Getting Phat in Fatima

The Fatima volleyball team celebrates after advancing to the final four in the state playoffs

Tuesday night, the Fatima Comets dropped a 2-0 soccer decision to Southern Boone in the state sectionals..

It was tough end to a good season.

But Southern Boone is good, very good --- the Eagles are now 25-3 and have a great chance to advance to the Final Four.

This story, however, is not about Southern Boone. It's about the bright blue and gold of Fatima.

Perhaps Tuesday night's loss put a period and not an exclamation point on Fatima's fall sports season. But this was still a season to remember.

Call it getting Phat in Fatima.

Or, if you want, getting Phat in Phatima.

The sports programs won four of five district titles, but that's just the start of this success story:

* The boys cross country team finished third in the state, led by the fifth-place finish of Hunter Hennier. He's a freshman --- six of the seven runners will be back next year. The Fatima girls advanced to state and finished ninth --- all seven will return.

* The soccer team won a district title, as did the softball team, which advanced to the quarterfinals.

* And this is what you'd call saving the best for last --- the Lady Comets won the school's first state championship in volleyball.

What a Phall it was.

"It's been phenomenal," Fatima Athletic Director Jeff Buthod said. "There are probably three keys to our success, in all of our sports.

"One, we have really great kids who work hard. And obviously, we have some great athletes coming through right now.

"Two, we've got some great coaches in place who are working with our kids and doing the right things in the offseason and in the summer, and really challenging them to get better.

"And three, over the last few years, we've really upped our schedules to where we're playing a lot of bigger schools, in all sports. These are teams who are going to make us better when we do come down to our own level."

It's a great time to be a Comet.

"The school spirit ... the kids have done a great job of supporting each other the last couple of years." said Buthod, a 1986 graduate of Helias, who's in his third year at Fatima.. "Not just the kids, but the parents, the grandparents ... the support all our teams has gotten has just been great.

"It's gotten everybody excited. We've probably sold more t-shirts in the last two years than we have the previous 20 years."

State championship t-shirts are always great sellers. Saturday, the Lady Comets secured the school's first one since 1996 and its fifth overall.

"I'm ecstatic. I'm glad I could give something back to the school that took a chance on me," third-year coach Mark Bockstruck said.

Fatima advanced to the Final Four last year, as well, and finished second.

"Our goal then was to make it to the Final Four and even though we lost, we were still very excited because Fatima had never been there before," said Bockstruck, a 2000 graduate of Hazelwood Central.

"This year, the big change was that they knew they could do it."

And did they ever.

The Lady Comets went a sparkling 35-4-1 and, in a rematch of last year's finals, dusted St. Pius X 25-14, 25-19.

"The girls were just super excited; I was super excited," Bockstruck said. "People said I jumped six feet off the floor; it was like all the hard work really paid off.

"There was a little disappointment, too, with the fact that this was the final match for seven seniors. It was a great way to go out, but it was over.

"They've been together since they were 9, 10, 11 years old and now it's done."

These seniors should not remain nameless: Brooke Berhorst, JoAnna Muenks, Anna Bonnot, Morgan Bax, Chelsea Skidmore, Jordyn Williams and Brianna Kempker.

"After we'd won, I looked at all the faces of the players in the media room," Bockstruck said. "It was a complete state of joy, so much emotion that they had trouble handling it. There were tears, there was laughter ... just happiness in what they'd achieved.

"That's why I coach, knowing I'm helping build some memories that will last a lifetime.

Great stuff. And so is this: Fatima opened its doors in 1952 and in the next 57 years, advanced to a total of 13 Final Fours.

In the last two years, the Comets and Lady Comets have been there seven times.

"We've got banners going up so fast," Buthod said, "I can even get them made before we're putting up more."

What a nice problem to have.

It's a great time to be a Comet.