When the Ball Stops Rolling

A Look Through the Eyes of Conestoga Soccer’s Seniors as They Put the Cap on Their Program-Changing Careers.


Emory Trofholz

Conestoga Boys Soccer Seniors (bottom row right to left: Caden Simon, Wes Nickels, Ben Welch, Trace Widler. Top: James Parriott, Tobias Nolting, Kyle Nickels, Koby Vogler, Grant. Nickels)

Murray, NE — The 2021 boys soccer campaign has come to a close. The Cougars, coached by Larry Welch and Jeff Brokaw, finished the season with a 7-6 overall record. Conestoga displayed some obvious improvements this season, holding their best record in the last five seasons, and that is much in part to their ten seniors. The ten seniors, dubbed the “Fabulous Ten” by coach Welch, include: Grant Froistad, Grant Nickels, Kyle Nickels, Wes Nickels, Tobias Nolting, James Parriott, Caden Simon, Ben Welch, and Trace Widler.

This year’s graduating class of seniors served as trendsetters for not only the culture of Cougar soccer, but Conestoga high school.

Senior Ben Welch commented on the program and its culture: “A couple of lessons that I will remember the most are the importance of great leadership and the power of belief,” said Welch. “I came to understand just how powerful belief can be by watching my teammates buy in and trust the process, leading to not only victories, but also a renewed program and culture.”

One goal of the senior class throughout their high school career was to take down Class B goliath Omaha Gross. The squad edged closer and closer to Gross until finally, in their final season, the Cougars took down Gross in a 2-1 shootout thriller.

“The best moment of playing soccer was probably this year, finally beating Gross in a penalty shootout,” Senior defender Koby Vogler said.

Senior Tobias Nolting also attested to the upset of Omaha Gross being one of his favorite moments as well: “The favorite moments definitely came my senior year,” Nolting said. “Especially the Gross game – we came back and tied it 1-1 and then went into a shootout and won the game. It was cool because it was the first time ever that we beat them or started 1-0 as a soccer team.”

Regarding the Gross game, Welch stated, “It really set the tone. It showed us what we’re capable of, and proved how far we’ve come.”

Throughout their career, these seniors faced a lot of ups and downs. Regardless of the challenges they faced, the team still stuck together. To the seniors, their tight bond and friendship is what allowed the group to not only do better, but excel.

“It was amazing being on the soccer team throughout high school,” Senior Grant Nickels said. “All of the players were friends inside and outside of school, which made playing soccer even more enjoyable. Cougar soccer has allowed me to form stronger friendships and be able to play a sport I love. I think what I will miss the most is being part of a team that was so close.”

“[Being on the team] was an experience I’ll never forget,” says Welch. “Being able to not only see, but also be a part of a changing program was really amazing. Also, being able to play a sport I love alongside some great teammates made the process that much more rewarding. Going to battle every game with my great friends and being able to help take our program places that it’s never been were such unique and amazing experiences that I’ll miss very much.”

Vogler chimed in on the subject, stating: “My teammates were great to play with. [We were] always challenging each other to get better in practice and always have fun on the field.”

Following the seniors’ departure, there will be a new order for the Cougar soccer program. The team will keep their leaders in goals (Bryson Berg: 4), and will also return a majority of their point production.

What they will lose, though, is the attitude, culture, and hard work that this year’s group of seniors have bought into. The class of 2021 has been busting their butts, making plays on the defensive side of the ball, and setting their teammates up to score.

To Nolting, playing with the underclassmen and mentoring them was one of his favorite memories.

“I never really knew any of [the freshman] , so meeting [them] for the first time was super cool,” Nolting said. “By the end of the season our whole team was extremely close and was like a brotherhood.”

For these seniors, Cougar soccer wasn’t only an activity that they enjoyed, but was a sport that will leave an effect on them for the rest of their lives.

“Cougar soccer has affected me in a big way,” says Nolting. “It has shown me that when you aren’t great at something and [you’re] a low person or team on the totem pole, work super hard and keep at it to become great.”

To Vogler, Coach Larry Welch was a man that left a massive impact on his life and the lives of countless other athletes within Conestoga high school.

“What has affected me most [in] soccer is Coach Larry’s memorable speeches before and after games,” Vogler said. “He taught us how to use the skills we learned from him and soccer, and implement them into our daily lives.”

“Being a member of this team and all of its accomplishments proved many things to me,” said Welch. “A couple lessons that I will remember the most are the importance of great leadership and the power of belief. The coaches and leaders that I played alongside showed the enormous effect that their words, actions, and strategies can have on a group. I came to understand just how powerful belief can be by watching my teammates buy in and trust the process, leading to not only victories, but also a renewed program and culture.”