Archive for Kip Kovar

NO-NO: Matson no-hits Isle as Royals open season with win

ST. CLOUD – As Watertown-Mayer junior Morgan Matson walked off the rubber in the first game of the season, she wasn’t sure what just happened. Matson was completely in the zone, tossing a no-hitter in Watertown-Mayer’s 12-0 victory in five innings against the Isle Huskies at the St. Cloud State University Dome Friday night.

“No, actually,” Matson said about knowing she threw a no-hitter as she walked off. “I went and talked to one of the parents who takes stats and I was just wondering how I threw overall. He told me I threw a no-hitter. So, I didn’t really notice at all. I just kind of go pitch-by-pitch and do what I got to do.”

Morgan Matson was brilliant for the Royals in their season opener Friday night. In five innings, she threw a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

Morgan Matson was brilliant for the Royals in their season opener Friday night. In five innings, she threw a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

Matson was dominant throughout, allowing just two base runners all game long. Her only blemishes came with a hit batter in the second, and a walk in the fifth inning. She recorded 10 of the 15 outs via strikeouts, as getting ahead in the count was huge for her.

“In past years, I kind of struggled getting ahead right away and have to fight my way back from a 3-0 count,” Matson said. “He (coach Isakson) told me before the game that I needed to work on getting ahead right away so I could throw some curves or drop balls.”

Matson took that to heart, as she was in control from the start, striking out the first four batters of the game.

“She did a nice job,” Watertown-Mayer coach Scott Isakson said. “She’s been stuck in the gym for as long as she has. We really tried to get ahead. That’s what I talked about with her early. I think she had first-pitch strikes on three of every four hitters. She mixed in her pitches well. For her first time out, you sure can’t complain about it.”

With every no-hitter or perfect game, a lot has to go right. While Matson was able to get ahead in the counts, it usually takes a terrific defensive play to make that special thing happen. Cue Lauren Foley.

After Matson allowed her first baserunner of the game in the second, it was Foley who made a terrific play in right field to not only keep the no-hitter alive, but to also double up the runner at first and get out of the inning. Foley came running in to make a great catch on a short blooper to keep the Huskies hitless and get the Royals back into the dugout.

“It’s a lot less stressful,” Matson said about pitching with good defense behind her. “It’s not just me needing to preform well. If I don’t, I have people behind me. It’s a lot of help. I like it a lot. They’re doing really well.”

After the Royals flashed their gloves in the top of the second inning, it was time for the bats to get going in the bottom of the third inning. Leading 2-0 coming into the inning, the Royals sent 14 to the plate to tally 10 runs to break open the game for good.

“It was a lot of fun,” Matson said about the big inning. “I’m not typically a hitter. I’ve always been more of a flex player. It’s a lot of fun cheering on the rest of my team and seeing them do really well.”

In the win, four players drove in two runs each for the Royals. Madelyn Vargo drove in a pair with a double to the gap, and junior Nikki McDonald used her speed to record an inside the park home run to cap off a big inning for the Royals.

“I think that’s one thing you’ll see all year,” Isakson said. “We’re going to have a pretty solid hitting group. The majority of the girls have experience coming back. A lot of them have a couple years of experience. They hit the ball well in the scrimmage up here. In practice, they’ve hit well against anyone we throw out there.”

While the Royals opened their season with an impressive win, they were just happy to finally be able to play a real game, even if it was technically indoors.

“It was a lot of fun,” Matson said. “It sucks being in the gym for almost two months straight. Getting this first game in definitely has been a good thing for us and we’re performing really well.”


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

TRACK AND FIELD: Lakers, Bulldogs compete at Maple Lake Lions Invitational

MAPLE LAKE – The weather was perfect as the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity track and field teams got outside at the Maple Lake Lions Invitational Monday afternoon. With ideal weather, both the Lakers and the Bulldogs got impressive performances from their athletes to get their seasons rolling.


After a dominant performance last weekend indoors at Mora, the HLWW boys stayed hot as they hit the outdoors. The Lakers won the meet with a team score of 201, which was  more than 30 points more than Maple Lake, who finished in second place.

On the day, the Lakers had 26 top-five finishes. For field events, the Lakers dominated discus, taking the top four spots. Joe Schanus won the event with a throw of 97 feet, 9 inches. Brennan Barth took second with a throw of 92 feet 6 inches, while Elijah Riemer took third, and Danny Mosford took fourth. In shot put, Riemer took second, and Schanus took third.

AJ Gatz also had a big meet for the Lakers. He won the triple jump with a jump of 36 feet, 6 inches. He also took fourth in long jump, ninth in the 100-meter dash, and seventh in the 200-meter dash.

Tommy Horn was another athlete who had an impressive day. In the 400-meter dash, Horn finished with a time of 52.40 seconds, which was good enough for second place. He followed that up with another second-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.68 seconds.

Remington Albright also racked up three top-10 finishes for the Lakers. In the 100-meter dash, Albright finished in sixth place. In the 200-meter dash, he took sixth place with a time of 2.35 seconds. He also won the long jump with a jump of 19 feet even.

In distance events, senior Noah Bundrock continued his dominance. Bundrock swept the 800-meter and 1600-meter runs, and won the 1600-meter run by 13 seconds.

In pole vault, Adam Martinson recorded his second-straight win. Martinson dominated the competition clearing 11 feet, almost two full feet better than second place.


Just like the boys, the HLWW girls kept things rolling in their first outdoor meet of the year. The Lakers got contributions from all over, finishing in second place with a final team score of 194. Maple Lake won the girls meet with a score of 256.

Jenna Benson continued her strong start to her senior season for the Lakers. She racked up two top-three finishes, including winning the 100-meter dash with a time of 13.05 seconds. She also took second in the long jump with a jump of 15 feet, 7 inches.

Senior Heather Leukuma also is off to a strong start this season. She tallied four top-five finishes for the Lakers. In triple jump, Leukuma took second place with a jump of 32 feet, 5 inches. In long jump, she recorded another top-five finish. With a jump of 15 feet even, Leukuma took third place.

HLWW senior Heather Leukuma took third place in the long jump for the Lakers at the Maple Lake Lions Invitational Monday afternoon.

HLWW senior Heather Leukuma took third place in the long jump for the Lakers at the Maple Lake Lions Invitational Monday afternoon.

Not only can Leukuma do it for the Lakers in the field events, she also made noise on the track. In the 400-meter dash, she finished with a time of 1:07.59, which was good enough for fifth place. She followed that up with a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 29.51 seconds.

The Lakers also made their hay in the long distance events. In the 1600-meter run, Gracie Mallak cruised to an easy win. She finished with a time of 5 minutes and 30 seconds, which was 16 seconds better than second place. Gwen Helgeson (fourth place) and Erin Brabec (fifth place) also cracked the top five in the 1600-meter run, giving the Lakers 19 points in that one event alone.

Brooke Baumann also found her groove on the track. In the 400-meter dash, Baumann took second place with a time of 1:06.13. She followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 3200-meter run with a time of 13 minutes and two seconds.


After getting a taste of the outdoors last week in Maple Lake, the Bulldogs showed improvement Monday afternoon. Out of seven teams, the Bulldogs took third place with a team score of 91.

Sophomore Evan Lee had a nice meet for the Bulldogs. In the 800-meter run, Lee took third place with a time of 2:14.20. He also took third place in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5 minutes and 3 seconds. Lee’s time in the 1600-meter run was five seconds faster than his time at Maple Lake last Thursday.

LP/HT's Matthew Fasching took fifth place in shot put with a throw of 32 feet, 8 inches for the Bulldogs.

LP/HT’s Matthew Fasching took fifth place in shot put with a throw of 32 feet, 8 inches for the Bulldogs.

Logan Groff also had a big day and led the way for the Lakers. In high jump, he took second place, clearing five feet. He also took third in the 200-meter dash, and fourth in the 100-meter dash.

In field events, Hunter Lemke took third in pole vault, Andrew Jackson took third in triple jump, while Matthew Fasching took fifth in the shot put with a throw of 32 feet 8 inches.


The LP/HT girls took a step forward in the right direction, as well Monday afternoon. With a team score of 30, the Bulldogs finished in sixth place.

McKenna Kutz enjoyed a nice day with some impressive performances. She took fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 30 seconds even. She also took 11th in the 400-meter dash. Kutz’s time in the 200-meter dash was more than two seconds better than her time last week.

Lilian Dietrich took fifth place in the pole vault clearing 6-feet, while Clara Leverich took seventh in the long jump and the triple jump.


For more photos of LP/HT athletes, click here.

For more photos of HLWW athletes, click here.


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

Tjernagel’s impressive skill set has college coaches flocking

MAYER – High school athletes can spend their entire high school career chasing a state title. Mayer Lutheran High School volleyball player Olivia Tjernagel has two already, and she’s just a sophomore.

Tjernagel, a 6-foot middle hitter who helped lead the Crusaders to back-to-back Class A state volleyball titles, has not only seen recognition from around the area and state, but also from around the country, and for good reason.

With Tjernagel’s ability to dominate at the net as just a sophomore, college coaches around the state, and the country for that matter, are taking notice. While Tjernagel admits she’s been wanting this experience her entire life, she’s still surprised at how quick it all began.

“The whole experience of these colleges looking at me, taking their time on me, and having such a high interest in me, is such a humbling, yet amazing feeling,” Tjernagel said. “I had always dreamed of playing college volleyball my entire life, and I am excited to see where God will end up taking me on this amazing journey. I also never would have expected all of this to happen so soon and so fast. I started talking to a few coaches right after my freshman volleyball season, and it just took off from there. To start talking with a coach who I consider is one of the best of the best (Hugh McCutcheon, University of Minnesota) is completely humbling.”

Mayer Lutheran sophomore Olivia Tjernagel is a force to be reckoned with at the net. With her impressive vertical and six foot frame, Tjernagel has caught the eye of multiple college coaches across the country.

Mayer Lutheran sophomore Olivia Tjernagel is a force to be reckoned with at the net. With her impressive vertical and six foot frame, Tjernagel has caught the eye of multiple college coaches across the country.

Fresh off back-to-back state championships with Mayer Lutheran, Tjernagel has already visited seven different schools this year. She’s visited the University of Minnesota, North Dakota, Concordia St. Paul, Minnesota Duluth, Iowa State, Creighton, and Northern Iowa already. There’s also another handful of other schools that Tjernagel has interest in and would like to visit, as well. She already has four offers just as a sophomore, and continues to pursue the goal of playing college volleyball, while also finding the school that’s the right fit for her academically.

“So far, I have received four offers,” Tjernagel said. “Unfortunately, I recently had to turn down two of those amazing schools because they were just not the right fit for me, and didn’t give me what I wanted academically. Right now, my top schools are Creighton, University of Northern Iowa, Minnesota Duluth, and the University of Minnesota.”

Throughout the offseason, Tjernagel plays volleyball for a club team called High Voltage. High Voltage is a club volleyball team based around area athletes. Although it’s not one of the most well-known club teams, Tjernagel gets to play with familiar teammates, as well as get exposed to coaches across the country, which is something she’s taken full advantage of.

“Playing for High Voltage has helped me get exposed to quite a few schools at some of the big tournaments I have played in,” Tjernagel said. “It, for sure, is not one of the biggest, most known clubs, but that doesn’t matter. As long as you put your name out there, coaches will come find you if they like what they see in you on and off the court.”

While Tjernagel continues to play for High Voltage throughout the spring and summer, she’s also enjoying the ride that is college recruitment. While working on her game and getting exposed to college coaches, she’s not afraid to take a step back and enjoy it all.

Olivia Tjernagel plays the game with fire as she simply just loves to play the game. Her talent and passion has her on her way to fulfilling her dream to play college volleyball.

Olivia Tjernagel plays the game with fire as she simply just loves to play the game. Her talent and passion has her on her way to fulfilling her dream to play college volleyball.

“I am so humbled to be where I am at right now in the recruiting process,” Tjernagel said. “As I said before, it has always been a dream of mine to play college volleyball. As I take a step back and look, I never expected to be recruited at a Division 1 level. It is mind blowing to me. I am so very thankful and grateful for all the coaches who express such a high interest in me and take time out of their busy lives to watch me and get to know me better as an individual, and not just as a volleyball player. I also wouldn’t be where I am at now without the help of all my amazing coaches along the way, and all my teammates.”

With several schools showing great interest in Tjernagel and her upside as a player and person, she knows there will be a day she has to make a decision. With letters and camp invites rolling in on a daily basis, Tjernagel is looking to make a decision by the end of her junior season.

“I have discussed the decision of when I would like to decide on my college with my parents quite a lot,” Tjernagel said. “I came to the conclusion of wanting to make a decision anytime between now and the end of my junior high school volleyball season. That just gives a few more coaches that are talking with me a little more time to look at and evaluate me.”

What makes Tjernagel a unique talent is her ability to play multiple sports. While also playing basketball at the varsity level this season for Mayer Lutheran, Tjernagel continued to play volleyball on weekends, including some long trips. Despite a busy schedule, Tjernagel enjoys the opportunity to play multiple sports, and has been told by college coaches that’s something they look for.

“As of right now, I still would like to play basketball throughout my high school years, but also not knowing what I will be doing with club volleyball in the future, could possibly change that,” Tjernagel said. “I want to always try to work around the possibility of playing both basketball and club volleyball.  Almost all the coaches I have talked to say they love multiple sport athletes, but ones that especially love volleyball the most. They also encourage to play multiple sports throughout high school.”

Although Tjernagel has the eye of multiple coaches across the county, she knows there are improvements to be made. She has many strengths including her vertical, but also knows she needs to get stronger in order to be prepared to compete at the college level right away.

University of Minnesota volleyball head coach Hugh McCutheon looks on as Olivia Tjernagel plays a match with her High Voltage Club.

University of Minnesota volleyball head coach Hugh McCutheon looks on as Olivia Tjernagel plays a match with her High Voltage Club.

“I would say the best part of my game is my jumping ability,” Tjernagel said. “I do have to give credit to my eight years of classical ballet and pointe I took to give me this ability. Also, I feel I am intelligent on the court, meaning knowing where to place the ball at the right times. But, there are lots of things I will have to keep working hard on and improving on to be ready for the college level in a few years. I will need to build lots of strength for sure. Most coaches tell me that when the incoming freshmen come in, in the spring to start training, the thing they lack the most is physical strength.”

While Tjernagel continues to grow on and off the court, there’s one thing that will never change. She simply loves the game, and having the ability to battle through with her teammates.

“I have always loved volleyball, and always will,” Tjernagel said. “My high school coach, especially, put a little fire under me. She coached me when I was 12 and 13 years old, and now she coaches me in high school. She pushes me to my max, and I love that. I love being out on the court where this is a team game and not just a one-person game. Everyone contributes.”

KOVAR: Area teams making the most out of slow start to spring season

When it rains, it pours. Well, in this case, it’s snow.

Practices for the spring sports season began nearly a month ago, but nearly every team in the area has yet to play a single game this season.

The lone event in the area that took place so far this spring was a chilly track and field meet for Mayer Lutheran at the Belle Plaine Invite last week.

After last weekend’s storm threw another curve into the spring sports season, teams around the area are trying to stay patient. Athletes on the golf, track and field, softball, and baseball teams have all been cooped up inside thus far for a majority of their practices, and there’s only so much they can do and work on.

With limited space and availability for gym space as all teams in the area are in the same boat, some coaches have gotten creative to keep their kids engaged, as well as add some fun.

Noah Bush fires a throw over to first during Game 4 of the HLWW baseball Wiffle Ball World Series.

Noah Bush fires a throw over to first during Game 4 of the HLWW baseball Wiffle Ball World Series.

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted baseball team has been opening practice the past few days with a Wiffle Ball World Series. While stuck in the gym for practice yet again, coach Cullen Schultz thought the idea would be a good way to keep his kids into it, as well as provide some good fun and competition.

Game 4 of the World Series took place at the start of practice Monday afternoon. The Lakers played a three-inning game before they get back to a “normal” practice.

The Mayer Lutheran track and field team is another team that has been forced to be creative. Despite being the only local team with an outdoor event under their belts this season, the Crusaders also took time to play a little floor hockey in the gym last week. With limited space at Mayer Lutheran until the field house is complete, the Crusaders have made the most of the situation by taking a day off from regular training to play some floor hockey.

The Mayer Lutheran baseball team has also gotten creative with their practices. While gym space is competitive with the weather in Mayer, the baseball team has taken advantage of the unfinished field house when  possible. Once workers for the field house are gone for the day, they’ve spent time in there to work on grounders and other things in the additional space. The field house used to have a dirt floor, which would would great for the baseball team, but concrete has recently been laid which won’t provide true hops for the baseball team.

Out of all the creativity, the HLWW track and field team might take the cake. On Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers braved the snow and took part in a Big Base game. Big Base is a glorified kickball game. Head coach Andy Hertwig has tried to keep his athletes motivated despite being stuck indoors, and even having indoor meets cancelled this spring.

Gwen Helgeson and Gracie Mallak sprint home during the HLWW’s track and field Big Base tournament held Tuesday afternoon in the snow.

Gwen Helgeson and Gracie Mallak sprint home during the HLWW’s track and field Big Base tournament held Tuesday afternoon in the snow.

The Lakers had four games of Big Base going on as they took on the snow in a tournament that brought smiles to everyone who played.


With how crazy and unpredictable the start to the spring sports season has been, the Minnesota State High School League has been forced to make some changes this season, and this season only. Baseball and softball teams will be allowed to play five-inning doubleheaders this season. The normal rule states that the first game must be seven innings, followed by the option of having a five-inning game.

The idea of having a five-inning doubleheader bodes well for small baseball schools. With just over a month until the section tournaments start, teams will be looking to get games in as often as possible this season. Some conferences have already announced that all conference games will be played as five-inning doubleheaders this season in order to keep players rested and healthy, as well as complete the conference schedule.

Baseball will be the sport that is most impacted by this weather this season. With new pitch count rules that started a season ago, smaller schools in Class A and AA will be forced to dig deep into their pitching staff. Area teams can expect to play more than four games a week this season due to the weather. Four games seems to be a guaranteed, with two conference matchups, and if teams want to play a non-conference schedule, that number will increase even more.

It will likely be a quick start for the baseball and softball teams. Once the fields are ready to go, you can bet that the season will get started right away.  With almost no practices outside for most teams to this point, there could be some ugly games being played as teams make the adjustments. Once teams get rolling, and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later, the spring sports season should be off and running.

Both the HLWW and Watertown-Mayer softball teams are making the trip to St. Cloud State University in order to get their season going. Both teams will play at least one game this week at the SCSU Dome in order to get their seasons going.

Whenever spring does arrive, it will be welcomed with open arms. There’s a lot of talent in the area this spring this season, and it should be another great season of prep sports in the area.

Click here more photos from the Big Base tournament in the snow.


Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

Updated sports postponements

Below are the list of activities that have been postponed or cancelled this week. This is as of 12:45 p.m. Monday, April 2.


BASEBALL: LP/HT at HLWW, postponed



SOFTBALL: LP/HT at PACT Charter, postponed to Monday, April 30

GIRLS GOLF: Watertown-Mayer at Kimball, postponed to Thursday, April 12



BASEBALL: HLWW at Watertown-Mayer, postponed

SOFTBALL: HLWW at Dassel-Cokato, postponed

SOFTBALL: Watertown-Mayer at SW Christian, postponed to Monday, April 30


NOTE: Some games have not yet scheduled a postponement date due to uncertain weather.

Woolhouse’s motor, talent net him Herald Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year

WINSTED – If you look around the area in the game of boys’ basketball, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who works harder. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a player with more talent, and the ability to come through in the clutch when his team needs him.

What Mayer Lutheran High School senior Kobey Woolhouse did all season long for the Crusaders on their way to leaving a legacy in the program, makes him the 2017-18 Herald Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Kobey Woolhouse capped off an incredible career with a stellar senior season for the Crusaders.

Kobey Woolhouse capped off an incredible career with a stellar senior season for the Crusaders.

“Kobey is the leader of this team,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan. “His ability to play both ends of the floor was key to our success.   Kobey became a go-to guy when we needed to make a play at the end of the game.”

Whether it was big games, clutch shots, or firing up his teammates, Woolhouse simply did it all for the Crusaders.

He showed off his ability to come through in the clutch against SW Christian back in January. With the game tied at 70 and no time left on the clock, Woolhouse knocked down one of two free throws, giving Mayer Lutheran a nice road win. In that game, Woolhouse scored 22 of his season-high 30 points in the second half, willing his team to victory doing whatever he could.

On the season, Woolhouse averaged an impressive stat line (13.8 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per fame, 2-4 assists per game, and 2-5 steals per game). He also shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range.

This season was filled with memories for Woolhouse and the Crusaders. He not only scored his 1,000th career point on his home floor, but also led the Crusaders to a conference title, section title, and the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2000.

It was a heck of a ride for Woolhouse in his final season at Mayer Lutheran. Not only did he leave his name in the record books throughout his career, his team left a legacy, as well.

It was just one season Woolhouse had under new head coach Pat Buchanan. In just one season together, the two developed a relationship that will go beyond their basketball careers.

“When I first met coach,  I kind of knew this was going to be a great year,” an emotional Woolhouse said in an earlier interview. “In four months, it kind of flashed right before my eyes. I try not to take any moment for granted. He came in and changed our culture. We were a very offensive-minded team, and he turned us around with our defense. That’s what got us to this point. He made us want to make that hustle play. The diving play.”

“I know that I don’t want the season to end. All good things come to an end at some point. I’ll definitely keep in touch with him. I’m just really glad that God placed him here when he did. He always preaches the family thing. I know I can come to these guys with anything. I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I know I can go to coach with anything. After high school and college, I know he’s got my back and I got his back. I’m just very happy with what he came in and did with our team.”

Woolhouse will continue his basketball career at the collegiate level next year. He will be trading in the red and black for purple and gold at Northwestern University in St. Paul.