Soccer success becoming the norm

For teams in the Capital City

All of a sudden, the Capital City soccer scene has entered a golden age.

When the Jefferson City Lady Jays and Helias Lady Crusaders make appearances in their respective Final Fours today, it will mark the latest in a string of appearances for local clubs deep into the state tournament.

The Lady Crusaders are making their third straight appearance in the Class 2 Final Four, while the Lady Jays are going for the first time.

During the fall season, the Jefferson City Jays went 20-7 and lost in the state sectionals, while the Helias Crusaders went 19-6 and fell in the Class 2 quarterfinals.

“Our boys won 20, our girls have won 22, both Helias boys and girls had great seasons,” Jefferson City boys and girls coach Eddie Horn said. “It’s been a great year for Jefferson City soccer.”

The Jefferson City boys made the first Final Four appearance for any Jefferson City team back in 1998, while the Helias boys made trips to the Class 2 Final Four in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

All in all, it’s six trips to the Final Four in the last seven years for local teams.

“I’m sure Art (Firley) would be enjoying all of this success by both schools,” Horn said of the longtime local soccer booster who bought the land for what is now the 179 Soccer Park, the home fields for both Jefferson City and Helias.

Helias girls coach Brad Dempsey, in his second season with the team, said the foundation for recent results was laid long ago.

“I can’t take credit for any of the development of the players — it takes years of kids learning how to play, and soccer is a very technical sport,” he said. “I know that Eddie and (longtime Helias coach) Chuck (Register) have been around for a long time putting in time, and also younger people helping with the Capitals program, parents, whoever.”

But he was quick to add it’s not just work on the field that has led to the success.

“There’s a lot of credit that goes to a lot of educators and teachers who build these young people up,” Dempsey said. “Let’s be honest, it’s not just the skill of soccer. You have to have character, you have to have team chemistry. I think our educators and our youth coaches and our teachers that do the positive things, they have to know how much we appreciate them.”

Horn agreed this has been a team effort.

“From the YMCA to give (the players) their starts, to the club systems, to the high school coaches, there are a lot of people who have a hand in this,” he said.

Soccer has definitely gained a foothold in the area, no pun intended.

“The sport of soccer is a culture sport and bringing that culture to central Missouri is not easy,” Dempsey said. “I just encourage everybody to watch the World Cup this summer, because you can fall in love with the game just by watching the sport. And that’s what we’ve got to have.

“The credit goes to the people who have worked hard to bring that culture here and I’m just glad to be a part of it.

And if early indications are anything, the success now may translate to success in the future.

“My camp numbers, and I’m sure Eddie’s in the same boat, are up higher than they’ve ever been,” Dempsey said. “We’re excited about that.”

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