‘Cats return 9 starters to the pitch

Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Michael Sommers drives the ball past a defender during tourney action last season. Sommers, a junior, has played in 47 of the first 48 games of his career. Cole Jackson/Special to the Cassville Democrat

Cassville soccer primed for breakout campaign

Hoping that the third year is the charm, Cassville Soccer Coach Jake Forste is excited for the season.

A senior dominated team means the Wildcats will have the ability to start nine seniors with multiple years of varsity experience under their belt.

Andrew Littlefield heads the ball up the field for Cassville during varsity action last season. Cole Jackson/Special to the Cassville Democrat

“Senior leadership will be our team’s biggest asset,” Forste said. “As of early July, we were looking at having anywhere from seven to nine senior starters, which will be huge for us. Last year we only had one senior, Kory Harvey. It is my third year here with these seniors. I’ve got a good feel for how to maximize this group of seniors’ biggest strengths, and they know what I expect of them.”

Harvey became a force for the Wildcats in goal last year, and replacing him is priority one for Cassville.

“Kory was a revelation in goal last year, coming up with big save after big save,” Forste said. “Nevertheless, we have incoming senior Vance Supulver in goal to replace him. Vance was our keeper during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Ahead of last season, I saw some strides Kory was making in goal and had a conversation with Vance, who is also a talented outfield player. I asked if he would be interested in moving to the midfield to allow me to get he and Kory both on the field. Vance’s response was ‘I’ll do whatever is best for the team.’

“That selflessness made Vance a captain pretty much on the spot. Vance had excellent indoor and spring seasons with Springfield Demize U-17s. He will be one of the conference’s best goalkeepers. As a sophomore in 2016, Vance had the exact GAA (goals against average) as Kory did in 2017, both allowing an average 2.46 goals against per game.”

Carter Fletcher and Noah Parsons will solidify the team’s backline.

Parsons is a three-time All-District player and was named to the All-Regional squad last season.

“Noah has been the bedrock of our defense the last two-plus years,” Forste said. “We have played Noah sparingly at forward the last few years to great success, and will try to use him as a target player up top when possible.”

Fletcher was an All-District First Team player last season as well. He, along with fellow senior, Andrew Littlefield. “Andrew has sort of been a jack-of-all-trades player the last two years, playing everywhere on the pitch depending on matchups and team need,” Forste said. “He has made big strides over the last year and I’m confident in having him help anchor the defense. Michael is an extremely fast player who prefers playing on the wing. He is a prototypical wingback, able to help in the attack and defend his outside third of the field.”

Up top, Cassville will look to Noah Parsons to head the offensive attack.

“Noah will still spend some time at center back in big matchups, but we will try and utilize his goal-scoring strengths whenever possible,” Forste said. “Last year, as a full-time center back, Noah still managed to score five goals.”

J.J. Okel joins the team and hopes to carve his name into Wildcats soccer lore.

“J.J. was a football player as a freshman and sophomore, but came to us as a junior and led our team with 8 goals scored,” Forste said. “J.J. is a 6’2, 180-pound bulldozer up-top, who is an excellent hold-up player and target man. He’s great in the air and a beast on set pieces. I look forward to seeing what he and Noah can do together in a full season of work.”

The Wildcats will count on Luis Lara, Andrew Berndt, Russell Dunker and Carson Whittemire to control the midfield.

“We have a phenomenal defensive midfielder, senior Luis Lara,” Forste said. “Luis’ work rate is second-to-none. His ability to stop opposing counters and send service to our guys up top is a big factor for us. He also has the ability to score with both feet and key an attack in a moment’s notice. Andrew is a talented attacking player who scored 7 goals in 10

full games played last year. Foot problems kept Andrew sidelined for 10 matches and parts of four others. We went 1-9 during those games without Andrew, which demonstrates just how important a cog he is to our midfield. Now fully healthy, I expect a big season out of Berndt.”

Forste also said fans can keep an eye on Michael Sommers, a returning junior who has started 47 of a possible 48 matches during his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

“His speed makes him a reliable wingback and central midfield cog,” Forste said. “Sophomore Cameron Sloan is a newcomer who has made strides as a player this summer and looks ready to contribute to the varsity squad. Junior Eli Herrin has had a great summer in 7-v-7 and will help out on the wing this fall.”

Forste said that with the expansion of the conference, his team is excited to be playing for all-conference accolades as well.

“I’m excited for the conference realignment, “Forste said. “The change will allow us to have an all-conference team for the first time in my tenure, now that we have a majority of soccer schools in the conference. Adding Springfield Catholic to our schedule will be the biggest challenge. They are one of the best soccer schools around. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play against them. To be the best, you’ve gotta beat the best. Squaring up against those guys each year will be a good barometer for our program.”

Cassville opens the season on Aug. 28 with the Cassville Tourney.

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