New facilities will highlight Union’s spring sports season in 2014.
Two of Union’s four teams will be competing on new venues while a third will be on a renovated venue.
Union’s baseball team will move to its on-campus field, which is still being finished as the season starts. The complex was scheduled to be completed, but poor weather has delayed the construction.
In fact, the first four scheduled home games have been moved due to construction. Saturday’s scheduled home three-team event has been moved to Rolla. And two other games have been delayed until later in the season.
The girls soccer Lady ’Cats will play their home games on the turf at Stierberger Stadium, moving there from Union Middle School.
And the track teams will run on the track which was resurfaced last summer. The jumping areas have been improved as well.
Union’s golf Wildcats will continue to play home meets at Birch Creek Golf Club.
Looking to continue business as usual, the Union soccer Lady ’Cats hope to repeat as Four Rivers Conference and district champions this spring.
“As a team we set various goals for ourselves this year and are looking to do our best to achieve those goals,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “In order to do so we will need to perform at a high level in each and every game we play. The girls have set high expectations for themselves and are putting the work in toward reaching those goals.”
Union went 17-6 last season, winning the Four Rivers Conference title, but falling in the Class 2 sectional round to Jefferson City Helias in overtime.
It marked the second consecutive year that Union fell in the sectional round.
Junior Bethany Coons has been one of the state’s top scorers for the past two seasons and will be the focus of the offense again this season.
Fennessey sees juniors Kaylyn Bigley, Bri Clark, Emily Nowak and Marissa Groves along with sophomore Taylor Gaebe as being key returners this season.
The Lady ’Cats have openings due to graduation with junior Haley Farrell (goalkeeper) and freshmen Karlie Peth, MacKenzie Kiewitt and Mariah Nowak pushing for varsity playing time.
Noah Assareh and Brady Weinhold will be Fennessey’s assistant coaches this season.
Besides the Four Rivers Conference games, Fennessey sees the CYC Tournament (April 28-May 1) as being a good chance for Union to prove itself.
“As always we focus on the four rivers conference games and would like to perform well in those competitions,” Fennessey said. “The CYC tournament is something we are looking forward to using as a measuring stick to see where we stand among top state competitors.”
Fennessey indicated nonconference matches against Washington, Rolla, Farmington and Incarnate Word Academy should be keys as well.
Union opens the season Friday at De Soto with the junior varsity game starting at 5 p.m. Union opens FRC play Monday at St. Clair (varsity at 4:30 p.m.) and begins the home season Tuesday against Borgia (5 p.m. JV start).
Union’s girls track team is looking to build on its success of 2013. The team placed fifth in the MSHSAA Class 3 state meet after winning the district and Four Rivers Conference meets.
“Everything we do is geared to the state track meet,” Head Coach Chris Kelley said. “That’s the meet we circle on the calendar.”
The team has a number of key athletes returning.
Anna Houston, Janna Ruether, Amber Tharp, Hannah Mayfield and Taylor LaValle earned state medals last year.
Alyssa Pate qualified for state while Lyndsy Siedhoff qualified for the sectional meet. Courtney Zweifel is a returning senior.
Kelley said promising newcomers include Tonya Vondera in the throws and transfer Keighlee Grable in sprint events. Karlie Peth is doubling up with soccer and track and is listed in the sprints and high jump.
Lydia Klenke, Shea Wells and Mikayla Sieve are other promising newcomers, according to Kelley.
The team has a number of assistants.
Josh Hall, Tara Anspach, Mike Underberg, Michael Stewart, Nick Kelley and Billy Graft are assistant coaches with Jon Mitchell and Tom Rahl volunteering their time to coach the throwers.
“We ask each athlete to give the team their best effort at every practice and meet,” Kelley said. “The rest will take care of itself.”
The Wildcats open the season Monday at the Hillsboro Relays. Action begins at 3:30 p.m.
Union is at Pacific Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. and goes to the Festus Early Bird Invitational next Saturday, March 29.
On the boys side, Kelley returns two state qualifiers in Logan Bellamy and Ryan Schumaker. They were members of Union’s 1,600-meter relay team last year.
Kelley said other key returners are distance runner Dylan Fitzgerald and seniors Zach Lanham, Tre Edwards and Joe Lasky.
Nick Wildt should make an impact with the throwers this season, Kelley indicated. Clay Birkmann, Jared Mentz and Justin Carey will give some energy to the distance events.
The coaches, schedule and philosophy is the same as the girls team.
Bill Juengel’s golf Wildcats return two veterans from last year in senior Brennan Higgins and sophomore Trey Hasza.
Others on the squad are senior Tristan Trammel, sophomore Nathan Pieske and freshmen Thomas Donovan, Dominic Drago, Dennis Nagle and Josh Pyatt.
“Higgins and Hasza return from last year’s team,” Juengel said. “The rest have little or no experience which is OK because you have to start somewhere. Our goal is to get a little better each day and to be playing our best at the end of the season.”
Union has plenty of practice time before its first meet, the Union Invitational, which will be held April 1. The Wildcats again will call Birch Creek Golf Club home this season. The Union Invitational has an 8 a.m. start time.
Ryan Bailey’s baseball Wildcats get a new home this season, moving onto the high school campus after several years at East Central College and time at the Union City Park before that.
Work continues on getting the final touches done with the field, which has a turf infield and grass outfield.
“I’m really excited about our new field,” Bailey said. “It’s been great to practice on and it will be amazing to play on when it’s finally finished and ready to go.”
The Wildcats (6-9, 4-3 last season) start the season Saturday with games against Rolla (9 a.m.) and Russellville (11:30 a.m.) in Rolla.
Union’s first home game is its Four Rivers Conference opener against New Haven Friday, April 4.
Union’s schedule features games at TR Hughes Ballpark (vs. Washington April 19 at 12:30 p.m.) and at GCS Ball Park (vs. Sullivan April 25 at 5 p.m.).
Key returners are seniors Trey Fink and Nick Schumaker and juniors Dustin Griffin and Emmett Parker.
Fink is the most experienced pitcher while Schumaker will play left field and hit at the top of the order.
Griffin was a .414 hitter and will play center field. Parker fits into the lineup at shortstop.
Key newcomers are catcher Blake PIckard and corner infielder Nick Eads.
The pitching staff should be filled out with transfer Avery Griffin, Keaton Groff, Jerod Mattingly and Ethan Hughes.
Bailey sees a stretch from April 25 to May 1 as being the key to the season.
“Sullivan is the defending conference champion and Pacific’s younger grades have gotten good varsity experience the past few years so they should be strong as well,” Bailey said. “Borgia is in our district so that’s another important game. And we finish up with St. Clair who’s had our number the past few season. Those games will go a long way toward determining our seed in the district tournament and our chances at a conference championship.”
Derek Morgan, Mike Sachs, Ehren Curnutte and Zach Hoffman are the assistant coaches this season.