Ready, set, roar

Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The Cassville girls soccer team has tapped four players to serve as this year’s team captions, from left, they are: Jazmin Aguirre, Juliette Okel, Dalia Phelps and Kamryn Jaques. Jared Lankford/

Cassville welcomes new varsity program to the fold

This weekend will mark a historic first for Cassville sports as it welcomes a new varsity sport to the fold in the form of girls soccer.

The district formed a junior varsity last year in order to gauge interest and viability of taking this next step to varsity, and the results were largely positive.

“Last year was our first season of girls soccer,” said Jake Forste, head coach. “We fared really well, as the team went 10-1 playing a junior varsity schedule. This will be our first season of varsity competition. I think we are in a great spot compared to most first-year programs.

“Several of these girls have played with our boys team when it was still co-ed, so I have a lot of familiarity with this group, particularly our seniors. We also have 23 ladies out to play this spring, which gives us just enough depth to navigate the rigors of a full junior varsity and varsity schedule.”

The inaugural varsity team is comprised of: seniors Dalia Phelps, goalkeeper; Jazmin Aguirre, striker; Kamryn Jaques, forward; Juliette Okel, midfielder; and Damaris Taylor, midfielder. Junior: Nautica Russell, midfielder. Sophomores: Jamie Watts, forward; Sadie Reuter, midfielder; Olivia Holman, defender; Madi Bowyer, defender; and Alexis Mann, defender. Freshmen: Jhandi Shears, defensive midfielder; Elizabeth Ray, defender; and Lexi Sanders, defender. Others on junior varsity also have the opportunity to step up to varsity play throughout the season.

“The way this group has come together in a short amount of time has been incredible,” Forste said. “The support I see among teammates, the encouragement of new players, the skill development, it has all just been awesome to see. We are a true team in every sense of the word.

“Even as a first-year varsity program, I think we will be competitive in every game. These seniors have set some lofty goals for this team, and I think we can achieve them. It is a privilege to take the field with this group every day, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

When it comes to fundamentals, Cassville, according to its coach, believes that they are ahead of the game.

“Things are really coming together for us in the early going,” Forste said. “Tactically, I like the direction we are headed. Girls are starting to feel more comfortable in their roles and our positional flexibility will give us a chance to throw multiple looks at teams. I think we’ll be a tough team to scout with some of the attacking talent we have and the ability to move some ladies all around the pitch based on team need and game flow.”

The Lady Wildcats have some offensive punch that they believe can be special this season.

“We are led by a strong senior class with some All-Conference hopefuls,” Forste said. “I think it is a real possibility that Jazmin Aguirre could lead the Big 8 in scoring this spring. She is an unbelievable talent up top and scored 16 goals in 10 junior varsity games last year. One of her running-mates up top is Kamryn Jaques, another returning captain with a great mix of speed, passing talent, and scoring prowess. Juliette Okel didn’t play with the girls team last spring, but she spent two years playing with our boys team, and she is one of the most technically sound players I have been around in my time here at Cassville.

“Damaris Taylor, [senior], is a workhorse in the midfield who is as steady as they come. Dalia Phelps, [senior], is our goalkeeper and another captain for us. Dalia is a great communicator and shot-stopper, and she has been a mentor to some of our newcomers.”

On defense, Cassville also looks solid.

“Our back line consists of two fearless center backs in Madi Bowyer and Alexis Mann,” Forste said. “They bring an element of toughness to the team that really inspires some of our younger players. Olivia Holman is a returner on the back line who can get into space and be a playmaker from a fullback role. Sophomores Jamie Watts and Sadie Reuter are two more returning letterman who are strong players in the midfield.”

What the Lady Wildcats are focused on now is filling in the roster with the large crop of newcomers.

“I have been impressed with how quickly our newcomers are picking things up, as well,” Forste said. “Freshman Jhandi Shears has not missed a workout since June 1, and she is turning into our rock in the defensive midfield. Freshmen Lexi Sanders and Elizabeth Ray are also improving every day and look ready to help us in fullback roles. We have a senior exchange student, Maria Dias, from Brazil, who has been an awesome addition to our team.”

The season already has certain dates and team circled on the calendar for the team.

“Springfield Catholic will be the team to beat in the Big 8,” Forste said. “They are perennially strong in the conference and in the state tournament. If you asked our returning players though, the game they’ve had circled for a year now is McDonald County, who beat us 1-0 on an own goal in the last game of the season last year. That was a heartbreaker for these girls, as a win would have meant a perfect season. They can’t wait to get another crack at them.”

Forste will be assisted by Chris Seymour and Kyle Troutman this year.

Cassville opens the campaign on Friday and Saturday in the Fair Grove Tournament.

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