Archive for Sports

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Under new coach, Lakers know teamwork is important

HOWARD LAKE – There will be a new face pacing the sidelines for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted girls basketball team this season. Eddie Kutz will be taking over the reins for the Lakers this season in his first year as head coach.

“We want to bring a new, nasty, feisty edge and be intense,” Kutz said about what he wants this program to become. “That’s something we want back in this program and  I want to bring that, but at the same time we want to have a lot of fun.”

In his first year, Kutz will be looking to improve on the Lakers’ 9-17 record a season ago.

“I know my style is, we’re going to come in here and be pretty loose,” Kutz said. “We’re going to get to work and it’s going to be a lot of smiles, and we’re just going to be loose and have fun doing that.”

It’s a change of pace and coaching style for the Lakers from a season ago. but for the most part. it’s been a positive and smooth transition between coaches.

“I think this year things are a lot more laid back,” senior Ivy Fesenmaier said. “It’s just a much better atmosphere, and that we’re able to play as a team, have fun, but still get things done.”

“It’s not super intense,” freshman CJ Decker said. “But it’s the amount of intensity that we need to be able to be a good team this year.”

It’s only been a week of practices for the Lakers, but Kutz already likes what he’s seeing from his team in the early stages.

“Right now, what I’m seeing is the focus of these kids,” Kutz said. “I can demonstrate a drill, and roll out the ball and they’re getting it right away. I really appreciate that. As a coach, it makes your life so much easier. The energy we come with every day is pretty good. We have a little bit of speed that we will be able to use. I’m liking what I see these first four days.”

Several key players return for the Lakers from a season ago, including Fesenmaier and Janna Hatrick, who will be looked on for their shooting and senior leadership.

“We got some seniors who can shoot a little bit,” Kutz said. “Ivy Fesenmaier and Jenna Hatrick, who I think we will look to for leadership and scoring, as well.”

The Lakers will also have a nice group of core players returning, as well, this season.

“We have a freshman point guard in CJ Decker who’s going to do a lot of our ball handling,” Kutz said. “We’re going to need to rely on her to score a little bit, and hopefully, get to the free throw line. We have some pretty quick kids in Jenna Benson and Macee Streich that are going to help us on the defensive end of the ball.”

As far as the expectations for the Lakers this season, all they’re focusing on is playing well, and playing together.

“We just want to be open-minded,” Fesenmaier said. “We don’t really have, like, individual talent really, but if we’re going to win games, we’re going to have to play together as a team. Teamwork is our main focus this season.”

The Lakers open their season Thursday, Nov. 29 on the road as they take on Rockford.

“We want to be able to just take care of the basketball,” Kutz said about getting ready for the first game. “We want to limit mistakes that we do in practice, and hopefully that translates into the game. We want to play smart and do the little things well.”

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Senior leadership has Bulldogs poised for exciting season

LESTER PRAIRIE – When the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldog girls basketball team takes the court this season, there won’t be any question about who the leaders are on this team. The Bulldogs finished last season with a 26-4 record, and fell one game short of reaching the Class A state tournament, something that still resides in the minds of those who were on that team.

“We had a great year last year,” Bulldogs coach Mike Lee said. “Of course, you don’t want to lose, but we lost by three or something like that. It was within our grasp, and that’s what was hard. When you get beat by 25, 30, you know your season is done. When you get beat by three, you always kind of think you could have been there.”

After having their season come to a heartbreaking and tough end last year, the three seniors this year are determined to get back to the same spot, and finish with a different result.

“We know how it feels, and it sucked last year as a junior,” Madison Radtke said about how last season ended. “We don’t want to feel that way again as seniors. We’re really determined.”

“We want it even more now,” Hope Feltmann added. “Especially because we’re seniors.”

Radtke and Feltmann, along with senior guard Steph Lohse, can already see the positives in this team, even in the first week of practice.

“I think we’re pretty determined to get back where we were, but get that extra step and win that game,” Lohse said. “On and off the court, our chemistry is really great.”

It’s not only the players who have seen a positive start to the season, but coach Lee also sees it in his team.

“Overall, a really good attitude,” Lee said about the first week of practice. “Like every year, they want to come in and be top notch first day. This year with the three seniors, they have huge expectations, and they should. They’ve done a great job for the last four years.”

Although Radtke, Feltmann, and Lohse are talented players with many skills, it’s something else that Lee sees in his captains that should have the Bulldogs  playing well into March.

“Our leadership is great,” Lee said. “Everyone likes our seniors.  Every teacher, every community member, and every kid likes our captains this year, which it has not always been. Some captains we’ve had in the past have been really good, but they didn’t have that likeability. This group does. If Hope tells a kid to do something, they’ll do it. Same for Madi and Steph. That’s the respect there. The leadership is not in question at all this year.”

One key for those three seniors and their leadership is the continuity and being familiar with each other. They’ve been playing together for years, and that’s just one reason the Bulldogs look poised for an exciting season.

“I think for us three, just kind of playing together,” Radtke said about what’s special about playing her last season with her team. “We’ve been playing together since like third grade, so we know each other inside and out.”

That senior leadership, combined with younger players coming in and filling their roles, has the Bulldogs excited about how things look as the season just got under way.

“I think like all the freshman that are coming up are starting to fit in well,” Feltmann said. “They know their roles really well.”

“The six who have played last year were like all really in good sync with each other already,” Radtke said. “The chemistry is really high so that’s good.”

Along with leadership those three seniors bring, other several key players are returning, as well as some new faces as well. One player that has already impressed Lee during the first week of practice, is senior Kaylee Scheevel, who will be looked on for some big minutes this season.

“Kaylee Scheevel has really stepped up this first week of practice,” Lee said. “If she continues, she’s going to really help out this year. Last year she was a role player, this year she’s going to be a bigger role player.”

With the holiday coming up, the Bulldogs have just a handful of practices left before their first game, but that’s not something Lee is worried about with his team.

“We have to just walk through stuff,” Lee said about getting ready for the first game. “The nice thing is that we have enough senior leadership that we can walk through stuff and be ready for the first game. We’ve always talked about, we don’t want to play really well now, it’s the end of the season when we want to play well. They buy into it. That’s what’s nice. These girls buy into it.”

The Bulldogs open their season up Tuesday, Nov. 29 on the road when they take on Randolph.

THE PERFECT TEAM: Crusaders rally together on way to winning state title

ST. PAUL – There’s only so far one player can take a team, but when a group of players come together for one goal, something special happens.

The Crusaders came together, through a season filled with ups and downs, and capped off their remarkable season with a 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-20) win over Caledonia in the Class A state championship game, clinching the first state tournament championship in school history since 1982.

“Honestly, it just feels like a dream right now, junior Madison Hucky said who finished the match with 15 kills, 24 assists, and 14 digs in the win. “ It doesn’t feel real.”

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Hucky, who’s the calm presence on and off the court for the Crusaders, finished off the thrilling match with a dominant kill, handing the Crusaders the state title.

“She’s grown immensely this year,” Crusader coach Joelle Grimsley said. “From the beginning of this year to now, It’s amazing to see what Maddy Hucky has turned into as far as leader. She finished that game. And there’s been games where she’s had the opportunity to finish, and has hit it into the net. She took control of that game and said, I’m done with that, and she finished the match with a kill.”

After the Crusaders came out sloppy again and dropped set one, they dug deep once again, and it was Heuer, the fire and energy for the Crusaders who shook off a tough match from the previous day, and got the Crusaders rolling.

“I knew I just haven’t been playing my best I think all weekend, and today I just really wanted to go with anything I could,” Heuer said. “Just wanted to bring home a championship.”

The Crusaders tied things up at one apiece after an exciting second set, but the Warriors continued to give the Crusaders fits at the net, leaving them frustrated and look for answers.

“We’ve been blocked all this whole tournament it feels like,” Grimsley said. “We were pretty crabby on the bench. We were yelling at each other, and I was yelling at the kids to stop being so crabby. We just kept talking about it, “stop it”, “they’re going to block you”.

The Crusaders could have got down and given up, but that’s just not what this team does. They continue to fight, and continue to play for one another.

“I was like, I’m just going to play my best because yesterday I knew I didn’t do as well as I could,” freshman Olivia Tjernagel said who stepped up big time for the Crusaders when needed. “I just wanted to show them how well I can handle it and just play as well as I could.”

Tjernagel, who finished with 13 kills, propelled the Crusaders to a victory in set four in a set filled with runs throughout.

“It was unbelievable,” Grimsley said about the back and forth nature of the championship match. “I could not believe it. They fight from behind and just persevere. They play resilient.”

It was something the team had their hopes set on since the season began, and it became a reality as the ball fell to the floor of the Xcel Energy Center for the last point, crowing the Crusaders state champions.

“It’s such a blessing,” Grimsley said. “It hasn’t really sunk in, but you know, to accomplish this is one of my goals and purposes and so forth with this group, for our school, for our community. It’s a mountaintop right now.”

If winning a state championship in a back and forth affair wasn’t enough, senior Rachel Roepke, who tore her ACL a season ago, came into serve the last point for Mayer Lutheran.

“I don’t know what came over me to put Rachel into serve,” Grimsley said. “But we knew we wanted to get that senior out there. I yelled Rachel, and I didn’t know who I was going to put her in for.  I almost got a delay of game I’m sure.”

One state title in a high school career is pretty impressive, but don’t think the Crusaders are just satisfied with one as they return all but two players next season.

“We told them, it’s time to repeat,” Grimsley said. “Right when we were in the huddle, ok juniors, freshman, sophomores, repeat. Here we go.”

Whatever happens next season, can’t take away what the Crusaders accomplished this season by coming together, and being the perfect team, who now has a state title with their name on it.

“I think you get lucky as a coach to have the relationships and bond this group did,” Grimsley said. “I didn’t have to work real hard at that this year. Sometimes a coach has to work extremely hard at helping that chemistry, and I thank them, because I didn’t have to this year.”

The Crusaders will have a special celebration for their state championship at the high school Monday, Nov. 14 at 2:25 p.m. at the high school. Hucky, Tjernagel, and Madi Beck were also named to the Class A All-Tournament team as well.

Delano girls rule home ice in debut

What a debut by the Delano girls hockey team.

After years of planning and preparation, the lady Tigers finally got down to business Friday night at home, for the first time, and did so by putting on a show for the standing-room-only crowd at the Delano Area Sports Arena in a 9-1 thumping of Willmar.

Delano junior Jamie Byrne shows off the puck she shot to score the first goal in the history of the Delano program Friday night following the Tigers' 9-1 home win over Willmar. Photo by Matt Kane

Delano junior Jamie Byrne shows off the puck she shot to score the first goal in the history of the Delano program Friday night following the Tigers’ 9-1 home win over Willmar.
Photo by Matt Kane

Junior Jamie Byrne claimed fame as the first goal scorer in the history of the Delano girls program, cleaning up a loose puck at 7:58 of the first period.

Byrne finished with four points, scoring two goals and assisting on two more. Sophomore Emily Olson matched Byrne’s four-point effort but did so using a playmaker (three assists) and a goal.

Byrne was one of six Tigers to score a goal and one of three to score two goals in the program opener.

Senior captain Rylan Bistodeau and sophomore forward Anna Keranen both finished with two goals and one assist.

Anna Kivisto and Hannah Tormanen had one goal each.

Junior goaltender Karly Schmidt made 10 saves on 11 shots. The only goal Schmidt allowed came with less than three minutes to play in the game.

Read the full story and find more photos from the historic night in Monday’s Delano Herald Journal and then online at DelanoHeraldJournal.com.

 

ONE TO GO: Hucky, Crusaders headed to state title game after five-set thriller

ST PAUL – When Mayer Lutheran took the court for the fifth set in the MSHSL Class A state semifinal match, there was a nervous feeling surrounding Crusader fans as they watched the Heritage Christian Eagles rally back to force a fifth and final set. The fans may have been worried, but for the players, they were just fine.

“Just stay calm,” junior Madison Hucky said about the huddle before the fifth set “That’s our game. We just had to start strong.”

The Crusaders dug deep and rallied together as they have all season long as they cruised to a 15-4 win in set five, setting up their first state championship appearance since 1982.

“That’s a tough thing to do when you lose and they had all the momentum,” Crusader coach Joelle Grimsley said. “The other two sets that we lost, we did not start strong. We knew we had to start strong, because they were right there. They weren’t going to let up.”

Junior Maddy Hucky

Junior Maddy Hucky

After getting out to slow starts in the early going in almost every set, the Crusaders did what they do best, which is get aggressive.

“We just talked about getting back to our basics,” Grimsley said. “We knew we had to stay aggressive, and not get into a tipping game. We were there to win it, and we wanted to play like we’re going to win. We had to stay aggressive.”

The Crusaders got the Eagles best shot as they tried to take down the No. 1 seed in the Class A state volleyball tournament, but the Crusaders, who have embraced the top-seed, proved to be too much for the Eagles.

“I know that they have it them,” Grimsley said. “This is the first time that Mayer Lutheran, since the time that I’ve been here, has been ranked No. 1. For me as a coach, you think that you have a target on your back. We just talk about defending that rank that we got and that’s what we’ve talked about this whole tournament. Defend it. You’ve been given that rank. Now defend it. And now we have that opportunity to defend it.”

It was a total team effort across the board for the Crusaders in their semifinal win. Beck continued her solid play as of late, and kept the Crusaders in the match.

“I was just kind of thinking like, if I get a set, then I got to put it down and do my job,” Beck said who finished with 16 kills. “Just hitting it over and inbounds is my job.”

Beck got the Crusaders rolling early, but it was the defensive play by Mya Chmielewski that helped the Crusaders to their first state championship appearance since 1982.

“It just shows how people saw us before the tournament and now we’re showing what we can actually do,” Chmielewski said about the top-seed and how she’s been playing. “I have to get the ball up to help my team. It’s just confidence.”

Chmielewski finished with 24 digs in the win, as Madison Hucky took over offensively down the stretch.

It wasn’t easy for the Crusaders as the Eagles did a nice job taking away what they like to do.

“We knew if one person was not performing like they normally do, we have other people that we can get the ball too to put it down,” Grimsley said. “That’s what this team is about.”

Ultimately it was the Crusaders who broke through in the semifinal round, something that has been their demise in recent trips to the state tournament.

“Oh yea,” Hucky said about reaching the state championship game after missing it her freshman season. “We knew this was the year we were going to do it. I’ve been watching since I was in fifth grade, and it doesn’t even seem real right now that we’re playing for the state championship. It’s crazy.”

“I was about to cry I was so happy,” Beck said about the moment. “It means a lot to be able to go to the championship.”

It was a special moment for the Crusaders when that last point dropped and they were headed to the state championship, especially for Grimsley who will be coaching in her first state championship game in her career.

“I just told my kids thank you,” Grimsley said. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

The Crusaders will face Caledonia in the Class A championship at 1 p.m. Friday at the Xcel Energy Center. The Warriors knocked off T-M-B in the Class A semifinals.

“We can’t do anything different,” Grimsley said. “They know that they just have to settle in and get in their rhythm, and then go. It’s kind of been what they do.

MOVING ON: Crusaders make quick work of Storm in state quarterfinals

KIP KOVAR
SPORTS EDITOR

ST. PAUL – The Mayer Lutheran Crusader volleyball team showed why they are the No. 1 seed in the MSHSL Class A State Volleyball tournament Thursday afternoon.The Crusaders came out firing against Stephen-Argyle, who was making their first state tournament appearance in volleyball, on their way to a win and to advance to the Class A State Semifinals with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-17) sweep.

“It’s huge,” Crusaders coach Joelle Grimsley said about the experience her team has at the state tournament. “You basically have a routine of what you’re doing. We’re very conscious of our time and what needs to be done before, and I think the thing what we stress the most is keeping everything as normal as possible. When you walk in here, it’s a 30 by 30 court, and that’s what we talk about. It’s just another game. Being here, and experiencing it. These kids were here when they were freshman, and they talked about how different it is now as a junior.”

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Even though it was the 12th time the Crusaders were taking the court the state tournament, there was still some nerves to get over. The Crusaders fell behind 11-7 in set one, but regrouped and came together as they finished the set on a 18-6 run to take a 1-0 lead.

“We’ve been playing together for so long, that we all know like who we are and how we play,” junior Madi Beck said about what carried the team this match. “When one gets down, we’re like, “Oh hey, we got this.” We are just such good friends all the time.”

The Crusaders kept things rolling in set two as they jumped out to an early 9-0 lead thanks in part to the serving of Beck.

“This was by far the best team we’ve played all year,” Stephen-Argyle coach Renae Lindgren said about the Crusaders. “We’ve played some AA teams. They’re not nearly as talented as Mayer Lutheran. This was definitely a very good team that we played, and that’s probably why they’re No. 1.”

Beck had three aces in the early going to get the Crusaders going as they took a 2-0 lead with a 25-13 win in set two.

The Crusaders continued their dominance at the net in set three, as the Storm struggled getting their hitting going.

“We always talk about that’s our first line of defense, Grimsley said about her team’s presence at the net.” We do a lot of blocking drills.”

Along with the net presence by the Crusaders, it was Madison Hucky once again who was all over the court making plays.

“We kind of rotate her around a little bit, Grimsley said. “She just has that fire in her eye that she’s not going to let anyone take a game on us. She’s just got that demeanor. She’s not super wild and crazy out there. She just has the demeanor of give me the ball now.”

The Crusaders made another big run to close out set three to pick up the sweep, and it was libero Mya Chmielewski that got things rolling with her serve and defensive play.

“Mya’s got such a great serve, Grimsley said.  “She seems to get a bunch up there. Just having her back there, her strength and her serve, and she’ll get a few aces and it will just skyrocket from there.”

The Crusaders advance to the Class A state semifinals where they will play fourth-seeded Heritage Christian at 1 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in the Class A semifinals. Heritage Christian defeated Underwood 3-2 in the quarterfinals.