When Staley High School opened its doors five years ago, baseball coach, David Wilson set a goal for his program. Each year, no matter the turnover the team experienced, he expected to see improvement.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
As the Falcons looked ahead to the 2013 season three months ago, that meant they were left with only one option — winning a district championship. Or perhaps something even better.
“I'll tell you what, we knew right away we had an outstanding group of kids who would be up to the challenge,” Wilson said. “It was one of those teams with great chemistry.”
And that equated to the best team in school history. Once again.
The Falcons won a district championship and qualified for the Missouri Class 5 state tournament for the first time, where they placed fourth last weekend at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon. They finished the season 20-9.
“We'd been knocking on the door for awhile,” Wilson said. “This team set that goal that they finally wanted to break through. They worked hard at it.”
Staley was handed back-to-back losses at the state tournament over the weekend — a 9-6 defeat by eventual state champion Francis Howell of St. Charles in the semifinals, followed by a 4-2 loss to Willard in the third-place game. But the competitiveness of both games was an encouraging sign.
After all, the Falcons actually held a lead against Francis Howell in the fifth inning, and they loaded the bases against Willard in the final inning before coming up empty in a comeback attempt.
Staley loses 11 seniors from this team, but Wilson expects the Falcons to pick up where the 2013 group left off.
“With each senior class, you build upon it,” Wilson said. “With this group, just to see their growth, physically and mentally, it's always tough to see them go. It's been a great group, and they gave me all they had. That's all you can ask. When you get a group that commits like that, it sure makes it special.”
Kearney girls soccer
Kearney's bid for its first Missouri Class 2 state championship in girls soccer came up two games short last weekend in Blue Springs.
That was four days ago, but it is already feeling like old news, at least to Bulldogs coach Jackie Haller.
“We're already talking about what we can do next year to make us better,” Haller said. “First of all, conditioning. We thought we ran a lot, but we played three really poor games where we looked exhausted, and they were all in the heat.”
Fatigue certainly played a factor in Kearney's semifinal loss to St. Dominic of O'Fallon, the nation's top-ranked team and eventual Class 2 state champion.
Next spring, the Bulldogs will have plenty of talent returning to the lineup. They lose only three seniors among their starting lineup and expect to have Jessi Hartzler and Jordyn Knox back from knee injuries that abruptly ended their 2013 seasons.
“We're losing some quality players in our seniors, but our younger players that didn't even play have got real potential,” Haller said. “And when we get the two juniors back ... they're amazing. Not having them makes a real difference in a championship.”
As for this season, in which Kearney finished with a 26-1-1 record and won the district championship, it wasn't too shabby without two of its stars. The tie-game came in the scoreless tie with Rosati-Kain of St. Louis in the state third-place game on Saturday. Both teams were awarded third place.
“I think when we get some distance from it, we'll look back and realize what we really did accomplish,” Haller said.