By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
There's never an easy way to end a high school sports season. Barring a state championship, which is a truly rare feat indeed, when the final match, game or meet is played, there is unfortunately a team that has to finish with a loss.
With that loss comes the painful emotions that go along with it. So much hard work, sweat, tears and even blood goes into excelling at the sport these kids choose to play and love. That's what makes those final moments on the playing field for that season, or for seniors, their high school career, so agonizing sometimes.
For Northview and Clay City athletes, this weekend wasn't easy with volleyball seasons coming to a close, a football season concluding and for a cross country team as well.
But while the tears and emotions are still a bit raw, there was so much promise and accomplishments that should be recognized as opposed to remorse over the end of a season.
The Northview football team concluded its season with a 4-6 overall record that doesn't quite encompass the struggle and effort that went into even reaching that four-win mark.
There was no shortage of disappointment amongst the players after losing in the sectional. What I took away from that on the sideline on Friday night is that these players that were still battling on the gridiron to that final whistle, left everything on the field that night. Certainly, overcoming the size and speed of Evansville Reitz this season would have been a tall order, but these kids didn't see themselves as an underdog like much of the state. Instead, they embraced their role and took the fight to the dog. A defending state champion dog that dressed more players than Northview likely had in its entire program this year.
That, in itself speaks volumes to me about the determination of these athletes. The score might not have reflected the effort on the field, but these Knights have nothing to be ashamed of and plenty to be proud of.
The group of seniors include Zach Boetjer, Kade Baker, Ken Wright, Corey Crowder, Nathan Williams, Kyle McCoy, Wes Sorlie, Damon Smith, Tony Fabbri, Jordan Keller, Eric Dyar, Mitch Haviland, Kyle Pestoff and Matt Clodfelter.
That group was a big part of three conference championships and an overall 25-14 mark in their four seasons, including the school's first unbeaten regular season in 2006. In my mind, that is plenty to be proud of as well as representing the school and program with class.
The Northview and Clay City volleyball teams also concluded their season in sectional play on Saturday evening.
The Eels had just one senior on the 2008 squad that achieved a .500 mark at 13-13 despite a wealth of youth on the team.
Megan Vansickle was a big catalyst for that team, a leader that played much larger than her listed 5'8 stature. She finished her volleyball career with the Eels by going 13-of-14 from the service line with 11 points and three kills.
Much like Northview's football team, youth was a big part of the Eels' squad. Sophomore Lynsey Higgins was the top hitter in the sectional with 12 kills and freshman Brielle Drelick added three kills and junior Kelly McCullough had six kills and had four points. Sophomore Shelby Hane added eight points for the Eels.
Though their season ended with a sectional loss to North Central, the future is certainly bright for the Eels.
Equally as luminescent is next year's Northview hopes after giving Terre Haute South all they could handle for much of Saturday's sectional championship match.
Opening the year the prospects were up in the air after the graduation of so many seniors from last year. But this year's squad did itself proud with a talented mix of all classes.
Seniors Hannah Emmert, Emily Chiles, Lexi Lang and Allison Stearley were part of a 26-8 season.
A testament to the team's balance was the fact that the Knights placed a player from each class on the all-conference team. Emmert represents the senior class with Brittaney Long (junior), Hannah Hayes (sophomore) and freshman Ashlen Buck.
Following Saturday's loss for the Knights, the emotions of the loss were evident, but again, these players had so many reasons to hold their heads high. Their energized play and the camaraderie on this squad made them a pleasure to watch for their families and fans.
The same could be said for each school's cross country teams.
Clay City's boys' team had a great year once again with senior Braxton Griffith taking on a front-running role with the Eels.
The squad reached the regional for the 10th consecutive year, an impressive feat for a Class A school running against a number of larger class schools at the sectional. Griffith finished 31st in the regional, second on the team this year. The Eels should return seven members of the team for 2009.
The Northview girls' accomplishments were extraordinary this year. Reaching the semistate for the second year in a row despite not having their number one runner from 2007 available in the postseason.
Senior Kylee Thacker's stress fractures didn't heal in time for her to run late in the season this year, but her teammates' determination brought the Knights to the semistate level once more.
Allie True and CJ Barnett helped carry the torch for the team through the sectional and regional to ensure the team would once again run against many of the state's best runners at Brown County's Semistate. Freshman Alyssa Conrad ran an outstanding meet on Saturday with juniors Shelby Sands and Corey Laue placing fourth and fifth on the team and sophomore Nicole Nelson completing a strong run for the Knights.
For the Northview boys, EC Moody, Ryan Lutes and Eli Kirby all ran in the top-50 at the Terre Haute North Sectional and were leaders for the team throughout the season. Another senior, Chris Smith, was not available for meets this year, but ran with his team throughout the fall season.
Northview's girls' golf team also had three seniors on the team. Allie Melega, Ali Rentschler and Savanah Pursell contributed scores all season to a team that reached the regional once again.
Pursell's score was third on the team at the Martinsville Regional at Fox Cliff Golf Course.
The boys' tennis team was led by seniors Matt Nodley, Austin Akers and Clint Reynolds this season, claiming another sectional championship and earning a berth in the regional. The championship in the sectional was the group's third consecutive title.
Both schools were well represented in the 2008 postseason with plenty of positives to reflect on in the offseason. So rather than focus on any of the negatives, remember what these athletes did accomplish.