Hoping to achieve back-to-back district championships, the Wildcat soccer team battled hard against a talented Bolivar squad but fell just short of making another run to the state tournament.
The Liberators, who hosted the Class 2, District 5 tournament, found themselves in the district championship game for the third year in a row and this time were finally able to come out on top, claiming a 2-1 victory over Cassville and avenging last season's loss to the Wildcats.
In the first half of the game, Bolivar was able to score on a cornerkick in the 23rd minute. Cassville had several shots on goal of their own, but the Liberators' keeper was able to keep them out of the net.
Trailing 1-0 after half, the Wildcats came out strong and were able to tie the game up within the first few minutes of the second half. Uziel Franco scored an unassisted goal to give Cassville the equalizer, and the Wildcats seemed to find a second wind.
With 20 minutes left to play in the game, Bolivar's Matt Magana scored, and the Liberators' defense stiffened. Despite playing hard until the final whistle, the Wildcats were unable to score again and Bolivar held on for the win.
"We had many opportunities in the game and just could not finish them," said Coach Brian Wilbanks.
Bryan Schroeder, one of the Wildcats' scoring threats, played in goal for Cassville and did an extraordinary job. The junior showed his athleticism by making several great saves during the match.
"He came on strong in districts where it counts," said Coach Wilbanks.
"I am very proud of this season and all of the players," added Coach Wilbanks. "We end the season 17-7, which is the third best record for the soccer program."
Franco's goal against Bolivar gave him an impressive 48-goal total for the season and 103 career goals, which establishes new school records in both categories. He surpasses the scoring marks set by brothers Nick and Ryan Schlichtman in 2005 and 2007, which coincide with the years that Cassville made it to the state tournament.
"Uziel is now among the top scorers in the state," said Coach Wilbanks.
While Franco was the team's leading scorer, several other Wildcats contributed goals this season. Jesus Rivera contributed 10 goals and two assists while Bryan Schroeder had eight goals and two assists. Luis Ortega also scored eight times this season and added six assists.
Omar Valenzuela tallied six goals and five assists, Otto Franco had six goals and two assists and Matt Angel had three goals and four assists. Justin Mills was credited with three goals and one assist, Corey Wilbanks scored two goals, and Caleb Wilbanks and Matt Frazier scored one goal each.
"Many talented players graduate this year, but the outlook for Cassville soccer is positive due the face that 28 kids will participate in indoor soccer through the winter," said Coach Wilbanks.
In addition, four Wildcats will play for the Total Demize Soccer Club in Springfield this winter and spring. Schroeder, Angel, Caleb Wilbanks and BJ McGuffey have all signed on to play with the club and will be competing in tournaments throughout the Midwest.
The Cassville junior varsity squad finished the season with a record of 8-6-3 under the leadership of first-year Coach Jonathan Winslow.