By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In Taylor Beck’s first two full seasons as the head coach of Carthage girls’ soccer, she has led the Lady Tigers to back-to-back winning seasons (2019 and 2021) – something that hasn’t been done in program history. The last winning season for Carthage was 2013 when the Lady Tigers finished 13-11.
“We were just happy to be back on the field after losing a season (2020),” said Beck, who is in her fourth year at Carthage and is 26-15 overall. “I thought the girls did a really good job picking up where we left off the year before. We lost a lot a close games that we probably should have come out with a win on, but we worked on what needed to be improved on and fixed those for the next games. The girls were really good at only focusing on one game at time.”
The Lady Tigers graduated goalkeeper Kaitlin Reyes, a Class 4 District 11 first-team pick and Goalkeeper of the Year and an All-Central Ozark Conference honorable-mention honoree; defender Stephanie Matul, an all-district second-team selection; and Keysli Elias, who is now playing at Coffeyville Community College.
“The graduating class had a lot of drive and leadership,” Beck said. “We will definitely miss that for this coming season, but have some young ones stepping up in their place.”
Carthage has several returning players keyed by Daniela Marquez, Nicole Marquez and Kianna Yates.
• Daniela Marquez, junior, forward – Class 4 District 11 first team; All-COC first team. “Daniela is a quiet player, but the others look up to her and her abilities,” Beck said. “The way she handles the ball and is able to move off the ball to make herself available really sets her apart.”
• Nicole Marquez, senior, defender – All-district second team; All-COC second team. “Nicole is excellent at distributing the ball, which is exactly what we need from the backline. She is a good leader and is able to lead her backline. She is able to see the whole field and knows what the best option is to get it off her foot quickly. I can tell her teammates have a lot of trust in her, as they should.”
• Kianna Yates, junior, forward – All-district second team; All-COC second team. “Kianna is an excellent athlete all around. She is able to read the field and know what the best options are quickly. She is a very versatile player, which sets her apart from most. Her attitude and drive are unmatchable. She is very coachable and an excellent teammate. She and Daniela are able to play off each other quickly, which makes it difficult to defend against them; exactly what we need up top.”
Beck says she has several newcomers for this season, though she hasn’t gotten to see many of them play yet. She has heard good things about her freshman class – namely, Kimberly Monterroso-Garcia.
“Kimberly is a freshman that really sticks out right now,” Beck said. “We have done some open fields and she has shown up to every one without complaint. Her ball skills are good, and she is able to control the field well.”
Beck has been encouraged by the work her players have put in during the offseason, including participating in an indoor league to get touches on the ball.
“I was able to watch a few (games), and I was really impressed with how much faster they are able to move the ball,” Beck said. “We did have some open fields and conditioning practices to prepare for the upcoming season. I’m a firm believer in making sure the girls can stay in a game for 90 whole minutes, so we have been working on a lot of cardio.
“These girls are very self-driven, and I can see the ones who have been working on their own outside of what we have been doing. It’s always a transition for the newcomers because they aren’t used to the intensity of practices, but conditioning gave them a glimpse and they will quickly pick it up during practices.”
That ability to be coachable and to meet Beck’s expectations is the Lady Tigers’ biggest strength, the coach says.
“They are always willing to change things up last minute, if that’s what I think is best for them,” Beck said. “They learned a hard lesson last year of being able to trust me as their coach and their teammates to do what’s best for them. They have gained each other’s trust on the field and are very trusting in the decisions I make for them.
“Last year, we were a young team and have a lot of returners this year. I am excited for them to continue on the path they were on last year and continue to get better.”
Carthage will participate in a jamboree at Beck’s alma mater – Carl Junction – along with Webb City and Joplin. The Lady Tigers will open the season March 28 at home against Fair Grove.
“I always have high expectations every season and the returners know this and are able to meet them,” Beck said. “The newcomers are usually a little shocked on how high the bar is set. Of course, one of the goals is to win districts. My main goal for this season is for the girls to be disciplined. If they are disciplined on and off the field, I think our next few goals will be much more attainable.
“I’m excited for the schedule this season. The second half of our schedule will be a bit more challenging. I am still working on adding some faster-paced games to better prepare us for the postseason. It’s always fun to win games, but they need a few more difficult games in order to meet the goals we set each season.”