By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Joplin Soccer will look to continue its upward trend in Year Two under Josh Thompson.
The Lady Eagles are coming off a 10-10 campaign, but won three of their final four games to end the regular season and return nine starters and 14 letterwinners from last year’s team.
The first order of business for Joplin is replacing All-COC seniors Emma Briley and Ashley Beebe.
Briley, now a freshman at Drury, netted 64 goals and added 18 assists in her highly decorated Joplin career.
“Having a senior crew like the one we had last year was a blessing for a first time head coach,” said Thompson. “Emma and Ashley really were keystones for us last year, without either of them we would have fallen apart. Ashley could hold the middle of the field down for us by herself, and Emma was a constant threat up top. Honestly, both were just great people as well. They are the type of people that any team would be lucky to have on a roster.”
Last year’s senior class helped right the ship of the program, something this year’s edition will look to continue, led by some experienced names.
Seniors Annabelle Erisman and MariKatheryn Saunders, as well as Madeleine Farber and Katie Gray, will add leadership and versatility to the lineup.
“Annabelle and MariKatheryn are two seniors that are returning from season-ending injuries,” said Thompson. “Annabelle is the type of person that people follow into battle. She shows a ton of heart and effort. MariKatheryn is a vocal leader and leaves everything out on the field.
“Madeleine Farber and Katie Gray are seniors that can lockdown the wings and also provide offensive width from the fullback position.”
GK Mya Johnson is back after recording seven shutouts last season.
“Mya Johnson is a quick and decisive keeper,” said Thompson. “She kept us in games last year by herself with her shot stopping ability and aggressiveness.”
Thompson is also excited about some of his younger returners. Kellie Dutton and Emily Delman both impressed with their ability to compete at a high level early on.
Jade Talbot offers great striking ability, giving Joplin’s offensive attack a boost.
Another name to keep an eye on will be the development of sophomore Ella Hafer, who was an All-COC selection as a freshman.
“She is a natural athlete, but leaving it at that takes away from all the work she puts in behind the scenes,” said Thompson. “She is really quick with the ball at her feet. That quickness allows her to win a lot of one-on-one battles. She can also get her shot off pretty quickly, so she doesn’t need a ton of space. I think her field vision has been understated, but she provided some great assists last year because of it.”
Thompson is also excited about the growth and potential of returners Chloe Walters, Addison Saunders, Adriana Ramirez, Hailey Mitchell, Karen Maturino, and Annie Lenhart. All of whom contributed last year.
This biggest change within the Joplin program continues to be the growth of the sport at rec levels, which has added more passioante and skilled players to the program.
Thompson is hopeful that club experience can help bridge the gap between the Eagles and some of the other top teams in the Ozarks.
“I think it speaks to the high personal goals that a lot of the players have for themselves,” said Thompson. “Being a part of a great club team requires you to push yourself constantly. It will be great to see how they have developed as a result of that. We also have a ton of girls participating in other sports during the off-season. I believe being a multi-sport athlete goes a long way in player development.
“I think we have high expectations. If you can get a group to rally behind a solid goal, and believe in themselves, then success will follow.”
Joplin will open the 2020 season at home on March 30 against Parkview.