district and all-conference first team; scored 5 goals and had 4 assists; also scored her 1,000th point in basketball. “Very good athlete, plays center-mid for us.”
• Kate Mallery, senior, defender – All-district second team. “Our most consistent player.”
• Abby Turner, sophomore, midfielder – All-district second team; scored 5 goals and had 1 assist. “Explosive speed and can score goals or get assists.”
• Mercedez Carpenter, junior, forward – All-district second team; scored 5 goals, had 3 assists. “Played a little bit of everything for us last year.”
• Eliana Stanislawski, junior, midfielder – All-district second team; scored 2 goals, had 4 assists. “Easily our most skilled player; very good at understanding the game.”
• Evie Rodgers, junior, defender – “Has started her first two years at outside-back for us; very consistent player.”
• Jaelyn Grommett, sophomore, midfielder – Scored 2 goals and had 4 assists.
“I think we should be more dangerous coming forward than we were last year, but time will tell,” Howard said. “We have some freshmen that can come in and make an immediate impact – Zoe Hargis, Faith Coates and Campbell Smith. They are very skilled players and can play midfield or up top for us.”
Rolla will participate in a jamboree on March 16 at Waynesville with Dixon before opening the regular season in its own tournament March 20-21.
“Our schedule is very difficult, so staying positive and focusing on getting better each day is critical for us,” Howard said.