Cubs making push toward playoffs

Saturday, October 2, 2021
Eric Mendez controls a ball and heads upfield for the Cubs in Thursday’s match against Republic. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

Monett aims to bounce back in second half of season

The Monett soccer team has not had a season with less than 16 wins since 2012, but a youthful, rebuilding year for the Cubs means they would have to win out in October to match that tally.

Monett (3-8) has picked up wins over Carl Junction, McDonald County and Marshfield, and the Cubs are entering the second half of the season looking to expand greatly on that win total and build momentum into the Class 2, District 5 Tournament.

Carlos Valenciano takes a touch past a Republic defender in Thursday’s game. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

“We don’t have the record we are used to, but we anticipated that at the beginning of the season,” said Cristobal Villa, Monett boys soccer coach. “We are looking to the end of the season. We are 2-1 in conference play, so we are still taking care of business in those important games. If we get some wins here and there in October, that will give us some confidence going into districts.”

A crucial contest for Monett is its next one, as on Tuesday the Cubs host the district favorite and No. 4 team in Class 2, Logan-Rogersville. The last time the two teams met was on Nov. 5, 2020, when the Cubs earned a 3-2 win and lifted a district championship trophy.

“That will be a big game,” Villa said. “We’ve seen them every year in the district tournament, and they are always knocking on the door. We hope our schedule of tougher teams and bigger schools pays off and we get the wins when they matter.”

Roberto Perez looks to send a ball into the box during Monett’s loss to Republic on Thursday. Kyle Troutman/editor@monett-times.com

The Cubs’ strength of schedule will be on display next weekend, as they travel to Columbia for the Rock Bridge Invitational to face three Class 4 teams, two of which are state-ranked — No. 13 Howell and No. 9 Hickman — and the third, Rock Bridge, just fell out of the top 15.

“We want to see how we look against them, and that will tell us a lot,” Villa said. “We’ve seen improvement in every game, and we’ve had to adapt to many different teams’ play styles. We are still trying to find the best version of ourselves we can find. A big concern was our younger kids adjusting to the pace and aggressiveness of the varsity game, and they are handling it.”

Villa said a number of his players have stepped up this season, especially with the changing lineups.

“Freshman Ivan Montelongo has stepped in huge for us and scored a beautiful goal against McDonald county, then assisted against Marshfield,” he said. “Alexix Ramirez is a hustler for us that puts intense pressure on the ball, and Grason Mahl has gained confidence on the wing after being moved around in different positions.

“We have a good, solid team. We just have to find that best version and better consistency, then hopefully we can find more wins.”

Villa is hoping to find those come playoff time, as the Cubs are aiming for a high district seed.

“Despite our record, I think if any other teams in our district had our schedule, they’d be right where we are,” he said. “We want to be in the top three in the district seeding, and if we can get a win over Logan-Rogersville on Tuesday, that should get us a No. 1 or No. 2. That’s why that game is so important, and we have to take advantage of playing them at home and get the win.

“We will give it our best shot to defend our district championship.”

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