Matter of Mavericks at SPC

Sam Chambers
The only SPC school to be represented in all of the Division 1 brackets on championship weekend, St. John's Mavericks mattered most in the 2012 Fall SPC Championships.
St. John’s, the only SPC school to be represented in every Division 1 bracket on conference championship weekend, competed up to expectation until the last whistle blew, the M-Star covered cowbells quit clanging, and the buses rolled out of Cowtown to head home to H-Town.
Boys’ Volleyball took 6th place, just barely missing advancing to the semi-finals. No one could argue that they didn't leave it all on the court. In their first round match against FWCD William Trieschman ’14, team leader with 21 kills, dove for a shot towards the stands and remained pinned between the bleachers and the court until Athletic Director Vince Arduini was able to pry him loose.
“I dove for a ball and hit the bottom of the bleachers with my good knee,” said Trieschman. “I played on.”
Girls’ Volleyball also finished 6th. After dropping their first match to number 1 seed Greenhill, St. John’s found their rhythm against Holland Hall in the second match of the day.
“We settled down and played as a team,” said Stephanie Guo ’13, a four-year varsity player.
“It’s all about doing your job and helping your teammates,” said Head Coach James Fuller.
Mavericks on every team went beyond the call of duty inside and outside the lines. Just as Varsity Volleyball and Cross Country teams cheered on Field Hockey in their semi-final win over FWCD on Friday, everyone showed up on Saturday to support Cross Country on the windswept plateau of Trinity Valley School.  
“You can’t create this camaraderie anywhere outside of sports,” said Arduini.
St. John’s Girls’ Cross Country, favored to finish as a team in the top three, took off downwind in a star-studded field of top runners from Hockaday, Episcopal, and Kinkaid among other schools, all of which finished predictably at the top of the individual leader board. St. John’s top runner, Margaret Trautner ’16, finished 6th, but by the time the Mavericks next scoring runners showed up on the horizon, last year’s winner Hockaday, already had 3 runners past the finish line and what looked to be back-to-back championships in the bag.
“Everyone was focused on Hockaday,” said Headmaster Mark Desjardins, a former college and high school cross country runner and coach. “What I love about cross country is that your 5th, 6th, and 7th place runners really matter. It’s not about the top runner. It is a team sport, and it all comes down to one race.”
With the wind in their faces and Head Coach Rachel Fabre and Maverick fans screaming their hearts out in encouragement, St. John’s remaining scorers Francie Williams ’16 (10th), Maya Bhandari ’16 (14th), Noel Higgason ’16 (15th), and Molly Vitek ’14 (22nd) hit the tape, followed by St. John’s 6th runner Olivia Havel ’16 in 39th place. By rule, if there is a tie for first place in the team standings, the tie is broken by the relative finish of the 6th place runner from both teams.
While the girls waited for their results to be tallied, St. John’s Boys’ Cross Country runners were already on the course and also in the hunt for hardware. Akshay Jaggi ’15 (6th), Joe Faraguna’16 (7th), Philip Taffet ’13 (14th), Julian Henry ’15 (17th), and Jake Peacock ’15 (32nd) all scored, but like Hockaday, St. Andrew’s boys had three runners finish in the top group.   Rumors were flying as fast as the 30 mph gusts that St. John’s was close in the boys’ and tied in the girls’ divisions.
“I honestly did not have an idea where we going to finish with 2-3 runners from several teams in the top group,” said Fabre.
After individual awards were announced, St. John’s Boys’ fulfilled Coach Richie Mercado’s ’79 pre-season prediction that they would be on the podium when they were recognized as the 2012 SPC team runner up behind St. Andrews’s. Once Hockaday was announced as the girls’ runner-up, St. John’s couldn’t contain the joy of breaking the tie with the Daisies. Havel’s 39th place finish brought the win home, the team’s 16th SPC championship and first since 2009.
“I’m overjoyed,” said Trautner.   “We worked so hard. Everything in practice was about winning SPC.”
Other teammates competed with great heart on the course, too. Bhandari improved by over five minutes per mile from her initial times at the start of the season. Vitek also ran one of her best races of the year.
“We were going all out,” said Vitek.
For the boys, Taffett also saved his best for last, achieving all conference along with Henry, who was an alternate last year.
At noon, Football kicked off in Bedford, Texas and fell behind 35-0 against All Saints in a game that appeared to be over before it started. The Mavericks got on the board in the second period. They trailed 41-14 at the half and 60-28 at the end of the third before things started to change. St. John’s scored 22 unanswered points and stopped the Saints’ scoring machine in the final fifteen minutes of play. Losing 60-50, St. John’s ran out of time but not out of honor. They closed out a season with a consecutive SPC championship game appearance and a school record 9 wins by leaving it all on the field.
“When I looked in their faces at half time, down 41-14, there wasn't a lick of quit on anybody,” said Head Coach Steve Gleaves. “I knew we would come back. The hardest part is that it is over and these guys never let us down.”
While Varsity Football was making a comeback bid in their championship game, Maverick Field Hockey was in a campaign for a consecutive SPC crown. Down 1-0 early on to Hockaday, a team which had ousted St. John’s for the 2010 title, the Mavericks reeled off three unanswered goals by Carson Black ’13, Robby Rybarczyk ’13, and Sam Night ’13 for a 3-1 halftime lead. Team defense, led by Chronicle Player of the Week nominee, Natalie Plummer ’13, shut down the Daisies in the second half, and, as predicted by Carly Gamson ’13 the day before, the Mavericks we were not going to back down this time against Hockaday.
“This team made up their mind early on that they would focus not on the prize, but on the pursuit of excellence as an everyday process,” said Head Coach Craig Chambers ’81.
Their effort gave St. John’s back-to-back championships, their 11th title, and a chance to match the three-peat of the ’79-’80-’81 teams.
After the dust settled in Fort Worth, and the Mavericks were safely home in Houston, what really mattered was St. John’s had played their hearts out. They fought against the wind, and sometimes against the odds, until the last cowbell rang. Their competitive fire and their powerful camaraderie branded the M-Star on the courts, fields, and bleachers of Cowtown.
Sam Chambers- Athletic News