The Cassville Wildcat soccer team suffered a heartbreaking loss to Willard in the opening round of the district tournament on Saturday.
Cassville lost 1-0 even though they dominated the game offensively. The lone goal was scored in the second half on Willard's only shot of the game. The Wildcats had several shots on goal, which were stopped by the Willard goalkeeper.
Cassville's season-ending loss came just two days after the team was ranked ninth in the state by the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association. The Wildcats ended the season with an impressive 16-6-2 record.
"It was a heartbreaker," said Coach Terry Jamieson. "The other team marked Ryan (Schlichtman) and so our scoring opportunities were limited. We outshot and outplayed Willard but were unable to win."
Cassville's best chance to score came near the end of the first half when a free kick taken by Schlichtman was tipped over the top of the cross bar by the Willard goalkeeper.
Despite an earlier than expected exit from districts, Jamieson said he was proud of his young team.
Senior Nate Evans was the team's undisputed leader on defense. The talented defender, who garnered All-District, All-Region and All-State honors last season, is expected to win more postseason honors this year. He also scored three goals on the season.
"I still hold to the fact that Nate is an incredible defender, one of the very best in the state," said Coach Jamieson. "He's versatile, and I've always been incredibly impressed with how hard he works."
On offense, Schlichtman provided scoring punch for the Wildcats. The junior tallied an impressive 30 goals and 10 assists, a soccer double-double. He fell just eight goals short of beating his brother Nick's school record of 37 season goals, but did manage to surpass his older brother by setting a new record for goals scored in a game with six.
"I've never had a junior who had a year like Ryan's," said Jamieson. "When practice began in August, I didn't know how we'd replace Nick as a goal scorer, but I was proud of how Ryan stepped up and answered that call. As players, Nick and Ryan have different styles, but they both have the same innate ability to put the ball in the back of the net."
The team's assist leader for the year was Aaron Jamieson. The sophomore had 21 assists, setting a new school record, and eight goals.
"It was disappointing to play our last two games without Aaron due to injury," said Coach Jamieson. "His absence definitely had an impact, but I was proud of how Aaron encouraged his teammates from the sideline."
Other team statistical leaders were sophomore Uziel Franco, with 16 goals and one assist, and Hector Valenzuela with seven goals and eight assists.
Coach Jamieson also praised the contribution of seniors Jeremiah Harris, Chris Born, Brandon Banks, Justin Nosler and Jesus Miranda as well as newcomers Mathew Angel and Ross Delossantos, both freshmen, sophomore Luis Ortega and junior goalkeeper Anthony Larson.
"These guys all did an excellent job for us this year," said Coach Jamieson. "Every year, I get really good kids who make my job easy."
Jamieson said it was last year's senior class, which included Kyle Bishop, Spencer Lynch, Jason Bromley, Amit Patel, Brett Buchanan, Nick Schlichtman, Adam Brown, Mitch Vincent and Michael Marshall, who served as great role models for this year's squad and contributed to the team's success in 2006.
"That was a hard class to replace, but last year's seniors were good mentors for our younger players," Jamieson added.
Highlights of this year's season for Jamieson included the team's come back against Joplin to tie the talented Class 3 squad 2-2 and the team's strong performance in the Ozark Tournament against larger schools.
In addition to the starting line-up, the Wildcat varsity squad got help off the bench from senior Erick Villalpando, juniors Kyle Mills, Miguel Ramirez, Colt Beck and Dale Henbest, sophomores Corey Wilbanks, Humberto Orozco and Matt Frazier and freshman Bryan Schroeder.
Jamieson also praised the contribution of his assistant coach, Brian Wilbanks.
"Brian is just a man of character and integrity and a good friend," said Jamieson. "He took a lot off my shoulders and he has developed great chemistry with the players."