Bulldogs hope to reload instead of rebuild.
It was quite a two-year run for the Rolla High School boys’ soccer team in 2012-13.
Now, the Bulldogs move on with pretty much a whole new cast.
With just a couple returning starters from last season’s talented squad, RHS is hoping the correct term for the season is ‘reload,’ not ‘rebuild.’
Gone is nearly all the firepower from last season’s 24-3 squad, which was ranked No. 2 in the Missouri Class 2 regular-season state poll most of the fall. RHS was upset by Jefferson City Helias in the district tournament championship game a year ago.
Among the huge losses were all-staters Aaron Froehlich and Hunter Short at forward and defender Nate Kramme.
Froehlich set the Missouri boys’ high school soccer career goals record last season and finished the season with 68. Short is the school’s career assists leader.
RHS head coach Mike Howard will begin seeing what the new-look Bulldogs actually look like on Tuesday, when they travel to Columbia for their season-opener against Rock Bridge (5 p.m.).
“From when we started from the first day of practice, we had a long way to go,” Howard said. “But these kids listen and are good soccer players. I just worry our schedule is so hard...if we struggle we’ve got to hold our composure.
“We have improved a great deal in the first two weeks. It should be a real fun season.”
Expected to start against Rock Bridge for the Bulldogs are junior Carter Daniels in goal and in front of him backs sophomore Alec Falkenhein, freshman Nick Janke, senior Jordan Kaden and junior Nathan Cunningham.
Midfield starters include senior Ethan Collins, senior Theron Weeks, junior Austin Rabenau and sophomore Mike Jennings. Starting forwards are junior Thomas MacCash and senior Rico Viereo, the latter a foreign exchange student from Brazil.
Also expected to play key roles on the varsity unit are sophomore forward Stewart Meusch, sophomore froward Earl Medrano, sophomore midfielder Tyler Calvert, senior midfielder Ben Hushaw, junior midfielder Lefatshe Lefatshe and sophomore midfielder Steven Stutts. The backup keeper is freshman Drew Blair.
Coming into preseason drills Howard said defense will be the team’s strength. He still feels that way.
“We built our team around (defense),” he said. “I think we’ve got some good defenders; we’re going to play good defense as a team.”
With all the scoring abilities lost to graduation, Viereo’s addition is much-needed.
“It’s a lucky break for us,” Howard said. “He’s not going to have numbers that Aaron and Hunter had. He’s a different kind of player. He’s more of a center-mid player, but we’re going to play him up top because we have to. It’s probably not his best position, but we’re hoping he’ll take some of the goal-scoring weight off of others.”
Howard says both the Ozark Conference race and district tournament will be nails. Rolla is paired with Helias, Camdenton and Union in Class 3 district competition, to be held at Union this fall.
“(Springfield) Glendale, (Springfield) Kickapoo and Joplin are always the big three we’ve got to worry about (in conference),” Howard said. “Glendale got to the Final Four last year and has a lot back; Kickapoo returns most of their team, and Joplin was very young as well.
“In the district, Union will be hosting and that could be a plus for us; it’s just an hour away for us.”
The RHS boys’ soccer schedule:
Aug. 26...at Columbia Rock Bridge (5 p.m.
Sept. 1-4...Pacific Tourney
Sept. 6...Waynesville JV Tourney
Sept. 9...at Springfield Parkview, 5 p.m.
Sept. 10...Jefferson City, 5 p.m.
Sept. 16...West Plains, 5 p.m.
Sept. 19-20...Parkway Tourney
Sept. 22...at Springfield Glendale, 5 p.m.
Sept. 23...Lebanon, 5 p.m.
Sept. 25...at Jeff. City Helias, 5 p.m.
Sept. 26-27...Rolla Invitational
Sept. 29...Waynesville, 5 p.m.
Sept. 30...at Springfield Hillcrest, 5 p.m.
Oct. 10...Fort Zumwalt East, 4 p.m.
Oct. 11...at MICDS, 1 p.m.
Oct. 14...Camdenton, 5 p.m.
Oct. 16...Springfield Kickapoo, 5 p.m.
Oct. 17-18...Thomas Whitefield Games
Oct. 21...at Joplin, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 25-Nov. 1...District Tourney at Union