Mat Mikesell

Canton ends frustration of coming up short in state tournaments

The Canton Lady Tigers defeated Pilot Grove 6-1 to claim the Missouri Class 1 girls softball title. The team receives the first place trophy.
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 23, 2017 10:30 am Updated: Oct. 23, 2017 11:28 am


With one throw from pitcher Olivia Jarvis to her sister and first baseman Abby Jarvis for the final out, years of frustration for Canton teams finally ended.

The softball team clinched the school's first state championship.

"It means so much to be the first one to win the title," Olivia Jarvis said. "It's something we'll all carry with each other forever. We'll have a banner to prove it."

The gymnasium inside Canton is filled with banners from previous state tournament appearances that celebrate second-, third- or fourth-place finishes in the history of the school's athletics. This fall's softball team was the 14th in Canton history to reach a state tournament, and the other 13 failed to capture a championship.

Now the school finally has one to celebrate.

"It feels great making history," senior outfielder Katie Gaus said. "We made a name for our school."

Canton had several chances to clinch its first title in recent years. Twelve teams reach the state tournament since 2008.

The baseball team reached the Class 2 state championship in each of the last two seasons, only to settle for second-place both times after losing to Mansfield and Ste. Genevieve Valle. Canton also took fourth in 2013.

The boys soccer team advanced to the Class 1 state championship game in 2014 but suffered a 2-1 loss to Barstow.

The boys basketball team made appearances in the Class 2 state tournament in 2014 and 2015, but never got to the championship game. In 2014, Canton lost on a buzzer beater to Iberia, and Canton lost to Mid-Buchanan the following year 60-53.

The girls basketball team made appearances in the Class 2 state tournament in 2008 and 2009. The Tigers reached the state title game in 2008 but lost 56-49 to Sparta. Canton settled for fourth the following season.

The softball team made its third appearance at state in the last four seasons, and its fourth since 2008. The Tigers had never made it to the title game until this weekend.

"Just making it there, you're proud of the team and the kids," said Canton athletic director Dan Priebe, who's in his sixth year in the position. "They work so hard to get there. But you're right. It's been frustrating to come up second in baseball the last two years, or getting third or fourth.

"You're always proud of the kids, but you do get frustrated for them because they're so close."

Each time another Canton team came up short, it pushed the other teams to become the first to do it.

"All the students and administrators support each other," senior second baseman Brianna Caldwell said. "We always think about going to state. It's always a motivation for us to go out and (win state)."

Priebe said with having so many teams reach the state tournament -- nine teams have reached the semifinals since he became athletic director -- the chances of winning a state title increased.

"The baseball team last year started using the term ‘Why not us?' because they wanted to be the first ones to win it," Priebe said. "The last couple years, you saw the kids using that mentality. Sooner or later, the odds are you're finally going to get one."

That drought is finally over.

Priebe said there wasn't a feeling of relief when the softball team finally captured the title. It was only excitement.

That should be the feeling when history is finally made.

"Twenty years from now, we'll be remembered as the team that broke the ice and won a state title," Caldwell said.