They said they'd run the table, and then the Laquey Hornets soccer squad went and wrapped up 23-straight victories en route to a historic run.
OSAGE BEACH., Mo. – They said they'd run the table, and then the Laquey Hornets soccer squad went and wrapped up 23-straight victories en route to a historic run.
But the program's good fortune ran out Tuesday night when Laquey was shellacked by Sacred Heart, 8-1 in the Class 1 State Tournament sectional round.
The loss ends the best soccer season in Laquey school history, which included an undefeated regular season; a Class 1, District 9 championship; and a Class 1 State Tournament berth.
Before the season began, Laquey coach Michael Podurgal, in his fourth season at the helm of the program, expected a special season from his Hornets. He couldn't have possibly imagined it would turn so spectacular, however.
“When I took over the program four years ago I knew that the group of freshman we had were something special,” Podurgal said, “[but] there was no particular moment that stands out as being the time when we said, 'Hey, now that we have beaten them, we can go undefeated.'”
To put it in perspective, the Hornets shut out opponents in 14 of the team's 24 overall games, winning by an average margin of more than four goals in each match.
That's even after games with Dixon, Crocker and Osage “loomed” on the schedule, according to Podurgal.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, private schools generally cruise through the Class 1 State Tournament – all but one of eight current quarterfinal teams are private academies.
“A small school like Laquey—about 175 students—has trouble from the start against a school the size of Dixon, which is twice as big, or Osage, four times as big,” Podurgal said. “We proved that if you have players who love the game and are willing to work hard together as a team, you can accomplish great things.”
A total of 10 upperclassmen, including seven seniors, made up the majority of Laquey's roster in 2013. But what really clicked for the Hornets this past season was the team chemistry a handful of seniors acquired since playing together in elementary school.
“Our seniors have been amazing,” Podurgal said. “The work ethic, the output, the leadership, [and] the sheer presence they bring to the pitch is something I will always think about.”
Podurgal continued by praising each senior for his leadership on and off the field: Gordon Klemp, Josh Urban, Zac Black, Blake Briggs, Collin Snyder, Colten Harrell and Willie Miller.
Even after losing a majority of 2013 starters, nine total student-athletes will return next season, including Ryan West (Jr.) and Collin MacDOnald, both key contributors to this season's success.
Podurgal admitted “next year will be tough,” but the presence of returners will certainly be felt.
“Along with Ryan and Collin, [Wesley Cantrell (Soph.)], gives us the speed up front and in the middle that you need if you wish to control the tempo of a game,” he said.
On the defensive side of the ball, each Remington Hayes (Soph., GK), Skyler Crutchfield (Soph., D) and Hunter Powers (Fr., D) will return.
Because of his passion for soccer and impact on students' lives, Podurgal echoes this sentiment after each season: “I always look forward to the year ahead.”
“A day doesn't go by when some young man that I really don't know yet yells out in the hall, 'I'm going to play for you next year coach,'” Podurgal said. “It is heart warming to know that new people coming up want to be a part of our program.”