In spite of the fact that the Wildcats lost two All-State first team players in Kyle Bishop, state goalkeeper of the year, and Nick Schlichtman, district player of the year, Coach Terry Jamieson thinks this might be a reloaded season for the Cassville strikers.
Last year, the soccer program set school records with 26 wins, a district championship and a third place state finish in Class 2. But with returning starters Ryan Schlichtman, Aaron Jamieson, Hector Valenzuela, Jeremiah Harris and All-State defender Nate Evans, it is hard to look at this team as having to rebuild.
Ryan Schlichtman and Jamieson earned all-district second team honors last season, and the pair combined for 27 goals and 27 assists in 2005. Schlichtman will be a junior and Jamieson a sophomore.
Valenzuela and Harris, both seniors, will lead the group, hopefully back to the same level of prominence as a year ago. Evans, another senior, is one of the strongest defenders in the state, and he will anchor the back line.
"We have added several good athletes to this team and I am convinced with the addition of those players that have been in our soccer school the past three years, we are as good as we were a year ago and possibly even deeper as far as talent goes," said Jamieson. "I like Chris Born as a newcomer, and Colt Beck and Corey Wilbanks have really stepped up. In addition, Mathew Angel will start, and he is a very solid player at midfield."
The remainder of the line-up is beginning to take shape, according to Jamieson. Sophomore Uziel Franco will play striker, and the goalkeeping position is a shared duty at this point between senior Brandon Banks and junior Anthony Larson.
Other members of the Wildcat squad who will compete for varsity time include Matt Frazier, Brian Schroeder, Jesus Miranda, Kyle Mills, Justin Mills, Dale Henbest, Caleb Wilbanks, Justin Nosler, Luis Ortega, Miguel Ramirez, Erick Villalpando and Kurt Baker.
Remaining players on the 2006 team are Zach Coleman, Josh Dyer, Humberto Orozco, Colby Reavis, Daniel Valenzuela, Ross Delossantos and Gabrielle Vincent.
Keeping with tradition, the soccer 'Cats open their season on Aug. 31 with a game on the road against rival Monett. Cassville doesn't play again until Sept. 5 when the team travels to Columbus, Kan. The varsity will compete in the Christian County Men's Soccer Tournament on Sept. 6, 7 and 8 with games played at Nixa and Ozark.
The Wildcats' first home game is scheduled for Sept. 14 when Aurora comes to town. This will be the first game played on Cassville's newly refurbished soccer field.
When district competition begins in late October, fans can expect to see some significant changes.
Cassville will face familiar district foes in Carthage, Carl Junction, Marshfield, Webb City, Willard and Monett but will now also compete for the district crown against West Plains and Bolivar, two teams that were added to Class 2, District #5. Both Bolivar and West Plains competed in Class 3 last season. Aurora and Ozark are no longer in the district. Aurora has moved down to Class 1 and Ozark has been moved up to Class 3.
Jamieson is assisted by Coach Brian Wilbanks.