Cassville soccer: A long-awaited return

Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Cassville senior Olivia Holman hits a shot during practice last week. Holman is one of three seniors on the team taking aim at a district title this season. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Lady Wildcats hold high expectations for upcoming season

It has been exactly 655 days since the Cassville girls soccer team has played a match, and the Lady Wildcats are hungry for their first taste of the 2021 season.

Cassville got a couple weeks of preseason practice in the books in 2020 before COVID-19 wiped out the season, and while there was no shortage of disappointment a year ago, there is plenty of anticipation to go around this spring.

Cassville junior Jhandi Shears hits a shot during the first week of practice for the Lady Wildcats. Cassville opens the season March 19-20 with its home tournament. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

“You can pick any cliche in the book to describe how ready we are,” said Jake Forste, Cassville soccer coach. “We are foaming at the mouth. Our last game was a 4-0 district championship loss to Logan-Rogersville [on March 15, 2019]. They were a great team, but we didn’t bring our best, and we’ve been sitting on that loss for two years — so we are hungry.”

Cassville has three seniors on this year’s squad in Madison Bowyer, Olivia Holman and Sadie Reuter.

“This group of seniors, all they do is win,” Forste said. “They were a one-loss JV team three years ago, went 11-10 and were district runner-up as sophomore and lost last year to COVID. Their next step is to contend for conference and district titles. That’s our goal, and that’s all we think about.”

Cassville sophomore Emma Berndt takes aim at the goal during a training exercise at practice last week. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Holman said after last year’s experience, just getting back on the field is amazing.

“Just being out here makes me feel all sentimental,” she said. “I’m excited about getting this season started. Our goals are to beat Monett and to go far in districts. Overall, I think we will do well.”

A big part of the Lady Wildcats’ success has been team chemistry, which Holman said has picked up right where it left off.

“I think our chemistry has gotten even better,” she said. “It seems like we’ve all been playing for a while, even though we haven’t, and our new girls are all excited to be here and doing well. I have a lot of confidence in this team.”

Bowyer and Holman will lead the Lady Wildcats’ attack, with junior Jhandi Shears playing attacking midfielder.

“Madi has collegiate aspirations, and I talk to a couple coaches a week about her. Liv is one of the most selfless players we have, and she and Madi are a dynamic duo that will shred the nets. There’s no great way to defend them.

Shears has been a firecracker for the Lady Wildcats since her freshman year, when she lettered as a defensive midfielder.

“Jhandi will be in the class of ’22 and also looking to play in college,” Forste said. “As a team, our offense will go where she goes. She makes the right plays and is always in the right position.”

Junior Jasmine Brown will mind the net for Cassville, and her game has improved exponentially over the years.

“JB has put up shutouts in practice two days in a row now,” Forste said. “Her footskills have really improved, and she has the potential to allow less than one goal a game.”

Ahead of Brown will be a seasoned defense, led by junior Elizabeth Ray.

“We have a strong defensive group that is deep,” Forste said. “Elizabeth is the leader, and we have a newcomer, Scottie Richardson, who has transferred in and been nails back there. She challenges balls, dumps it out when she’s in trouble and connects with our mids well.”

Sophomore Dulce Rivera will add depth at the center back or defensive midfield role, and Forste said he feels strong about all three’s abilities.

Filling out the team are more newcomers like juniors Emily Mann and Landry Parnell.

“We’re always looking for those two or three extra athletes to round out the lineup, and we are excited they’ve some to us,” Forste said.

Cassville kicks off the season with its home tournament on March 19-20, welcoming Monett, Aurora and Branson in a round-robin format.

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