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Maci Hollis enters final year with Saxony soccer after final-four run

Saxony Lutheran girls soccer’s Class 1 All-State defender senior Maci Hollis returns for her final season after leading the Crusaders to the final four for the first time in seven years last spring. Photo by Becka Hollis

Over the past four years at Saxony Lutheran, one could find senior Maci Hollis either outside on the Crusaders soccer field or in the gymnasium playing basketball when she wasn’t in the classroom.

Hollis has helped each of those teams at Saxony make history, starting with the girls soccer team last spring. Maci helped the Crusaders advance to the Class 1 Final Four for the first time since 2016 as the team’s cornerstone on defense.

As a member of Saxony’s starting five in basketball this winter, Hollis helped the Crusaders win a district championship and reach the state quarterfinals for the first time in four seasons.

“We seniors have all worked hard for the last four years because we’ve all stuck to it and played the same sport,” Hollis said. “I think that’s what helps a lot — we were all competitors in grade school, but now that we’re at Saxony we’ve really grown together.”

Back to soccer, Saxony ended up taking third at state and is the only team from last year’s final four still in Class 1 this spring. With Hollis leading the way, the Crusaders recorded eight shutouts in their 22 games as two came in the postseason.

The first postseason shutout came in the district championship match as Maci and Saxony held Gateway Science Charter scoreless for an 8-0 victory. This was the first time the program won a district title in seven years as Hollis then led the Crusaders to record a 2-0 shutout of Metro in the quarterfinals to advance to the final four.

“It was crazy because it was my first time going to state and everybody was cheering us on,” Hollis said. “It was really fun and exciting. Last year we had a lot of pressure because people were telling us we had a good chance. Now that we’ve gone there, it’s not as much pressure. With having eight seniors, though, we all want to get there. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and one practice to the next.”

Following her historic junior campaign, Hollis was tabbed as one of the five defenders in Class 1 to be named first team all-state. Unsurprisingly, Maci was also named the Class 1 Region 1 Defender of the Year and earned All-SEMO Conference honors.

“I was most proud of being able to be a role model for Saxony, my team and my family,” she said. “Just representing everybody.”

Only two other players from Saxony’s defense were named Class 1 All-State as fellow senior and goalkeeper Grace Ozark and 2023 graduate defender Anna Mueller were selected to the honorable mention team. Mueller signed to play collegiate soccer at Jefferson College following the season.

Two other Crusaders earned all-state as well with Hollis and company in midfielders junior Camille Richey and senior Annie Adams. Richey garnered first team all-state for the second year in a row, while Adams earned second team honors.

Adams, Richey and another Saxony teammate junior Abby Haley all played basketball and won another district title with Hollis for basketball in the winter.

“We’re a small school, so we all know each other outside of sports — that helps a lot,” Hollis noted. “Just going from one sport to the next, it helps us stay in shape and really become a team and a family. We know where everybody is going to go and what they’re good at, so we can hit those points really hard. We know where people make runs, so it’s all coming together.”

To start the season, Saxony has nearly recorded back-to-back shutouts starting with Class 3 Farmington at 7-0 last Friday and then out-of-state Carterville (Illinois) 6-1 this past Monday. The Crusaders only beat Farmington last year 2-1 via penalty kicks.

“We’re playing just like we did last year,” Hollis noted. “There’s nothing that’s been a big gap at all. We’re really coming close together, and we hangout outside of practice and soccer. I think that helps a lot. I feel really good about my last year — we have a good shot to win districts and go to state again. … We’re working together as a team in the back line.”

Despite being one of the best soccer players to walk through the halls at Saxony in recent memory, Hollis will not play in college. Therefore, this will be her very final season of playing the sport she has for the majority of her life with hopes of bringing home the Crusaders their third-ever state championship.

“This is my last shot, so I’m just trying to help everybody and help myself the best I can so we all have a great season. I’ve been really looking forward to it, and I’ve been working hard to get everybody to have the same mindset and be on the same page with everything.”

Hollis is without a doubt poised for yet another dominant campaign as her head coach Chris Crawford said Saxony soccer fans can expect nothing but the same from one of the better defenders he’s coached at Saxony.

“She keeps doing what she’s always done — she tackles hard, she’s smart and is a leader in the back,” Coach Crawford said. “We expect another big season from her and honestly all of our seniors. We haven’t had a senior class this deep as far as number of players since probably 2016. That’s exciting for us because when you get a group of seniors who have that edge and it’s their last time, it usually bodes well for you.”

Even if Hollis and Saxony comes up short of winning a state title, though, she’ll forever be grateful for the sport that’s given her the relationships she has with her teammates and coaches, as well as the life lessons she’s learned along the way.

When people look back at these Crusaders girls soccer teams, Maci will for sure be one player that will always stand out as why they were so successful.

“Saxony soccer means a lot to me — all the coaches spend a lot of time on us,” Hollis said. “We’ve worked really hard and having that support helps us a lot. I want people to remember me for being a role model, working hard and being there for my teammates. Just all around being a good teammate.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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