By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Waynesville Tigers got off to a slow start in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut the boys’ soccer team down for two weeks at the beginning of the season.
“We struggled a bit with the early part of our season going up against teams that had an uninterrupted beginning,” second-year Waynesville coach Mike Gow said. “We started getting into the swing of things as we progressed and played some good soccer.”
The Tigers finished the 2020 season 5-13 overall and 4-4 in the Ozark Conference (tied for fourth), losing 2-1 to Kickapoo in the Class 4 District 11 semifinals.
“Our conference record was an area where I felt we could have done a better job,” Gow said. “But most coaches would feel that anytime a team can finish in the top part of the conference is a good year for them. I was a bit disappointed in our finish.
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“The district semifinal vs. Kickapoo showed the growth of our team. We went down one early and were able to get back even. We had a goal called back later in the game, and the guys kept playing through that frustration. They played well and I was happy with their effort.”
Waynesville lost seven players to graduation but return eight keys to the Tigers’ roster.
The Class of 2020 included:
Anthony Salas, a midfielder, scored five goals with one assist, and was a Class 4 District 11 first-team and All-Ozark Conference second-team selection. – “A center-mid that, at times, was brilliant in his game,” Gow said. “He is a strong, physical player. He understood the subtleties of the game and tried to help his teammates get better along the way.”
Kevin Cruz, defender, all-district and all-conference first-team honoree – “A key defender for us. In the center-back role, he had a good read on the game.”
Christian Cope – “A good human and teammate, he was a multi-position player for us that missed several weeks in the second half of the season. This allowed for several younger players to step in to show what they could bring to the pitch.”
Others lost to graduation were Martin Medrano, defender, all-conference second team; Austin Simonson, Jacob Solomon and Chase Gortmiller.
Gow has a fairly young squad that earned valuable minutes last season, which should benefit the Tigers in 2021.
Tyrell Phinn, a sophomore midfielder, scored one goal with seven assists, while earning all-district second-team and all-conference honorable mention honors. – “Tyrell had a good freshman year. He has a strong desire to be the best he can be. He looked good during our summer workouts.”
Faheem Mujahid, a junior forward, scored 11 goals and was an all-district and all-conference first-team selection. – “Faheem has a great attitude and accepts nothing less than his personal best every day. He approaches practice with the mind-set of a learner. He is always looking to improve his game. He worked every day during the summer to improve himself. He is a stellar track athlete as well.”
Landon Schellar, junior defender – “Stepped into the backline about midway through the season. He is a no-nonsense kind of player and seems to give good guidance to his team while he is on the field.”
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Jesus Olivas, a senior midfielder, scored four goals with one assist and earned all-district second-team and all-conference honorable mention honors. – “Jesus is a fun guy to have around. He keeps things light, and yet he works extremely hard to be at his best each day. As a center mid, he has a deft touch. He sees the game well and typically finds his teammates quickly. He is an integral part of our success this season.”
Blake Holloway, sophomore defender – “A multi-sport athlete for us. He is a solid defender, and we are looking to add someone with him and Landon to solidify that area for us.”
Robert Sigler, senior forward, scored one goal with two assists – “When Robert and Faheem are on the same page, it is neat to watch. Robert looked good over the summer, and he has expressed his desire to work smarter and help lead the team to a more successful season. He is a dynamic and fun guy to watch and be around.”
Evan Boston, senior goalkeeper, had 118 saves in 2020, and sophomore midfielder Averial Williams also return for the Tigers.
Waynesville will participate in a jamboree at Washington with Rolla on Aug. 24 before opening the season at Republic on Aug. 27.
“The guys looked good for summer work,” Gow said. “We had good numbers at our open fields and summer games. We need to build off that summer enthusiasm and start (preseason) where we left off.
“I am looking forward to a strong showing this season. We are fortunate to have the young people we have.”
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