By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Marshfield Lady Blue Jays enjoyed their best season since 2011 and look for more success this season.
After that 2011 season, the Lady Jays suffered six-straight losing seasons before turning things around in 2018, when they finished 12-11. That was followed by a 15-9 season in 2019, the canceled COVID season of 2020 and a 17-8 overall record in 2021, when they wound up 4-2 in the Big 8 Conference and as runner-up in the Class 3 District 11 Tournament.
“(It was our) first No. 1 seed since 2011 and our second-best record in team history,” said coach Paul Lewis, who enters his 17th season at Marshfield. “(We had) success with a young team but need more experience in the big games. We’re looking forward to the future.”
The Lady Jays graduated two players from that district runner-up team in Baylee Hayes, a midfielder who scored seven goals, had four assists and was an all-district first team selection, and forward Regan Smith – seven goals, eight assists and all-district honorable mention honoree.
Marshfield will miss their leadership and athletic ability, Lewis said.
The Lady Jays return nine starters for 2022, led by Calli Watson, Hayleigh Cantrell and Riley Manary.
• Calli Watson, sophomore, midfielder (46 goals, 12 assists) – Earned all-district first-team and Offensive Player of the Year honors and was an all-conference first-team selection. “The offense moves through her and Cantrell,” Lewis said.
• Hayleigh Cantrell, senior, forward (21 goals, 15 assists) – All-district first team; all-conference second team; signed to play softball at North Arkansas – could also play soccer. “Experienced as a three-year starter and team captain. She gets other teammates involved in the games.”
• Riley Manary, junior, midfielder (3 goals) – All-district honorable mention in her first year as a player. Lewis also describes her as “a tough defender.”
Lewis said the Lady Jays had a very good offseason as they were able to get a lot of touches on the ball with two teams competing in an indoor league.
“Several freshmen could come in and make an immediate impact, but we won’t really know until we can get them on the field and see how they perform,” Lewis said of his newcomers. “Ryleigh Cantrell could be one of those players that could help out our defense.”
Experience will be a key this season, but Lewis said the Lady Jays will need to find other scorers.
“We cannot depend on Hayleigh and Calli to carry the complete load,” Lewis said. “Some younger players will need to step up.”
Marshfield will participate in a jamboree at Lebanon with Crocker and Bolivar on March 13 before opening the regular season on the road at St. James on March 18.
“We start off with a tough group of games – Lebanon and Springfield Catholic, and a solid New Covenant Academy right off the bat; then we begin the conference schedule,” Lewis said. “We play in the Branson Tournament that always has very tough competition (finished third last year.)
“It could be another great year for our program. Watson could break the career scoring title, and Cantrell will probably break the career assist total, as well as add to her career goals total. Maybe we can get back to a district title game and win the first district championship in program history.”