It will be business as usual for Union High School this spring.
Union will have four varsity programs this year with all bringing back their head coaches from last season.
District champion last year, Union’s Lady ’Cats return the bulk of their lineup for this season.
Matt Fennessey’s team returns many key players this season and should be among the favorites in both the Four Rivers Conference and Class 2 District 9. Union went 21-4, falling to state champion St. Dominic in the sectional round.
“As far as practice goes, we have a long way to go,” Fennessey said. “As a team we aren’t where we need to be with fitness. I have been happy with the drills and play in practice but we still need to work on the fitness.”
Union has been assigned to Class 2 District 9 along with Pacific, St. Clair, Borgia and Sullivan. Borgia is the tournament host.
Sophomore Bethany Coons ranked second in the St. Louis area last season in scoring with 55 goals and 13 assists for 123 points.
Senior Alyssa Coons was fifth in the St. Louis area with 22 assists last spring. She has signed with St. Charles Community College.
Senior midfielder Abbie Brack netted five goals and four assists last season. She has signed with Hannibal-LaGrange.
Sophomore forward Bri Clark netted nine goals with seven assists.
Senior Briana Lakebrink, who went 20-3 with a 1.05 GAA last spring, is back in net.
Junior Kaila AuBuchon, who scored a huge goal in the district championship match, is back after scoring six goals and three assists last season.
Alicia Brueggemann, Jordan Thorpe and Kayla Thornton each netted three goals last year.
Other returning starters are Marissa Groves and Emily Nowak.
And Fennessey’s team has others who are looking to make an impact this fall.
Raylyn Schiller, Kaylyn Bigley, Maline Davis, Natalie Helling and Taylor Gaebe are new to the varsity squad.
“These girls have really been playing well so far in practice,” Fennessey said. “I’m expecting a lot of them in terms of adding quality minutes on the playing field.”
The Lady ’Cats open Four Rivers Conference action next Monday with a home game against St. Clair (JV action starts at 5 p.m.)
The Lady ’Cats go on the road Tuesday to play at Borgia. Junior varsity action begins at 5 p.m.
Ryan Bailey returns as head coach of the Wildcats, who went 9-13 last season.
The Wildcats lost some top players to graduation, including TJ Johnson (John Wood Community College) pitcher Austin Bentlage.
Both set records during their time with the Wildcats.
Bailey has some top players returning though.
Top returners are Jordan Weaks (3-5, 4.35) and Ashton Dehn (202, 4.38) on the hill.
Offensively, Dillen Myers returns behind the plate after batting .342 last season.
Weaks, who batted .400, will play shortstop when not pitching and will join Myers in the heart of the order.
Devon Fennessey, an outfielder who hit .349 last season, is slated to be the team’s leadoff batter.
Bailey indicated that Drew Juengel and Trey Fink also will see pitching time. Nick Schumaker is pressing for some time behind the plate.
Fink will play third base this season while Weaks moves to shortstop. Emmett Parker is on top of the list to play shortstop with Weaks on the mound while Curtis Bergner is set for third when Fink pitches.
Juengel will start at first while Brendan Burgess is the starter at second base.
Fennessey and Dehn will play outfield with the third starting spot currently being contested between Andrew Lenau, Aldwin Fleer and Brendan Schumaker. Dustin Griffin also could see playing time in the outfield.
The Wildcats open the season Friday on the road at Rolla, weather permitting. First pitch is slated for 4:30 p.m.
The Wildcats visit O’Fallon Christian Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and Waynesville Thursday, March 21, before returning home to host Cuba Tuesday, March 26, at 4:30 p.m.
The Wildcats will be playing home games once again at East Central College.
Union has been assigned to Class 4 District 5 along with Borgia, Pacific, Priory, St. Clair and Westminster Christian. The district tournament will be in Washington.
Chris Kelley’s track program returns key starters as well as bringing in exciting newcomers this season.
The Lady ’Cats come back after finishing second at the Four Rivers Conference district and sectional meets. All-state athletes Anna Houston and Hannah Mayfield return.
Houston finished fifth in the pole vault and eighth in the 100-meter high hurdles at the 2012 state meet. She qualified in two other events as well. Mayfield finished eighth in discus last spring.
Other state qualifiers returning are Janna Ruether, Kayla Kelly, Taylor Lavalle, Katelyn Riechers and Amber Tharp.
Kelley feels Ruether is poised to make a breakthrough.
“She had a great offseason and it’s showing in practice,” Kelley said. “She’s put in a lot of time in the weight room.”
Brack and Brueggemann are going to run in some meets while also playing soccer. Kelley feels that will give the team a boost.
Jillian Johnston, once a district high jump champion, is back as well.
“She’s been our most consistent high jumper the past three years,” Kelley said.
Another who could make an impact is Ali Overstreet (400-meter dash, 300-meter low hurdles).
On the boys side, Union was third in the FRC meet, sixth at the district meet and ninth in the sectional event. Union has to replace the points which graduated with Trevor King.
The Wildcats return no state qualifiers, but Kelley feels returners Jordan Nowak, Logan Bellamy, Dylan Fitzgerald, Zach Lanham and Joe Lasky can be good leaders.
Nowak runs middle distance. Bellamy will specialize in the 400-meter dash while Fitzgerald and Lanham are distance runners.
Lasky is the team’s top thrower, but it could be a while before he’s in top form due to an injury suffered at the state wrestling meet.
Kelley sees freshman Ryan Schumaker as an impact athlete in the sprints and sophomore Casey Peth as an athlete who will help in the throwing events. Peth has moved over from the baseball team.
Union opens the season next Tuesday at a meet in Pacific. The meet starts at 4:15 p.m.
The Wildcats will host a three-team meet Thursday, March 21, at 4:15 p.m.
Bill Juengel returns as Union’s golf coach this spring and reports 11 are out for the team.
That includes 10 boys and one girl.
Returners are senior Brennan Higgins and junior Jobie Richardson.
The girl is Japanese foreign exchange student Hinako Kishimoto.
“Other than that, we are pretty inexperienced but we’re working on that by practicing with a purpose,” Juengel said. “Our goal is to improve every day and have fun doing it.”
Union again plays its home meets at Birch Creek Golf Club.
The team’s first meet is a three-team event on the road against Pacific and Sullivan. Tee time is set for 4 p.m.