Liberty softball makes big moves early
Just four seasons into existence, the Wentzville Liberty varsity softball team is making some noise under the direction of new coach Emmanuel Flores.
The Eagles entered the first week of September red-hot thanks to a 6-2 start.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on our offense and having quality at bats and I think we’ve been doing that really well in games and transferring that over from practice,” player Kate Benes said. “Coach is all about having a good approach at the plate and if we have a few bad at bats to just go out and play defense. It’s really all about having that good mentality to help the team.”
Liberty has been giving opposing teams a rough time with an offense averaging better than 8 runs a game. Add in that nine players – Benes, Emily Albers, Taylor Jones, Abigail Evans, Gabbi Evans, Reagan Hartenberger, Gabrielle Powell and Katelyn Reichle – are all hitting .300 or higher.
Flores credits the Eagles early success to the strong mental and physical approach that the club has adopted from the first day of practice.
“Our philosophy to the girls from day one has been control what you can and that’s your attitude and your effort every day,” Flores said. “Don’t worry about the last pitch; move on to the next one. The girls have been working hard and it’s been amazing to watch.”
The hard work has allowed the Eagles to not only excel at the plate but also on the bases. Heading into the middle of the season, Liberty has been aggressive on the base paths, stealing 32 bases in 34 attempts.
“It feels really good to have a good start,” Benes said. “I think that we were pretty confident coming in because we knew we had a lot of talent and some new girls coming up that were going to help us offensively as well as defensively.”
Francis Howell spikers show early strength
As the 2017 volleyball season opened, the Francis Howell Vikings had questions surrounding them about how good they would be after losing key players from last year’s 36-3-2 team that finished second in the Class 4 Tournament in 2016.
Those questions have been answered with exclamation points as the Vikings rolled into mid-September with a robust 9-2 record. Howell posted victories over Marquette, Oakville, Lindbergh and Francis Howell Central to open the season at the end of August.
“Last year, we had a couple players that could really put us on their back,” Howell coach Stacey Smith said. “This year, we can spread the wealth a lot.”
The Vikings followed up its first four wins with a solid 3-2 showing in the Edwardsville Tournament on Labor Day weekend. Howell knocked off Carlinville, Freeburg and O’Fallon [Illinois] in pool play before losing to Eureka and Breese Mater Dei in the final two matches of the tournament.
Senior Libero Alexa Brugere and 6-foot-1 senior middle hitter Taylor Litteken have been the Vikings two major cogs to date. Brugere leads the club in serve/receives, averaging just over seven per game, and Litteken leads the team in kills, averaging 3.11 per game.
In the back row, junior defensive specialist Makenzie Thoman has been a steadying influence. Twin sisters Abby and Sophie Witter are contributing well as outside hitters.
The Vikings appear on the right track to post-season success again.
“Even though we lost a lot of seniors last year, we had a good store of talent coming up. So we hit the ground running and I think we’re getting better every match,” Smith said.
Watson turns in big play ability at quarterback
There are few teams that want to deal with the Fort Zumwalt East Lions these days with Ben Watson directing the Lions’ offense.
Watson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior quarterback is in his second year starting behind center and again is putting up huge numbers running the Lions’ Pistol spread offense.
Heading into the second third of the season, Watson already is in the area’s top three in touchdowns  and has run for over 510 yards and passed for 544 yards.
“He is just the ultimate competitor,” Fort Zumwalt East coach Scott Eacret said. “He’s a student of the game and really studies and tries to improve each week. The main thing is his heart. He has a real will to succeed.”
As a sophomore, Watson threw for 1,191 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 1,701 yards with 12 scores.
Watson is quick and elusive, and is a true double-threat quarterback that can make plays with his arm or his feet.
Eacret noted that a major key to Watson’s fast start again this year is his advanced knowledge of the Lions’ offense.
According to Watson, being able to quickly adjust to whatever coverage opposing defenses are throwing at him has really helped him with managing the offense.
Whether he’s running or passing, opponents are not having fun trying to stop Watson.