By Kyle Daubs
In the end, it was a great sports year for both Mattoon and Charleston High Schools, as well as Lake Land College.
So where do we start?
Let’s give Lake Land College their credit for nearly having the most successful season in school history. The Lakers just concluded their ninth trip to the national tournament in the last 11 seasons. The 56 wins were one short of a school record, while former Mattoon graduate Jordan Sapp was the Regional 24 Player of the Year.
The Lakers finished 56-13 and also set a school record for home runs (69) in a season. Claire Maulding was the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year, while Eva Richardson was the Freshman of the Year. The Lakers won the GRAC and will look to reload with more talent coming in next season.
We had numerous teams in the area win the Apollo Conference.
In the fall, the MHS girls’ tennis team went from underdogs to champions. Caroline Davis and Annalise Overmyer had upsets in the singles competition to eventually be conference champions. Meanwhile, the doubles team of Davis and Overmyer and Lily Gregory and Avery Boyer paced two doubles championships.
The MHS girls’ basketball team won the Apollo title and qualified for the Sweet 16. Mallory Ramage set a school record in single-game scoring with 43 points, a record that had been around since 1988 by Barb Blume (42 points), as well as a new single-season and finished as the all-time leader in points.
In golf, the Charleston girls and Mattoon boys won the Apollo. Both teams repeated as champions, while freshman Madden Johnson won medalist honors. The girls qualified for state as a team, validating their feelings that they were state qualifiers last golf season when the state was not conducted.
The CHS softball team won sole possession of the Apollo and did not have a single senior on the team. However, their season came to a bitter end in extra innings in the Regional Championship. Expect these girls to be back with a vengeance next season.
The same could be said about the Mattoon girls’ soccer team. The Green Wave set a new school record for wins with 19 this season but came up short in the Regional title came 1-0. Faith Niebrugge leaves Mattoon as the all-time leading goal scorer in just three seasons of work, while teammate Lilly Ghere was a First-Team All-State selection.
Mattoon’s volleyball team didn’t win the Apollo but won a Regional Championship. It was 2012 grad and head coach Kayla Quick’s first title in her coaching career. The team defeated Marion 25-15, 23-25, 25-16 in a three-set thriller and won 20 games.
As for the individuals, we had some real quality talent in this area.
Mattoon’s Brock Davee concluded his cross country career 13th in the state to finish All-State to cap a cross country season that saw both the MHS boys and CHS girls make the Sectional as a team.
Mattoon’s Aidan Spurgeon led the state in tackles to claim First-Team All-State status, while Troy Johnson, who recently retired, won his 100th career game this year. Teammate Sam Bradbury went out for track for the first time in his career and won 9th place in the shot put and is set to throw at Eastern Illinois University.
Charleston’s Angela Coe is one of the most decorated swimmers in the nation. She could win a state championship next year. Coe was third in the 200-individual medley and the 100 butterflies. She led Charleston to a 16th place finish at state, which is a single-class system with schools two to three times their size. She has already committed to Texas to swim.
Speedster Makenna McBride claimed fifth place in the 200-meter dash and is set to be a legacy runner at EIU. Her parents competed on the blue track when they were in college, and she is set to be another Division I athlete.
The year saw plenty of happy and sad stories as well.
As for the wrestlers, Charleston’s Maddie Bryant became the first Charleston female wrestler to make the state championships. Meanwhile, Mattoon had three wrestlers finish All-State. Kiefer Duncan (43-3) was third at 145-pounds, Korbin Bateman (36-6) was fourth at 126 pounds, and Leo Meyer (35-11) was sixth at 220 pounds. It was the third time in the last four years head coach Brett Porter saw multiple MHS wrestlers stand on the podium.
If you like Cinderella stories, how about that No. 9 seed Mattoon baseball team upset two teams, including the No. 1 seed Marion, to make the Regional Championship. Then, the Green Wave had Effingham, a team that defeated them a combined 18-0 in two conference games earlier this season, on the ropes with a 2-1 edge going into the final inning. This Mattoon team is young, having relied heavily on some freshmen and sophomores. This team will be very good next year.
As for other surprises, the CHS boys basketball team had their best record since 2005-06 with 18 wins and finished second in the Apollo after a stretch of eight losing seasons.
Among “sad” stories, we saw Johnson retire from coaching football, Mary Buchar retire after three decades of coaching dance, and Randy Harpster retire as well. All four basketball coaches Ryan Ghere, Cody Drone, Amanda Aydt, and Jeremy Hudson all resigned from their head coaching positions.
However, the year ended on a high note midway through the year when we found out Post 88 baseball player Dalton McFarland was cancer-free. We also saw Jeff Miller, Dave Johnson, and Steve Conlon make the Hall of Fame in basketball, as well as Mike Bonic, make the HOF in wrestling.
For anyone I might have missed, I’m sorry. It’s been a great year. Please mention them in the comments.
See you in August.