soccer

From left, Statesmen Sam Oesterlei (3) Sam Stevens (9) and Bryce Kiesling go on the offense against Springfield Glendale. 

Tim Velten admitted he had trouble sleeping the night before he was to make his debut as Webster Groves High School’s third boys soccer coach in school history.

Velten, 35, was ready for this moment, but he found himself still feeling uneasy. However, he didn’t have to worry about his talented players being ready to perform at the highest level against a team the Statesmen defeated in the Class 3 state semifinals last season and in the state championship in 2014.

Webster Groves pounded Springfield Glendale, 4-1, to open the Tim Velten era on Aug. 31 at St. Louis University High School.

The Statesmen turned a 1-1 tie after the first half by scoring three second-half goals within a three-minute span to pull away in the season opener. Their next game is at Collinsville at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7.

“I was tossing and turning in bed, with all the stuff that still needed to be done” said Velten. “At the end of the day, it’s still a soccer game.”

Velten spent time as a player at Webster Groves High School, SIU-Edwardsville, Louisville and the professional ranks. He was Tim Cashel’s assistant coach for the previous nine years, including as Cashel’s top assistant for the last five seasons.

Two of Webster Groves’ top returning scorers in senior forwards Ben Winkelmann and Henry Bante provided three of the four goals against Springfield Glendale. Winkelmann tallied twice and assisted on another while Bante scored the game-winner with 25 minutes, 46 seconds left in regulation. Bante knocked in a rebound from a Winkelmann shot to break a 1-1 tie.

“We realized we still have control of the game and we started to do what we do best,” Bante said, referring to Glendale’s game-tying goal near the end of the first half.

Senior midfielder Sam Oesterlei quickly scored Webster Groves’ third goal with 23:09 left in the second half. Winkelmann tallied the Statesmen’s final goal 24 seconds later.

Winkelmann opened the scoring when he knocked in a pass from junior defender Jack Ellis in front of the net with 17:23 remaining in the first half.

“They did it all, the boys,” Velten said. “They make me look good. It was all them. They make my job easier.”

Velten inherited an experienced team that finished second in the 2018 Class 3 Missouri State Championship and played in the state final for the third time in the last five seasons. Velten’s first team is expected to play for another Class 3 state title.

“We’re a slightly different team,” Bante said. “It felt good to come out and prove that we still have it from last year. I thought we played really well, if not improved from last year. I felt like, where we are, we’re in a better position than last year. This year we’re picking up where we left off.”

Velten was the logical choice to become the new head coach. Winkelmann said players supported Velten to lead the team, as did former coach Cashel.

“A lot of the players were scared someone else from the outside would get the job,” Winkelmann said. “We talked to the athletic director and we got what we wanted. The chemistry was already there. It was a good transition.”

One change Velten made was adding weight training to the preparation. He said he noticed in the 2018 state final that the more physical Fort Zumwalt South players used their strength to their advantage. He added his older brother, Dan, a 1997 Webster Groves graduate who also played soccer, as the squad’s strength and conditioning coach this year.

“We always knew we were more talented than our opponents, but the physical aspect was not there,” Winkelmann said. “We’re getting bigger than last year.”