Lady ‘Cats licking wounds
Cassville staying positive in injury-plagued season
It is arguable that no athletics program in the area has been hit as hard by injuries as the Cassville girls soccer team, especially hit where it hurts the most.
The Lady Wildcats (2-11) started the season 2-1 and full of optimism and confidence after taking second in their home tournament. Since then, Cassville has fallen in 11 straight, suffering from the absence of the starting center forward and playmaker, Madison Bowyer, and the starting goalkeeper, Jasmine Brown.
“We won two of our first three, but we’ve been struggling since then, primarily because we have not had our starting keeper since the fourth game, and for the past eight games, we haven’t had Maddie,” said Jake Forste, Cassville soccer coach. “We’ve also had a litany of other injuries, so it’s been a struggle.”
Bowyer broke her leg in a non-contact incident and is out for the season, and Brown suffered a concussion in the first game of the regular season and has not played since. At least six other starters and heavy impact players have been in and out or fighting injuries for Cassville, and on all areas of the pitch.
“This is the toughest injury stretch I’ve had in my five years as coach here,” Forste said.
Struggles aside, the Lady Wildcats have had the opportunity to build its younger players’ experience.
“We’ve had some girls step in quite a bit more than we would have wanted, but any time we get them experience is good,” Forste said. “It’s hard having a primary lineup and having to shake it up every night because you can’t get a rhythm that way, but the girls are doing well with what we’ve been given.”
Senior Olivia Holman leads the Lady Wildcats with 4 goals and 5 assists, and this week she heads back to the field after having to fill in as goalkeeper for the last eight games while Brown has been injured.
“We pull her out for stretches in the field, but we have to be smart about how we use her,” Forste said. “Manufacturing goals has been a challenge, but we have started to right the ship the last couple weeks by keeping games really tight.”
Forste said the team has had to find an identity without Bowyer, who was a shoe-in for All-Big 8 honors and was a leader for the Lady Wildcats in so many areas of the field.
“Losing that starting center forward and goal scorer, as well as her skill on corner kicks, goal kicks and throw-ins, has been a challenge,” Forste said. “We used her in so many different ways we now have to make up for.”
Part of that redefinition happened on April 12, when Cassville played Joplin to a 2-1 scoreline, falling in the final minutes of the second half of overtime.
“That was a quality matchup, and Joplin is a pretty good team,” Forste said. “They scored on a set piece early on, and we spent most of the game trying to equalize. We tied it with 40 seconds left in regulation on a Jhandi assist to Olivia. In the first half of overtime, we controlled play and had a penalty kick, but missed it. they scored with about 4 minutes left in the second overtime to beat us.
“That was a pretty inspiring performance. We’ve had a few results where we were right there. It’s great to be able to stay competitive against good teams, even though we are missing key pieces.”
On Monday, the Lady Wildcats played at Branson (12-2), the first time Brown had been in action since March 25.
“It will be good to have her back and Olivia on the field,” Forste said Monday morning before the game. “That will be a big wind in our sails. Going forward, it’s important we are as healthy as we can be as we attack the second half of our schedule and build momentum toward districts.”
Results of Monday’s game were not available as of press time. The Tuesday night home game against Monett, serving as senior night, was rescheduled to May 10 at 4:30 p.m. at home.
Cassville is in action this weekend at the Marshfield Tournament.