What a season for the Middle School Spartans! More than 175 student-athletes competed this fall, participating in one of five sports offered — cross country, field hockey, flag football, tackle football and volleyball. Sixth, seventh and eighth graders enjoyed local and regional competition, and some Spartans even brought their league hardware back to The Hill. Read on for highlights from each Middle School fall program.
The Spartan cross country team trained seriously this fall, from the sweltering days of August preseason to the cooler October afternoons. The team participated in two practice competitions and four official meets this season, and runners got into the routine of training with coaches Octavia Sadler and Peter Menacker. When asked about the season, Coach Sadler said, “Hottest season yet! Our runners worked hard every workout and rarely mentioned the heat. It was a strong season, and the majority of our team will return next year. These athletes inspired their coaches all season long!” St. Stephen’s hosted the AIPL meet in late October, and the Spartan sixth grade and seventh grade boys teams both finished second.
Spartan field hockey came out in full force this year with coaches Louise McNutt ‘07 and Emily Roussel. The Purple team never wavered in their enthusiasm this season. This sixth and seventh grade team always kept the energy up in practices and games, and they never failed to offer inspiring halftime pep talks to their teammates. With solid fundamentals under their belts, this crew ended the season with four wins, two ties and two losses. The Red team competed in the Central Texas Middle School Field Hockey League, along with St. Mary’s Hall, St. Andrew’s and Lone Star Field Hockey. With a stellar defensive unit and speedy attackers up top, the Spartans clawed their way to the top of the league standings, earning a decisive 1-0 victory at St. Mary’s Hall in late October to secure the league trophy.
The Red and Purple sixth grade flag football teams had an exciting season, collectively scoring more than 335 points in 15 games. Coaches Jay Patterson and La-Mont King noted considerable progress from August to November. Coach Patterson beamed with pride as he summed up the season: “Coaching Spartan flag football is always a privilege! Both teams exemplified high levels of sportsmanship, competitiveness and character on the field.” The Spartans faced off against each other twice this fall, and each team claimed a victory. Both teams made the AIPL playoffs as the second and third seeds, and the Red team will compete for the league championship on Saturday.
The Middle School Saints came together this season to play a new style of tackle football: six-man! This fast-paced, high-scoring style was a thrill to watch and, according to the team, even more fun to play. In their final game of the season, they took on crosstown rivals, the Trinity Tornado. The Spartan team came alive in the second half and ultimately earned a 42-12 victory! Coaches DJ Johnson ‘09 and Kelton Malone were happy with the players’ efforts this season. When asked about the season, Coach Johnson said, “I couldn’t be more proud of these gentlemen! These guys showed just how tough they are, which reminded me how important it is to have fun while competing.”
In just the second year of Middle School boys volleyball, the Spartans fielded two teams and competed locally against St. Andrew’s and Austin Jewish Academy. A joint record of 9-1 for both teams made for a winning season. The sixth/seventh boys’ only loss early in the season to St. Andrew’s was later avenged when the team defeated the Highlanders in October. Coaches Brian Poppinga and Preston Achilike were impressed with the team’s enthusiasm to learn and their commitment to their teammates. Coach Achilike put it best when he said, “In an almost perfect season, our players have shown us that the future of St. Stephen’s boys volleyball is right here in our Middle School, and they are ready for whatever challenge they may face for years to come.”
On the girls’ side, more than 40 athletes competed on four girls volleyball teams in the Middle School program. Coaches Karrie Poppinga, Kerry Gehring, Shara Ward, Marite Ibanez and Alix Lacelarie-Kautz led Spartan squads through AIPL matches this fall. The teams collectively played more than 45 matches this season, and their progress on the court was evident. Coach Poppinga noted, “Big growth and a taste of competition made this a successful season!”
—Chelsea Richards, Sports Information Director