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Fort Zumwalt soccer team wins state championship

On June 24, O’Fallon honored the Fort Zumwalt South High girls varsity soccer team, which recently won the Class 3 state soccer championship.

On Thursday, June 3, the Bulldogs won the title game with a score of 5-2 over Grain Valley High, finishing with an overall season record of 22-2 and outscoring opponents 104-18. The victory makes South the first public high school to win both a boys and girls state soccer championship title in the same academic school year. Last fall, the boys team scored a 3-0 verdict over Cape Girardeau Notre Dame (16-2) to earn their district crown. It was the second Class 3 state championship for the boys team in three years.

The Fort Zumwalt South Bulldogs and coaches with their state soccer championship trophy. (Source: Coach LeAnne Sanders)

The varsity team has 23 members: seniors Leigha Riley, Taylor Whiting, Emily Bloomfield, Grace Faherty, Claire Andersen, Maddy Baum and Sophia Cross; juniors Sarah Bozeman, Amanda Olivas, Ashlyn Smith, Jordyn Moore, Merek Delehaunty, Abby Hacker and Mallory Daniel; sophomores Ally Moore, Brooke Cattoor, Mia Brown and Isabel Montileone; and freshmen Audrey Smith, Ashley Miller, Makenzie Buss, Lauren Heath and Jailyn Brownlee. It is coached by first-year varsity head coach LeAnne Sanders, along with assistant coaches Chad Baldwin, Jim Layne, Tyler Muehling and Steve Penn.

Sanders credits the team’s success to its chemistry.

“It was really nice to see that they didn’t let any part of the roller coaster of a high school season really get to them because any high school coach knows it’s a roller coaster of ups and downs and the girls took it all in stride, and that was really impressive to me,” Sanders said during an interview for the district’s Fortitude podcast.

With the loss of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, many of the athletes worked hard during the offseason so the team could come back in good shape for the 2021 season. The effort that was put in, especially from the seniors and juniors, created a good vibe for the team that allowed them to mesh together well.

“It started more in the 2020 season because we had a lot of girls that we kind of stayed focused on well what can you do at home, what can you be doing on your own and those types of conversations,” Sanders said. “(It was) really stirred by players such as Sophia Cross and Maddy Baum because they took hold of that leadership role, and then once everything started up again you had even more leaders step in like Emily Bloomfield, who encouraged the girls to play each game as its own game because they had put in the time and and effort, but now it was a matter of meshing back together and finding that chemistry.

“I think the biggest thing the leaders took hold of is being appreciative of the fact we were all back together. I think the excitement was there from those seniors and juniors and that gave us a really good vibe to get the season started.”

As the proclamation recognizes, participation in organized athletics helps build character and teaches a wholesome sense of good sportsmanship. To excel in any one sport, a young person must demonstrate, in addition to a great natural ability, an outstanding spirit of dedication, enthusiasm and hard work. Sanders described that the most impressive aspect of the team was its character, attitude and effort – treating everyone with respect, which Sander said was visibly noticeable on the field.

State Rep. John Wiemann (District 103) also read a resolution awarding a certificate of recognition to the team, its coaches and the school. His congratulations and those of the city were echoed by Superintendent Dr. Bernard DuBray.

“You won a state championship during a pandemic!” DuBray exclaimed.

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[Editor’s mote: Intern Caroline Sandler contributed to this article.]
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