By Chris Parker
West Plains boys soccer finished 13-11 last year to post the program’s first winning season since 2018. The Zizzers will have to reload with the graduation of a nine-player senior group.
Two starters in Cole Shipley and Caleb Christopher return this year. Shipley, a midfielder/back, and Christopher, a forward, will be relied upon for leadership.
“Cole Shipley has an extremely high motor and will not let anyone outwork him. As a defender he is relentless and never gives up on a play,” West Plains head coach Justin Frazier said. “Caleb is another player who can play all over the field and always is in the right spot to be dangerous around the goal.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Lincoln Miller will be another team leader.
“(Miller is) taking over in goal and has all the skills needed to anchor the defense,” Frazier said. “(He has) great reactions and is fearless in traffic.”
Josiah Legler (junior) and Jack Rutledge (sophomore) will be joining Christopher at forward.
Karmi Lopez (junior), Dagan Joiner (junior) and Chase Larsen (sophomore) will join Shipley in the midfield.
Jose Ayala (junior), Andrew Jacobs (junior), Milas Thompson (junior) and Ethan Tuma (sophomore) will be defenders.
Gus Grigsby (junior), Tyler Ames (junior), Trenton Bean (junior), Logan Murray (junior) and Chase Barry (sophomore) are other players competing for varsity time.
Frazier has been impressed with the off-season improvement of his team.
“The entire team stepped up and improved significantly when we went to Missouri State Team Camp,” Frazier said. “Cole Shipley played a ton of club soccer with Sporting Springfield and his confidence grew a ton. Chase Larsen has really stepped up as an outside mid and really done a good job of getting the ball into dangerous areas from the outside. Ethan Tuma moved into a new role from midfield to defense and has really embraced the change and stood out.”
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This year’s team will have a balanced approach.
“I think our biggest strength will be a greater team game. In the past we have looked to rely on one or two players to score and we will be a much more team oriented and unselfish team this year. We have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions so that should be a big help as the season and injuries happen,” Frazier said. “We continue to work to get better at not dribbling so much and not playing into pressure with passes and dribbling. We also continue to work on taking early shots and not waiting for the perfect opportunity every time.”
West Plains travels to Waynesville for a jamboree on Aug. 23 against the host Tigers, Washington and Rolla before opening the season at the Lebanon Tournament on Aug. 26 and 27.
“I expect this group to be competitive in every game we play this season, and they also want to outwork their opponents,” Frazier said. “We are going to take the preseason and try to get our conditioning to the highest level. Our ultimate goal remains winning a district championship and continuing in postseason play, as well as finishing in the top of the Ozark Conference. This group will push each other to improve throughout the season game by game.”