The Nixa Lady Eagles traveled to Joplin’s Junge Field Tuesday evening to take on Kickapoo in the Class 2, district 12 semi-finals. The contest was a lopsided affair. The Lady Chiefs easily defeated Nixa for the second time this year. The final score was 5-1.
The Lady Eagles looked tired and generally uninspired. Having played late into the previous evening, and playing eight games in the preceding fourteen days, there was simply nothing left to give. Even so, there were periods of play where Nixa noticably has closed the gap between themselves and the area’s elite. On a good day, Nixa could beat Kickapoo – that much was clear. But it is still also clear, that if the two squads played ten times, Kickapoo would likely win eight of the matches. Nixa is capable, but not yet consistent.
The 2008 season was difficult for the Lady Eagles. That might have been anticipated with such a young group of players. Nixa started three seniors and two juniors. But, what I will take away from watching them play was there willingness to keep battling. Frankly, who could have blamed the players if they would have thrown in the towel midway through the season? They simply refused to give up.
The hightlight of the season were two games against the area’s best teams: Catholic and Waynesville. The ladies played to their full potential and proved to themselves that hard work, teamwork, and smart play can accomplish great things.
The Lady Eagles will have plenty of experience next year and a solid core of players on which to build. Goalie Kristen Miller played very well in her freshman year. She has the potential to develop into one of the area’s best in the next few years. Sweeper Luce Crim, stopper Maddie Chandler, and outside-defender Hannah Barber will anchor the defense. The middle of the field will see Jo Pavlowsky and Kesley Haist return. Games are generally won or lost in the middle of the field and Nixa will be strong here. Pavlowsky can run all day and improved her soccer skills dramatically in 2008. If she continues to work, Haist may become one of the best all-around players Nixa has ever produced. On the outside Frerichs, Owen, and Pierce have good speed and excellent stamina. Owen also sported a good foot which will be used for corners and restarts. Kelsey Bartell was very entertaining to watch this year. Hustling on every play, she lead by example. I would look for her to team up with Ashlyn Robillard up top next year. Ashlyn plays the ball well into space and Bartell has the potential to develop into a forward that can put pressure on a defense.
For the vast majority of high school athletes, graduation will be the end their competitive playing days. A small, select group will continue on into college. Again, the vast majority of those players will not go on to the next level.
The lessons learned through sport do not leave a player however. Much thanks should be given to coaches who instill in their players the habits of competitors: hard work, working together towards a common goal, not quitting when things are down, losing with class, and winning with grace.
The Lady Eagles learned these lessons this year. In the final analysis, that is what will last. Thank you and goodbye to seniors Stephanie Allen, Lauren Hillmer, and Jacklyn Finley. Much success in all you do. You will be missed.