Wildcats pitch ready
Cassville opens the season on Sept. 3
The 2018 soccer season was one of close calls for Cassville.
The Wildcats finished 6-16, but they had nine game decided by a single goal.
“I think we had an exciting team in 2018 that competed in almost every game,” said Jake Forste, Cassville coach. “We were in a lot of knock-down, drag-out type of matches, but unfortunately, we went 1-8 in games decided by one goal, and that led to our record of 6-16. Last year’s team had an identity as a rock-solid defensive team that was difficult to break down. Our 2019 team will have a similar identity.”
Cassville will need to replace the All-Conference and All-District production of Noah Parsons, Carter Fletcher and Andrew Berndt, along with Luis Lara (All-District), Vance Supulver, J.J. Okel, Andrew Littlefield and Camron Sloan.
“We will miss the leadership of last year’s group,” Forste said. “Most of those seniors were three- or four-year starters. They were a great group on the field and in the classroom. Losing a class that large leaves a void on the team, but there’s also endless opportunity right now for our young guys, and they are doing a great job of seizing the moment.”
The Wildcats return five starters in Michael Sommers, Dylan Berndt, Dylan Renkoski, Russell Dunker and Carson Whittemire.
Sommers is a senior forward.
“Michael is a returning three-year starter,” Forste said. “He has spent most of his time at right back the last few years, but he is transitioning into becoming our target player up top as a center forward. He has had an excellent summer and will key the attack for us this year.”
Berndt, a junior, will patrol the midfield.
“Dylan has been a key role player on the varsity team for us the last few years,” Forste said. “With the departure of nine varsity lettermen, he will be asked to take on more of a scoring and leadership role. Dylan is strong on the ball and has a great mind for the game. He is ready and willing to step up as a team leader.”
Renkoski, a sophomore, will make his home on the defensive end.
“Dylan was our team’s ‘Newcomer of the Year’ last year as a freshman, with good reason,” Forste said. “He is a fearless defender who plays with a ton of heart and inspires the team to do the same. He will start at center back for us this year and be a big part of our team’s defensive game plan.”
Dunker, a junior, will also patrol the back end of the defense.
“Russell was a part-time starter and primary sub last year, playing everywhere on the field,” Forste said. “He will also make the transition to full-time center back for us this year. Russ is a brick wall defensively and has really improved his closing speed and touch this offseason.”
Whittemire, a junior, will split time as a defender and in the midfield.
“Whit is a two-year returning letterman who spent most of his time at left back last year,” Forste said. “We will look to him to help anchor a back line that features four new starters.”
Cassville will also look to a new cast of talent to help fill its voids on the starting roster in Peter Littlefield, freshman; Edgar Perez, freshman; Ivan Perez, freshman;. Reece Heiden, freshman. Nick Sanders, freshman; and Travis Ross, junior.
“Losing seven seniors (all starters) from last year’s team opens up a lot of opportunity for this incoming class of freshmen,” Forste said. “Peter Littlefield will step in as a varsity keeper right out of the gate. He is a 6’3, long-armed keeper with great instincts. Our middle school club coaches have done a great job working with Pete over the last year, and we have high hopes for his abilities right out of the gate. Edgar and Ivan Perez are twin freshman who can play anywhere on the pitch. Ivan will step into a role as a center back and Edgar will work in the midfield. Reece Heiden is a winger with great pace and can shoot with both feet. Travis Ross (junior) is our lone transfer student and will step right into an attacking role for us.”
The team and coaches know that this season will be a challenge.
“Our youth and inexperience represents a big challenge for us,” Forste said. “Currently, we are looking at having two seniors and as many as 15 freshmen on this team. It is a pretty unique situation to be in, and our primary goal is to raise the new guys up the right way.
“I think we have a great team culture, team leaders, and we have an identity as a program, so I am confident they can come in and contribute right away.”
Cassville opens the season on Sept. 3 with Thomas Jefferson and Aurora.