By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Excitement is building within the Republic High School soccer program.
The Tigers have a wealth of depth and promising talent returning to the field this spring.
“It is our biggest group yet, as we have around 50 girls coming out for the team this year,” said Tigers coach Kevin Hauck. “There is a high energy level and a bunch of excitement for this team and the future of Republic Soccer. I am excited to see what we can put together.”
Republic brings back nearly 15 players with varsity experience.
Hauck said Republic should be a strong defensive team. He’s put a priority on possession improvement for 2019.
“That is something we have been working hard on, leading up to this year,” he said. “I think we will be able to play strong defense and should have good speed at every position on the field. I am excited to see our energy on the field. I think it will be at a high level and we will really get after team’s on offense.”
Republic brings back its top scorer in sophomore forward Clara Fronabarger. She had a breakout freshman campaign with 23 goals and seven assists. She earned Class 4 all-region honors.
“She is quick and can use her or right foot to score,” Hauck said. “She’s strong on the ball and sees the field well.”
The Tigers are led by a seven-player senior class.
Senior Grace Lightfoot anchors the defense and has started since her freshman season. Lightfoot, a center back, has earned all-district, all-conference and all-region honors during her career.
She had two goals off of free kicks last season.
“She is a strong team defender and one-on-one defender,” Hauck said. “Her knowledge of the game allows for her to position herself correctly on the field to intercept passes and break down attacks.”
Anna Jones, a co-captain, had eight goals and eight assists last season from her midfield position. She’s a capable playmaker but also can threaten from deep.
“She helps start our attacks and is a great distributor of the ball with her knowledge of the game and vision on the field,” Hauck said. “I would say she scored six of her eight goals from outside the 18-box last year. I look for her to improve on that this year. She’s a good deep threat for us.”
Madi Mitchell also returns in the midfield, where she earned all-conference honors in 2018.
“She has great composure and skill on the ball,” Hauck said. “Her vision on the field allows for her to defend extremely well in the midfield and take away the other team’s passing lanes.”
Bella Drennan takes over for Tara Campbell as the team’s starting goalkeeper. Drennan was Republic’s backup goalie last season.
“The goal is to have her confidence and play level up at the highest going into districts at the end of the season,” Hauck said.
Abbie Hicks is one of the team’s most versatile players. Hauck said she’s played about every position besides goalkeeper during her career.
Hicks took over as Republic’s starting left back late last season and is expected to return there this spring.
“She will bring speed and aggressiveness to our defense,” Hauck said. “She challenges well in the air and is a good one-on-one defender on the outside.”
Jessica Montenegro (midfielder) and Alexa Baker (defender) will also contend for playing time.
“Jessica did a great job coming off of the bench for us last year,” Hauck said. “She brings experience and a good work ethic. Alex’s looking to be a strong sub off the bench. She can help give our outside backs rest when needed.”
Republic has depth in its junior class as well. Emma Pearce (six goals, two assists) was the team’s second-leading scorer last year.
Hauck loves her work ethic.
“Emma has one of the best work ethics I have had the opportunity to coach and be around,” Hauck said. “She is working hard to be able to help her team put more points on the board this year.
“She is a speed wing player and is starting to find out how to finish around the net and not just use her speed but her skill, too.”
Juniors Hannah Lease (forward), Emma Duvall (midfield/defender) and Megan Garbee (defender) were all varsity contributors as reserves last season.
“Hannah has the chance to get good minutes this year on varsity as a sub or starter,” Hauck said. “She is quick and a strong finisher around the goal. Emma (Duvall) is a strong and physical player. She’s hard to push off of the ball and a player who can win a lot of 50-50 balls for us on the back line.
“Megan (Garbee) is a good one-on-one defender. She does a good job of doing the little things to help us stay strong on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Tigers finished 14-7 overall lost season. Their season ended with a 3-0 loss against Nixa in the Class 4 District 11 Tournament title game.
Five of Republic’s seven losses came by one goal.
“I’m eager to see if we will be able to finish the big games this year,” Hauck said. “I want to be able to see if the girls can reverse that and we can win those close games this year.”
Republic graduated a seven-player senior class.
Tara Campbell left as the winningest goalkeeper in program history.
The three-year starter helped Republic average about 13 wins per season over the last three years, including a district title in 2016.
Republic only conceded 18 goals in 2018, which was also a program record.
Kayla Donjuan and Signe Wulff leave a production void in the midfield.
“(Kayla) was a strong worker in the middle of the field. She helped us defensively,” Hauck said. “Signe was a strong, aggressive player for us. She was a force. She challenged well in the air and won a ton of 50-50 balls.”
In addition to Fronabarger, Republic returns three other sophomores who started as freshman.
Regan Holmes (center back), Tyra Campbell (defender; right back) and Sarah Hicks (forward) give Republic hope for the present and future.
“Tyra has a huge leg and is a defender that loves to get up the field and be a part of our attack and serve balls in for us. She is smart and aggressive,” Hauck said.
Hicks tallied three goals and four assists. Both Hicks and Holmes earned all-district honors.
“Sarah (Hicks) brought toughness, speed and vision for us up top. Regan quickly developed into one of our best defenders. She is quick, reads the game well and is mentally and physically tough on our back line.”
Varsity newcomers include junior McKaelyn Klossing (midfield/defender) and freshman Jaeden Gibbs (midfield).
“(McKaelyn) brings in good experience with her,” Hauck said. “She is a skilled dribbler with a strong right foot. She worked last year on becoming a better distributor for the team and we saw a lot of positives from it.
“Jaeden has experience playing at a high level and brings in good knowledge of the game. She is skilled in using either foot and brings in good skill on the ball and defending in the midfield with her.”
Republic opens the regular season March 18 at home against Glendale.
“We have a lot of experience and comradery for us on the defensive side,” Hauck said. “Offensively, we have the skilled players to be a dangerous attacking team. I am excited to see the pressure we can put on teams.”