MSHSAA announced on Monday, Mar. 16 that they would not be cancelling spring sports due to the Coronavirus. There will be delays to the start of the season and you can read the full MSHSAA release on spring sports by clicking here. Many area schools have called off classes and extracurricular activities through at least Apr. 3 and will reassess at that time. We will continue to post our spring previews. Please note that this preview was written before delays for the spring season were announced.
By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CASSVILLE — The Cassville Lady Wildcats earned 11 victories during their inaugural campaign last season, highlighted by a 600-minute shutout streak and consecutive shutouts against Monett, Greenwood, McDonald County, Aurora and Fair Grove.
“This season, we will look to get out and pressure teams a bit more, seek to be the aggressor and put the ball in the net early and often,” Cassville head coach Jake Forste said. “Our ultimate goal is to put ourselves in a position to compete for a Big 8 title and a district championship. Last year, we finished second in the district and fourth in the Big 8. Our conference is about as tough as they come, but we like our ability to compete with anyone on any given night.”
It was truly a tale of two seasons for the Lady Wildcats last season, as they went 2-8 in their first 10 matches (including a six-match losing streak) before flipping the script with a 9-2 mark their final 11. The Lady Wildcats’ season ended on a 4-1 loss for the district title against Logan-Rogersville.
Cassville returns starters Maddie Bowyer (four goals and one assist), Alexis Mann, Jhandi Shears (two goals and two assists), Elizabeth Ray, Olivia Holman (one goal) and Lexie Sanders (one assist).
“We have some firepower up top with our attacking triangle of Maddie Bowyer, Olivia Holman and Jhandi Shears,” Forste said. “Their ball movement has been outstanding this offseason, and all three can score in multiple ways. I think if we can keep her healthy, Maddie will contend for Big 8 Conference Player of the Year. She had a monster season as a defender last year, and she has grown into the role of target forward for this year’s team. We also return an all-Big 8 center back in Alexis Mann, who has proven she can go toe-to-toe with some of the top strikers in our conference.
“I don’t think our team has many glaring weaknesses, but we’ve done some retooling on the wings and in the midfield. I have confidence that we will come together in those areas and chemistry will develop quickly.”
Alyse Brown (one assist), Sadie Reuter (one goal), Brook Davis and Jasmine Brown are key returning players and the Lady Wildcats do have some new faces in a new season.
“Two of our freshmen, Dulce Rivera and Audrey Goutney, have been pretty impressive all offseason,” Forste said. “They are an aggressive duo who have really shined. I think they will fit into our varsity plan right out of the gate. Jasmine Brown will step into a full-time goalkeeper role this year after a few appearances as a backup last year. She did a tremendous job keeping the JV goal before going down with a broken finger. Brook Davis and Sadie Reuter are two ladies who are looking at expanded roles in the midfield. We will have returning starters at the other six positions.”
Every team develops its own identity and personality, and leaders are vital in that development.
“Jhandi Shears was our ‘Newcomer of the Year’ last year as a freshman with two goals and two assists,” Forste said. “She just hasn’t stopped improving in all facets of the game since last season ended. Our sophomore keeper Jasmine Brown has always been a raw talent, but she is starting to be a commanding presence between the sticks. Our team environment is a really positive atmosphere and there are several other ladies who support and encourage one another daily.”
Often times, it can be rough for a new athletic program. That certainly proved to be the case for Cassville during its first 10 matches last season, but the Lady Wildcats righted the ship and played their best soccer at the right time. Enthusiasm is contagious and success creates enthusiasm, and the Lady Wildcats’ 9-2 mark down the home stretch proved to have immediate positive ramifications.
“The number of girls we’ve had out has been awesome,” Forste said. “We have averaged 12-15 ladies at open fields and offseason activities. Last year, we averaged 4-8 players per session. Getting that taste of success last year was great for this group, as they’ve come back hungry for even more.”
Forste identified three keys for the Lady Wildcats to have a successful second season.
“The biggest key to this season will be to stay healthy,” he said. “If we can do that, we will be dangerous. Another key will be to replicate last year’s set piece execution and continue to grind out the one-goal games.”
Cassville scored 12 goals on set pieces (free kicks and corners) and finished 6-3 in matches decided by one goal. The Lady Wildcats open their 2020 season March 20 in their own invitational tournament.