Bishop LeBlond Boys Soccer Team wins State Championship

The Bishop LeBlond High School boys soccer team hoists the state championship trophy on the field.

By Sara Kraft

“They earned that trophy beyond a shadow of a doubt,” stated Bishop LeBlond High School Assistant Soccer Coach Father Ryan Koster. Father Koster has been coaching both boys and girls soccer at Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph for three years. “From the very beginning we were playing as a complete team. There were no special players or standout players. Everyone was a part of it. That cohesiveness provided a selfless atmosphere that is essential for a good team to function. The further we went, the more confidence the team played with. When it mattered, they showed up to play.”

Bishop LeBlond’s boys’ soccer season started out with some doubts. Due to only having twenty layers, they couldn’t even field a junior varsity team for the first time in years. With low numbers in soccer, the team’s ability to compete for the full game is compromised. “This was not a storybook season,” stated Assistant Coach Ken Girard. “It was very much a work in progress every step of the way. I think if you would have asked Coach Sommers, Coach Fr. Koster, or myself with three weeks to go how we were going to do in the post-season, we all would have said that it might end up being a short playoff run.”

The team practiced hard from the beginning, knowing that ten out of twenty players were seniors. The first indication there was something different about this group of players came early in the season at the Jamboree. The LeBlond soccer team played three twenty-five minute games against various conference opponents and outscored their opponents 14-0. The previous year the team only outscored their opponents 3-0 in the same scenario. Bishop LeBlond High School competes in the Midland Empire Conference (MEC) and Class 1 for Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

The season definitely had its ups and downs. Defeating both St. Michael the Archangel and St. Pius diocesan high schools was special because it meant even though Bishop LeBlond High School is the smallest of the three high schools, they were still the best. The team also had some nasty defeats to larger schools and battled some occasional injuries. However, overall, it was a season filled with positives.

The road to the championship was intense. Districts were held at Bishop LeBlond High School, and the LeBlond soccer team captured the District Championship by beating both teams 10-0. During sectionals, the team played KC Lutheran, a very physical team that had beaten LeBlond 3-1 just two weeks earlier in the regular season. At halftime, the score was 0-0 and LeBlond decided to make a formational change to get more possession. This change was successful and propelled LeBlond to a 2-0 victory. Next, the team outplayed Saxony Lutheran and won 2-0. The championship game was against Sacred Heart High School from Sedalia. LeBlond High School had watched them play and knew they were a good team that had a few weapons that deserved vigilance.

“The Championship was a classic game of two of the best teams in the state pitting power against power,” stated Coach Girard. “It felt like we had slight advantages in several match-ups, but the score remained 0-0 through 67 minutes. Finally in the 68th minute Caleb Lombardino managed to slot a goal into the right side of the net and then came the longest 12 minutes in Bishop LeBlond soccer history. “

“When it was announced there was 1 minute remaining, my heart was racing,” stated Father Koster. “The announcer began counting down from 10 and at that point you knew, but you really couldn’t believe it. I started sobbing tears of joy and when the whistle blew, I immediately fell to my knees in thanksgiving. At one point I think I was flat on my face. It was simply unreal.” The final score was 1-0. The Bishop LeBlond High School soccer team were state champions!

However, more important than the championship trophy is the lessons the boys learned on and off the field.

“You have to work really hard if you want to be successful in what you do,” stated senior Jon Chapman.

“It feels like all of our hard work has paid off,” explained senior Brooks Jungbluth. “I learned playing as a team will make you most successful. Learning new tactics and techniques helped us develop as a more polished squad. Team prayer before games was really beneficial. The rosary on game days was also a great team-building and faith-building experience.”

The coaches believe the team learned more than just how to play soccer.

“No matter what, we taught our players to play with class. We as coaches had to mirror that as well, keeping attitudes in check and remembering who and what we represent,” stated Father Koster. “The boys learned that image is very important for a Catholic school and we made sure that no matter what, they were always showcasing selfless behavior, charity, and kindness.”

“I think I’m most proud of the way this group allows each member to be themselves while being a part of the team. There is no pressure to wear soccer logos, certain shoes, or act certain ways,” stated Coach Girard. “All are accepted for who they are, for what talents they have, and even what oddball habits they may have. It is kind of like a bunch of brothers hanging out.”

“As a sports team, we play together, we pray together, we go to Mass together and we believe in each other,” stated Coach Girard. “They learn about faith in school, but on the field and in their lives they see it, they feel it, they live it. I’m not saying they spend every spare moment evangelizing, but through their experiences as a team, they get to see what that looks like, what it feels like, and they are better able to put faith into action in their own interaction with God. Just as it takes practice to become a good team, it takes practice, real practice with other people to become better at your faith.”

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Monday
December 18, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph