The determination Elena Mende showed during Nixa’s post-season run is among the many reasons the Lady Eagles will have a hard time saying good-bye to their 11 seniors.
Mende played with a pulled hamstring in Nixa’s Class 4 District 11 championship win against Republic and in the Lady Eagles’ Sectional loss to Lee’s Summit West.
The injury flared up in the first half versus Lee’s Summit West. No matter, the senior defender kept playing.
“The adrenaline kicked in and I pushed through it,” Mende said. “I knew I had to overcome it. You want to play so badly that you don't care about the injury.”
Mende originally hurt the hamstring while doing the splits.
“I've done the splits before, but went down too fast,” she said. “It was a freak accident.”
“I guess I’ve got to have the splits rule, ‘Don't do splits when Districts are coming up,’” coach Evan Palmer said perhaps only half-kiddingly.
Palmer was completely serious while relating his respect for Mende’s ability to play in pain.
“I could tell in the first half (at Sectionals) she tweaked (the injury) and we brought her out. But she was able to finish the game,” Palmer said. “She was pretty active. It was incredible that she was able to do that. I've had a hamstring injury before and it really hinders your movement.”
“I thought I was good before the game, but I felt it in the first half,” Mende said. “On throw-ins, when you extend your leg far enough, you can definitely feel it. but the adrenaline kind of acts like a numb.”
Mende was grateful she didn’t have to sit out.
“I told myself, 'I can't feel the pain. I'm not going to let my team down,’” she said. “This was my last game. I’m not playing in college, so I'm glad I got to play.”
Palmer pointed out that senior midfielder Katie Kamies wasn’t 100 percent healthy the entire season.
“She has a bum ankle and had a bad back all year,” Palmer said. “She dealt with a lot of stuff. Her back was feeling a little better the last two weeks. Most of the season you could tell she was in pain.”
As accomplished as Nixa’s seniors were, they expressed their confidence in the Lady Eagles’ freshman, sophomore and junior classes.
“It will be interesting to come back and watch them next year,” senior Kaya Cocanougher said. “I hope they do well and I think they will. I think Emma (Hartley) and Emily (Sutherland) will be leading the team and they will get stuff done.”
“We have so many great subs and (junior defender) Kaylee Tate was so good this year,” Mede said. “I have full faith in our defensive line and the whole team next year.”
Nixa’s jayvee compiled a 13-1-1 record.
“A lot of those girls would be starters and would play a lot on a lot of teams in the area,” Palmer said. “They bided their time. Their the next group coming through now. There will be a lot of playing time for them. I know they're going to work on improving themselves in the off-season.
“We've got girls who will step in and do a great job,” he added. “We won't change our expectations.”