Our natural inclination is to feel bad for the two schools, especially for the two senior classes.
And we should.
Catholic’s seniors (Michelle Garrison, Katie Bolin, and Lauren Alexander) and Nixa’s (Lexi Stagner, Brittany Kirkpatrick, Jordyn Hoskins, and Emilie Davis) know all too well the feeling of working so hard in hopes of ending the season with a state championship, and to come up just short.
Those seven girls have been integral to the success of two of the area’s premier programs.
Most of them will never play competitive soccer again.
However, fans of either program shouldn't not be discouraged by this weekend’s results.
In fact, you may want to book your trip to Blue Springs for next June in advance.
Although Nixa and Catholic have their differences, the one glaring similarity is the very real possibility that next season’s Final Four could have a happier ending.
After all, Ben Timson has established quite the dynasty at Springfield Catholic.
The Fightin’ Irish have been to five consecutive Final Fours, two of which ended in state championships (2010 & 2011).
“We’ve got a lot of tradition here at Catholic and it’s been built over a lot of years by a lot of girls,” said Timson. “Each group has to carry that on and find their own identity and continue that tradition.”
With the loss of 22 players in the past two seasons that helped start that legacy, many outside of the program expected that tradition to take a hit this year.
But, despite their youth, three juniors and five sophomores and a freshman starting, Catholic was able to end their season with yet another Final Four run.
“This group only has four girls that were on the championship team from two years ago,” said Timson. “More than half of this team has never played in a Final Four. For them to get here and have this experience is just fabulous. It’s going to help us a lot in the future with this group.”
With such an inexperienced team, Timson, who is assisted by Tom Guinn, also relied on the help of former Missouri State standouts Jordan Reppell and Chelsea Voet with his squad this year.
“Jordan is just outstanding, I can’t say enough about Jordan,” said Timson. “She has so much knowledge of the game. Having that knowledge is one thing, but having the ability to communicate it to high school kids, and get them to understand it is remarkable.”
Reppell, a four-time All-Missouri Valley Conference defender, is a soccer junkie with an extremely bright future within the coaching ranks.
Meanwhile Voet, an All-Missouri Valley Conference goalkeeper worked primarily with junior keeper Mary Wichmer.
“Chelsea worked with Mary, who hadn’t played keeper since she was in youth ball, all year,” said Timson. “Mary worked extremely hard and Chelsea worked extremely hard with Mary and that made a huge difference.”
Like Timson, Nixa’s Evan Palmer has been the only coach in his program’s sixteen-year history.
And for Palmer, who is assisted by Ty Heinrichs and Josh Posegate, in all sixteen years, the Glendale Lady Falcons have been a thorn in the side of the Lady Eagles.
In fact, Nixa had never beaten Glendale.
The Class of 2013 was 0-6 against the Lady Falcons.
That all changed with their 2-1 district championship win back on May 16.
That win helped to cement the Class of 2013 as the best in the history of the program.
“You look at their record as a class and it is the best we’ve seen,” said Palmer. “To make it to two quarterfinals, a Final Four and win 70+ games, that is one heck of a legacy to leave behind. They were incredible and this year they led on and off the field. They are incredibly great and gifted kids and I know they will do great things.”
Although losing is never easy, for Nixa, this weekend was a very natural step in the maturation process of becoming one of the state’s elite programs.
“This was a great experience,” said Palmer. “We had to come and take our lumps, and now we see the level that we have to get to. Now that we’ve seen it, we’ve tasted it, we know what to expect.”
Even though Nixa will lose some defensive stalwarts, the Lady Eagles will return their top six scorers from this year’s team.
“Our four seniors are great players and we will definitely miss them,” said Palmer. “But we’ve got girls that will come in and they’re going to have to if we are going to be successful again. There is a lot of work to be done in the offseason, and I know the girls are going to do it.”
As for now, the losses hurt.
Tomorrow won’t feel much better.
But, just like the Terminator, Rocky, and mosquito bites…
They’ll be back, just as strong, and ready for vengeance.