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Soccer Team Striving for History

Senior defender Henry Mullen pushes past the Lee’s Summit defense. The Hawklets overcame a scoreless first half to net four goals in the second en route to their shutout win over the Tigers on Sept. 14, 2023.

Rockhurst soccer has a storied history, to say the least. Nine state championships. Twenty-seven state semifinal appearances. More than 1,000 victories in program history. Yet, this year’s team is seeking something that’s never been done in the 60-year existence of the program: win three state championships in a row. They are three wins away from making that happen, starting with Saturday’s showdown at Ozark in the state quarterfinals.

If the Hawklets do win out, it would also mark the first undefeated season in 25 years. Head coach Matt Darby, in his fifth year leading the program and fresh off his 100th career victory as coach, was on the last team to run the table. He says if this year’s team accomplished the feat, it would be even more impressive.

“Being on the last undefeated team was an honor, but the skills of players and how the game is played nowadays is much different from when I played in 1998,” Darby said.

Darby says this year’s squad would have the upper-hand in a head-to-head with the ’98 team.

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“The game style these guys present is very different from my team back in the day, and I think we would put up a good fight but end up losing against this talented team.”

This team is currently ranked second in the entire country, according to United Soccer Coaches. An example of their overall dominance can be seen in their goal differential. In the regular season, they conceded just nine goals across 18 games, while scoring 76.

Throughout the program’s history, the most successful teams were often built upon either standout individual players or a collective synergy of the group. This year’s team has some of both.

Senior Baka Kante, an All-American last year, often serves as a catalyst for the Hawklet attack from his midfielder position. He scored 13 goals during the regular season and added 16 assists. A part of the varsity team since his freshman year, Kante says this year’s team is focused, driven and connected, which can lead to postseason success.

“I think it’s all about enjoying the time you have together,” said Kante. “We take it one game at a time. We know what we are capable of, and if we perform the way we should, game in and game out, we have a great chance of completing the program’s first three-peat.”

An All-State selection last year, senior Teddy Franke raised his game this year, generating 25 points (9 goals and 7 assists) in 15 games. He was also one of 40 players chosen across the country to play in the 13th Annual High School All-American Game. Though Franke remains sidelined with a high ankle sprain suffered during the team’s last regular season game against Carthage, he says it’s important for him to participate in the team’s postseason run.

“This game holds a profound significance for me, dating back to my youth and especially now, as I approach the end of my senior season,” Franke said. “It will be my last time playing soccer for Rockhurst, so I will be able to push through the injury.”

This year’s team is definitely more than just a couple players, though. The loss of five seniors from last year’s state championship team opened up opportunities for players to either assume more responsibility or simply get a chance to play. Nine new players have suited up for the varsity squad, ranging from sophomores to seniors. Despite the roster turnover, players say this year’s group has a more defined identity.

“I think the main difference with this year is that we know exactly what we are working with compared to previous years where we struggled to find a groove at first,” said Kante. “Last year we were unsure how we would come out, who would play, and where we would rank amongst other teams. This year, I think everyone knows their role and they fulfill it to the best of their abilities.”

The stage is set for history to be made. First, the Hawklets must get past a tough Ozark team (24-2-2), which will  host the match on Saturday.

 

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About the Contributor
Gus Moseley, Staff Reporter
My name is Gus Moseley, and this year is my first year ever doing anything news/newspaper related in my years at Rockhurst. The main reason I wanted to write is to be able to share my thoughts and ideas with more people than just myself. I feel as if I can make a difference with what I say in the newsletters and, possibly, give students ideas or motivation to do something. Writing has always been some sort of an interest for me, so I figured why not try out newspaper for my last high school year at The Rock. I have been involved in Entrepreneurship for Others (EFO), which gave me a sense of sharing ideas with the school and what it would be like to make those ideas into real life. This was only a semester--compared to newspaper being two semesters. I’m a varsity swimmer, Eagle Scout and coach a flag football team. I also played football freshman and sophomore years. My plans for the future are to go to a somewhat prestigious school for college and major in finance/business. My goal is to someday be an entrepreneur and run my own business, just like my dad has been doing for the past 25 years.
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