?Wildcat soccer team claims district crown

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cassville advances to state quarterfinal game after winning district title for second time in three years

By George Ulmer

The Cassville High School Wildcat soccer team is on the verge of becoming a powerhouse.

The 'Cats beat Bolivar 2-1 last Wednesday night to claim the Class 2, District 5 championship, marking the second time in three years the team has achieved that feat. The Wildcats finished third in state two years ago and will look to add to their resume this year.

"Even though this is my first year as the head coach, I have come to expect to win and so have our players," said Head Coach Brian Wilbanks. The Wildcats attempted to continue that trend against Harrisonville (19-5-1) on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The outcome of that state quarterfinal game was not available at presstime.

To get back to the state play-offs, the Wildcats faced a tough Bolivar team in the district title game. The Liberators held Cassville out of the net for only 11 minutes, as Uziel Franco broke away from the pack to put a well-placed one-on-one shot past Bolivar's goal keeper to give Cassville the early 1-0 lead.

Ryan Schlichtman backed Franco up eight minutes later, heading in an Aaron Jamieson throw-in that gave the 'Cats a 2-0 lead. The senior's goal would eventually stand up as the game winner.

From there the Wildcats switched into a defensive set, opting to protect their own goal. The scheme worked, but Bolivar scored on an unfortunate penalty kick in the 74th minute. However, Cassville kept their opponents at bay for the remainder of the contest and earned the 2-1 victory.

Cassville's scheme change was evident in the team stats. The Wildcats, who focused mainly on their defense after their first two goals, were out shot 20-11. Of those, the Liberators had nine shots on goal to Cassville's five.

Both Franco and Schlichtman had goals in the game and Jamieson and Bryan Schroeder had assists. Anthony Larson had another great game in goal, recording seven saves.

To advance to the district championship, Cassville beat Carthage 5-2 last week. The Tigers had pushed Cassville into an overtime shoot-out victory the last time they played, but the Wildcats did not allow this contest to get that far.

Franco had three goals in that contest. Schlichtman and Omar Valenzuela had one each while Larson had 11 saves.

"The accomplishments this year have been beyond my wildest dreams," said Coach Wilbanks who also gave credit to his assistant coach, Brandon Allee.

Cassville is now 22-1 on the season and played Harrisonville on Tuesday. If the Wildcats win that game they advance to the state final four, which will be held in St. Louis on Nov. 8 and 9.

In preparation for Tuesday's game, which will be played on turf, Wilbanks took his team to Parkview's JFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon to practice.

Harrisonville brings a 19-5-1 record into the state quarterfinal match. In the Oct. 28 Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association poll, Cassville was ranked ninth in the state with 28 votes and Harrisonville was ranked 11th with 14 votes.

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