Many of the top local soccer scorers from last year are back in the Ozarks.
And after lighting up local scoreboards in the first couple of weeks, many will try their hands against some of the state’s best this weekend in the Kickapoo Lady Chiefs Soccer Shootout.
The shootout will feature many of the top local teams, in addition to state-ranked and unbeaten out-of-area teams such as Rockwood Summit, Eureka and Jackson.
Those three are grouped with Kickapoo, Nixa and Glendale in the tough eight-team Gold bracket, along with Columbia Rock Bridge and Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
After losing its opener to Waynesville, Nixa has won seven straight, ratcheting up the offense.
“We’re really clicking right now,” Nixa coach Evan Palmer said. “They’re more comfortable with each other now. A few of them play club together, but the ones that don’t, it takes a little while to get used to each other again.
“But we have a lot of different people who can score.”
One of the leaders up top is sophomore Shalynn Thomas, who has 11 goals this season. Junior Payton DeHart has eight goals and 10 assists, and classmate Paige Townsend has seven goals.
“I’m getting a lot of goals off crossing and finishing, and a lot of it is coming from out wide from Paige (Townsend),” said Thomas, who is among the area’s leaders in scoring. “But we definitely have some room for improvement. We’re at a 7 or 8 out of 10, I’d say.
“This weekend is going to be really good for us, because we’ve got some pretty good competition. It’ll be great to see where our team’s heart is. Our heart’s been pretty big, so far.”
A talented group of newcomers also complements the Nixa returners, Palmer said, including Allie Pritchett and Katelynn Pittser.
Returning talent up top seems to be a trend: Lydia Holtmann of Catholic has scored a ton in her high school career, as has sophomore Dylan Owens, who set the Willard record for goals in a season last year as a freshman.
Aspen Hawkins did the same thing as a sophomore last year at Central, and has eight goals so far with her own record of 31 in her sights.
Ozark and Republic are led by returners Morgan Davidson (14 goals) and Sara Marcotte (11), respectively. Those teams are not competing at Kickapoo this weekend.
One area standout, Catholic’s Nicole Ortega, has elected to play this spring with the St. Louis Gallagher program, and not with the Lady Irish. The junior was an All-Ozarks selection in each of her first two seasons for Catholic.
A team that has a lot to replace this year is Glendale, but the powerhouse Falcons are still among the area’s best. Glendale lost Alix Opfer and Molly Brewer to graduation, but have firepower still from Kasey Shea Opfer (10 goals this year), along with McKenzie Robbins and Drianna Raff.