ST CHARLES, Mo. — District championship games begin across the St. Louis area this weekend as the Fort Zumwalt South Bulldogs (17-2) host the Liberty (Wentzville) Eagles (17-4) in the Class 3 District 7 Championship game.
Liberty High School opened just eight years ago in the fall of 2013, but it didn’t take long for athletic programs to start building success.
A key piece of the program in the past three years has been Liberty senior forward Chloe Netzel, who leads the St. Louis area in scoring with 53 goals and 19 assists this spring.
Liberty head coach Heidi Kleekamp said Netzel is one of a kind.
“I really think she helps elevate the players around her, and her success I think opens up the floodgates and makes us more confident in our abilities up top,” Kleekamp said.
Kleekamp said Netzel’s success in games comes from her mentality and devotion to the sport in practice and off the field.
“Her work ethic,” Kleekamp said. “If you talk about her as a player, you also have to talk about her as a person. She outworks everyone. She’s the last kid at practice making sure the balls are put away and the cones are picked up. She’s just willing to work harder than others. Individually on her own, she puts in a lot of work,” Kleekamp said. “She has a small field in her basement actually, and her and her brother play a lot of soccer, and I know during COVID in particular, she was going up to the field as much as possible.”
On Friday, Netzel and the Eagles will take on the Bulldogs for the third time this year.
Fort Zumwalt South won both games in the regular season, but Kleekamp said Liberty feels more prepared than ever this time around.
“We know their strengths and weaknesses,” Kleekamp said. “Our big thing, our big goal is to play 80 minutes of soccer hard and not to have let down the entire game. So sometimes we just have some mental breaks that allow for some errors, and some teams capitalize on those mental breaks. So our goal is to play 80 minutes of soccer hard and to capitalize on those opportunities when they present themselves offensively.”
Fort Zumwalt’s two losses this season came against Fort Zumwalt West and Lafayette. The Bulldogs lost by just one goal in each game and rebounded in each game afterwards.
Bulldogs' first-year head coach LeAnne Sanders said it’s been a learning experience and makes each individual on the team better.
“There’s a lot of really solid soccer out here in the St. Charles area now,” Sanders said. “And so, you can have a really strong team, and meet up against another really strong team, and maybe your postseason doesn’t show exactly how talented you were. But I think that’s exciting for just the level of soccer that’s out here where we are.”
But outside of those two losses, Fort Zumwalt South has dominated the field this spring.
“We just have a lot of girls who missed their season last year, and they kind of came out with a certain intensity this year,” Sanders said. “Really just wanting to appreciate every game and also we just have a lot of talent on our team. It’s been really nice. A lot of girls that work well together and have some scoring power, which is really nice as well.”
With seven seniors in the starting lineup Friday, Sanders said this team knows how to win games and is ready to continue the streak into the postseason.
“We have to dictate the style of play,” Sanders said. “If we can dictate the style of play and put some pressure on other teams early on, we tend to be really successful. So really it’s just to use our strengths and kind of use that to push us past any team.”
Fort Zumwalt South will host Liberty (Wentzville) on Friday at 6 p.m.