Kickin’ Off the Season; The Nixa Boys soccer team this year is in for a challenging season due to the decrease in upperclassmen.



Photo by: Katelynn Gibson Cooper Hines, senior, keeps his eye on the ball as the opposing team closes in.

Writers: Brooklyn Guillory, Katelynn Gibson


   As the crowd of people grows, excitement and tension builds in the stands. The heat of the sun beats down on the field as the team warms up. The game begins, and there is a suspension of who will make the first goal. The crowd keeps their eyes locked on the ball each time it approaches the goal. In one fluid motion the ball is kicked and the opposing goalie barely misses the ball as it hits the net. The crowd breaks out in triumphant cheers.

    The team is quickly learning that it takes cooperation and skill to achieve their goals, and show that they’ve still got it. So far this season the team has won four out of their seven games, but there are several more to come. 

   In the past, boys soccer has made many achievements. In district championships, boys have won four and made one final four back in 2015. In the 2016-2017 season, the junior varsity team went undefeated for the first time. 

   Senior Cooper Hines is center back on the field, with Senior Kyle Hirsch, and is one of the varsity captains. He is determined to be a strong role model this season and show his team the importance of working hard. It is evident that the team has a challenge ahead of them, but they are not going to let that stop them. 

   “It’s going to be a fun challenge to overcome because I truly believe that we have a group of kids that if we work hard as hard as we can, then we can be successful,” Hines said. 

   Hines began playing soccer at the age of four, influenced by his father who is a soccer coach at Cathloic High School. He found that he really enjoyed playing the sport, along with the fact that he was quite good at it too. Hines has played on both, Nixa teams and competitively in Springfield club soccer. He finds the variety of schools makes games more competitive and interesting. 

   Since then, he has been working towards goals to better himself physically and mentally. Hines has changed his mindset to focus on being the hardest worker rather than trying to be the best or most talented. Though those things are also important, it cannot be achieved without hard work. Hines knows the importance of endurance, especially when playing with ongoing injuries such as torn hip flexor and torn patella tendons. Hines hopes his progress this season will influence the underclassmen to be successful in reaching their goals. 

   As the season begins, the freshmen are showing a lot of improvement. They are even learning and experiencing what it is like to play at the varsity level.

    Freshman Allen Fleming plays goalie on junior varsity. He has played soccer for four years on and off with club soccer. This year is his first year playing with the difficulties that come along with playing a high school sport. He has realized the struggle of juggling soccer, games and practices with school work and his other extra curricular activities like band. So far, he is looking forward to the opportunity to play against Nixa’s biggest rival, Ozark. Fleming continues working hard to start achieving his goal of 20 goal saves. 

   “Practice has been good; everyone has been working a lot, and our first four games we lost, but from that we came back, and we won our last two games,” Fleming said. 

   Fleming finds that another major difference from club soccer to high school soccer, is the practice that goes into learning new skills. There are more days out of the week that are dedicated to practice, and the coaches have more time to work and support the team. 

   Evan Palmer is an American government teacher and coach of the boys and girls soccer teams. Palmer has been playing soccer since he was six and has been coaching soccer since he was in college. He came to Nixa in 1994 to coach Nixa’s first soccer team. He is looking for a great outcome to a strong and hardworking team this year. Palmer is hoping to make it to districts and win again. 

   “It’s fun to juggle a ball and kick it around and just play,” Palmer said. “It’s a fun sport, and I enjoy staying competitive as I get too old to play.” 

   Palmer wants to put an emphasis on working hard and staying competitive through the season. So far, with only the few games that they have had, he has seen great improvement in the team.

   “The guys are competing hard and getting better and better,” Palmer said. “That’s all you can ask for as a coach,” 

   Along with the great improvement that the team has shown, there have also been several individual achievements. 

   The seniors have shown immense growth throughout their many years playing soccer. Hines has shown great leadership and skill through the season as one of the varsity captains. 

   “He has great leadership skills that we really rely on this year, especially with all the younger guys coming in,” Palmer said. 

   As center backs, Hines and Hirsch have to control defense and give guidance to their younger teammates. Looking back, several seniors see how much they have improved since their freshmen year which makes them hopeful when they see the underclassmen working hard now. Hines believes that there are many future captains on the team among the underclassmen who are stepping up to be great leaders now. 

   “Just wearing the captain’s band doesn’t make you a leader,” Hines said. “I think we have a couple of players on our team that don’t wear a captain’s band, who I would still put them in that category as a leader…Nobody’s just a leader, you have to turn yourself into a leader. You have to want to be a leader. You have to learn how to motivate others and pick others up,”

   Fleming is doing just that. He has shown great improvement from the first time his cleats hit the field. He has been working to improve his skills as a goalie and bettering his communication with his teammates. Though there is so much more to learn from now to his senior year, he continues to progress and impress. 

   “He’s really come a long way, [he is the] most improved player from June to now,” Palmer said. 

   This early into the season it is hard to tell what may happen, but the boys soccer team has a strong foundation and has long term goals to work towards. One big objective that Palmer has for the season, is for the team to work and practice hard. He also wants them to become more competitive so they will be tougher to beat in the end. 

   There are several things that Palmer finds necessary for the team to build on their strengths. 

  “[It’s important to bring] the young guys along in a positive way, and our older guys need to step up and be leaders and they’ve done that so far,” 

   Hines also has some long term goals as a captain on the team. He hopes to show that even with a large amount of underclassmen, the team can still play with solid cooperation and with the level of experience that is seen in upperclassmen.  

   “My goal is to get everyone to play as a team…I think we have a lot of doubters this year, and I’d like to start off by proving them wrong…we’re still one of the best teams in the area,” Hines said.