Rippelmeyer and Whiles say goodbye to teammates, 2008 season

Kim DeRaedt

Looking back at the 2008 men’s soccer campaign, the Lions’ record is one the team would rather erase.

The Lions were recently tripped up in a 1-0 hard fought loss to Eastern New Mexico before being trampled 9-0 by No.1 Midwestern State. The loss merely capped off the frustration of a 1-14-1 season that saw a young squad struggle to find the back of the net.

The freshman-laden team mustered only six goals while conceding 46 to their opponents. They salvaged a 0-0 tie against Eastern New Mexico earlier in the season and celebrated a 1-0 victory over Northeastern State on their home turf.

Still, 14 losses leaves a bitter sting that the Lions will have a difficult time shaking off. Although there was no question that the team possessed the skill to hang with the best of them, the Lions never managed to discover the consistency to propel them to the next level of competition.

Nevertheless, things weren’t always as bad as they seemed.

“Some of the outcomes do not reflect the amount of effort and hard work we put into the games,” said junior Ben Pantzlaff. “We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of freshmen who still need experience, and we need some people who are willing to step up to the plate and help the team to battle for a great season.”

The Lions did make strides, however, and they will look to take these improvements into the 2009 schedule.

“We progressed in communication between players, both on and off the field,” Pantzlaff said. “Everyone should definitely take away newfound friendships from the season.”

While the Lions welcomed new faces into the lineup, they will unfortunately have to say good-bye to longtime comrades. Despite graduating only two seniors, Pantzlaff is quick to point out that their legacy at Missouri Southern won’t soon be forgotten.

Aaron Rippelmeyer appeared in nine games for the Lions as a defender. Not only was Rippelmeyer a loyal teammate, but he also upheld a sound commitment to his studies.

“Aaron was completely immersed in nursing school activities,” Pantzlaff said. “I don’t know how he had time for soccer; however he was able to balance both quite well. He helped out greatly on defense and had a love of the game like no one else.”

Southern will also lose captain Austin Whiles. Whiles has been a mainstay in the Lion midfield where he tallied two assists this year.

“Austin is the hardest working player I know,” Pantzlaff said. “He will not give up even if his nose is broken sideways.”

Even though it won’t be easy to replace the character that these two players brought to the team, there are plenty of players eager to make their mark on the program.

After experiencing a dismal season, the Lions are determined to turn things around and open some eyes come next fall.

“What I will remember most about the season is making great friends on the team,” Pantzlaff said. “I know the season did not go so well, but my love for the game will never go away. I formed great relationships that will last even after college.”