Archive for HJ Sports

PREP BASKETBALL: Ziermann to have surgery, forgo senior season

LESTER PRAIRIE – For Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity senior Michael Ziermann, his final season as a Bulldog and member of the boys basketball team lasted just one game. Due to an injury Ziermann sustained to his shoulder in football this past fall, he’s elected to have surgery, and miss the remainder of the basketball season.

While the decision was not easy, Ziermann knows it’s the right one.

“It sucks that I won’t be able to play out my senior year with all of my friends, but I know that I have to start recovering,” Ziermann said. “It was just too hard not to be able to play the way that I want to play. It affected my game a lot, and caused me many nights of not sleeping. I knew that surgery was my only option at this point.”

Ziermann has a complete tear of his labrum, a muscle that holds his shoulder in place. The injury was a result of three dislocations of his shoulder that he endured during football, and he will have surgery to repair it Jan. 3.

While Ziermann won’t be able to take the court with his friends and teammates the rest of the season, you can be sure he’ll be on the sideline doing anything possible to help them. Although he won’t be able to contribute on the court, Ziermann believes there are ways to help and stay connected throughout the season.

“I want to stay connected with the team as much as possible,” Ziermann said. “I can contribute a lot with three years of varsity experience.”

While the result of the decision now is tough, Ziermann knows it’s in his best interest going forward. He’s a football and basketball commit to St. John’s University, and wants to be ready to roll when the season comes around.

“It will be very beneficial for college because of the long recovery time,” Ziermann said. “Football starts in August, so I hope to be ready for that. Without the surgery, I wouldn’t be able to play football.”

Gilbert signs with Montana for track and field

WATERTOWN – Watertown-Mayer High School senior Ailsa Gilbert has experienced  a lot in her high school athletic career. Whether it’s been competing at the state gymnastics meet, or bringing home hardware at the state track and field meet, Gilbert always seems to bring her best to the biggest stages.

While she still has one season left to capture more hardware to add to her collection, Gilbert took the next step toward the future of her athletic career when she officially signed with the University of Montana to continue her track and field career at the collegiate level.

“It feels really cool,” Gilbert said about the moment. “I’ve worked so hard with gymnastics and track and field. It’s just signing a paper, but it feels like I actually did it. I accomplished it, and now I get to join a college team. It’s really cool.”

While Gilbert was busy signing her name and making it official, the gym at Watertown-Mayer High School was filled with those who are close to her. While it’s Gilbert’s moment to take in, she never forgets how much those people in the gym mean to her.

“It’s amazing,” Gilbert said about the support she has. “They’re always here to come and watch me and support me. They’ve been through it all. It’s awesome that my friends, my teammates, coaches, and family members all came out. It means a lot to me.”

Choosing a college can be difficult, but Gilbert just believed that Montana was the place for her.

“I was looking at another couple, but I just feel like the University of Montana just had so much to offer,” Gilbert said. “I felt very comfortable there. I love the campus, and the team is super cool.”

While the campus of the University of Montana is nearly 1,200 miles away from home, Gilbert is excited to get back out there again once her high school career is over.

“We have family friends out there, but I went out there on my official visit and it was an awesome time,” Gilbert said. “I had a blast. I’m excited to get out there again.”

Although Gilbert has plenty of hardware to her name already in her high school career, she knows that college competition is on a whole other level. While she might be nervous for some things, she’s eager to work on the little things that will help her improve in the long run.

“I’m nervous for lifting at the college level,” Gilbert said with a laugh. “I haven’t been in the weight room a lot, but I’m excited to improve my muscles. I also just want to work on technique. They are so much more advanced and have all this equipment and resources that I’m excited to use and get better.”

While eager to get her college career going, Gilbert will be looking to simply enjoy her final season in a Royals uniform. She’d like to defend her title in the triple jump this season, but in the end, it’s all about enjoying her final season.

“I just want to get some new personal records and have fun with it,” Gilbert said.

Balanced attack leads Crusaders to win over Cedar Mountain

MAYER – The Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team may have lost several key players from last year’s state tournament team, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to make another run this season. Despite losing six seniors from last season’s team that made school history, the Crusaders have used their younger players to step up and get off to a good start this season.

Even though several new players are getting their first taste of varsity, the Crusaders kept things rolling with an impressive 69-47 victory over Cedar Mountain Monday night to improve to 2-0 on the season.

“They’ve handled it wonderfully,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said about younger players stepping in. “They know their roles and they’re buying into their roles. This puzzle of what we’re trying to build will come together when everyone plays together.”

Despite outplaying the Cougars in the first half, the Crusaders had just a 10-point lead at the half. After going over a few things in the locker room, the Crusaders came out swinging in the second half.

“I think our defense was perfectly fine,” Buchanan said. “I just thought that offensively, we were stagnant. We weren’t going through our offense. We stopped and started playing their game. That’s not our game. That’s not how this offense works. That’s not how we play.

Mayer Lutheran opened the half on a mission. Jacob Pallas and Zander Flucas each knocked down a 3-pointer early, all of a sudden giving the Crusaders an 18-point lead.

“We always talk about the first five, and last five minutes of each half,” Buchanan said. “We came out swinging right away. We knew if we could do that, we could really set the tone. We always want to set the tone.”

The Crusaders got back to their style of play in the second half while continuing to play good defense. With just over nine minutes left to play, the Crusaders had a 20-point lead.

“Just ball movement,” senior Kaleb Winter said about the difference in the second half for his team. “As a team, we were getting into the post and looking for that and getting a lot of shot opportunities.”

The Crusaders cruised to the win the rest of the way as four players scored 10 or more points in the victory. Baden Noennig led the way with 16 points, while freshman Teigan Martin continued to play well with 12 points. Brendan Feltmann and Zander Flucas also both finished with 10 points.

“It makes things really difficult,” Winter said about the balanced scoring. “It could be anyone’s night. We love to share the ball. We’re a very unselfish team. It makes us very dangerous.”

A big part to the early success for the Crusaders this season has been the return of guard Jacob Pallas. Pallas, who missed most of the season last year with injury, is back and fully healthy, to give the Crusaders a leader on the floor and get the offense rolling,

“It’s wonderful,” Buchanan said about having Pallas back. “He’s our floor general out there. He’s still a sophomore when you talk about basketball. He’s only got seven games in and we played 34 games last year. He’s going to get better and better as the season progresses. That means we’re going to get better and better as a team.”

Although the Crusaders have opened the season with back-to-back wins at home, they’ll get a good test in their next matchup with the North Woods Grizzlies Saturday at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic. Both Mayer Lutheran and North Woods are ranked in the Top 10 in Class A, and will be looking for a signature win early in the season.

“It’s going to be another game,” Buchanan said. “North Woods won’t be happy with what happened to them in their second game against Cass Lake-Bena. They’re going to be ready to go. We’ll be fully prepared for them. We’ll be ready to go out to a great atmosphere. It’s a privilege to be invited to that Breakdown event. We’re going to take advantage of it. We’re trying to bring a show over there, and we’ll see what happens.”

Mayer Lutheran 69, Cedar Mountain 47

CEDAR MOUNTAIN: Andre Larsen 2, Tavi Nelson 3, Lewis Pendleton 29, Devonte Charles 3, Jon Varner 1, Justin Lumbar 2, Trey Peterson-Juhl 7.

MAYER LUTHERAN: Austin Crown 2, Mark Masters 1, Jacob Pallas 3, Brendan Feltman 10, Eric Lizalde 6, Zander Flucas 10,  Brady Harnung 2, Baden Noennig 16, Kaleb Winter 4, Sawyer Kubasch 3, Teigan Martin 12.

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Timberwolves. In case you didn’t read it, I will give you a brief recap. It was a piece being (probably unrealistically) optimistic that the Wolves could be a better team without Jimmy Butler. That his demeanor, his distractions, and his overall horrific presence in the locker room leaving this squad would free up everyone to just play basketball again.

Thus far, they just might be a better team without Jimmy Butler.

After starting 4-9 with Jimmy, the Timberwolves have since gone 7-2 and are 11-11, a half a game back of the 8 seed in the playoffs.

After being ranked 29th in the NBA in defensive rating with Butler in Minnesota, the Wolves have gotten their SEASON TOTAL ranking all the way down to 16th.

Without Jimmy Butler, the Minnesota Timberwolves had the 3rd largest victory in franchise history, beating the San Antonio Spurs 128-89 on Wednesday night. Two important things to note in this game: 1. The Wolves held the Spurs to 9 second quarter points and held them to a 39% shooting percentage for the game. 2. Newly acquired Robert Covington was +44 when he was on the floor, the highest plus/minus in franchise history (other than 4 starters of a 2001 blowout of the Bulls. Shoutout to Joe Smith! – completely worth the 4 1st rounders)!

There are plenty of reasons this turnaround has happened. First, Robert Covington has shined like nobody really thought possible. The current NBA leader in steals has been nothing short of spectacular in his time in Minnesota. Not only is he the steals leader, but he is the only player with over 30 steals and blocks and the only player in the league in the top 20 of each category. Averaging 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2.75 steals, 1 block, and 3 made 3’s a game at a 40% rate, Covington is exactly the “3 and D” support piece that they needed to find success.

Another huge reason the Wolves have been fun to watch is the renaissance of Derrick Rose. Rose is 2nd on the team in scoring at 19 points per game (off the bench mind you! Do I hear MVP chants? Alright maybe just 6th man of the year). Averaging 3 rebounds and 5 assists helps round out his game and sporting a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.7 (which is right behind Towns), Rose has fully exceeded expectations.

This might have to do with his increased focus on being a pesky defender… Or it might have something to do with his 48.6% 3-point percentage, the highest of his career by over 14%. Or it might just do with his endless heart, dedication, and determination to be a great player and teammate. This was seen when Derrick scored a career high 50 points on Halloween in a 128-125 win over the Utah Jazz, as he cried and his teammates mobbed him overjoyed for the former league MVP.

It is amazing what getting rid of a horrible teammate can do to a team’s morale.

Lastly, we cannot forget about the centerpiece, Karl-Anthony Towns. Although he has seen a slight dip in points and field goal percentage, Towns has still been the workhorse and leader of this team. He hasn’t made a big step up like some were hoping, but at 20 points and 12 rebounds on 50% shooting (and 40% from 3), he has been a steady star for this improving by the minute Wolves squad.

You might have noticed that I did not mention Andrew Wiggins. There is a lot to be positive about with the way the Timberwolves are playing and I wanted to focus on that. Averaging a career low in points per game and a shooting percentage that is 7% points worse than his career low, it is sad to think about. Hopefully he can turn things around.

See? Even mentioning Wiggins brought my mood down. Back to the happy thoughts. Jimmy Butler, the arrogant, selfish, mean spirited, horrible teammate is gone and gone for the better. Yes, Jimmy was a great player, but his presence made basketball miserable for everyone.

We might not win a title this year, but I know I am having a heck of a lot more fun watching KAT, Covington, Rose, Gibson, Teague, Dieng, Jones, and Saric play and grow together as a team. And based on their performance and attitude, I would guess they are having more fun playing together too. They might not be a list of All-NBA players, but trust me, the sum is greater than the parts.

2018 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Team

2018 Herald Journal All-Area First Team

WINSTED – Another exciting season of high school volleyball has come to an end. Talent in the Herald Journal coverage area was on full display once again. Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran both reached the state tournament, while Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted enjoyed one of its best seasons in the past five years. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity had a tough season record-wise, but were able to give multiple girls some valuable experience at the varsity level that bodes well for the future.

The Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Team is comprised of players from the four schools we cover (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Watertown-Mayer, and Mayer Lutheran), and is broken into two teams (All-Area First Team and All-Area Second Team). There is also a Herald Journal Volleyball Player of the Year Award. Below are the players that have been selected to Herald Journal All-Area First Team.

Claudia Stahlke   (Mayer Lutheran)

After being a nice role player for the Crusaders the past two seasons, Mayer Lutheran’s Claudia Stahlke burst into the spotlight this season. The junior middle hitter was a big reason the Crusaders were able to reach the state tournament for a third-straight season, and the awards came with that.

Stahlke was named All-State in Class A by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association. She was an All-Conference selection for the MN River Conference. At the Class A showcase, which features some of the best teams in the state in Class A, Stahlke was named to the All-Tournament team.

On the season, Stahlke was second on the team in kills with 278 on the year. She averaged 2.5 kills per set, with a 36.9 kill percentage. Stahlke also had 111 blocks on the season, 36 of which were solo. She was no slouch defensively either, finishing with 36 digs.

At the state tournament, Stahlke elevated her game even more for Mayer Lutheran. In three matches, Stahlke finished with 46 kills, and had 14 or more kills in all three matches.

Her best game of the season came in a tough five-set thriller against Medford in the Class A state quarterfinals, in which she finished with 17 kills. In the last five matches for the Crusaders this season, Stahlke finished with 12 or more kills in every one of them.

Stahlke will be back for her senior season next year for the Crusaders, and will be looking to get back to the state tournament once again. With just one senior (Symone Jopp) on this year’s team, a return trip to state and an All-State selection isn’t out of reach for Stahlke and the Crusaders.

Isabelle Roufs    (HLWW)

It was a season to remember for HLWW senior Isabelle Roufs. As the go-to hitter for the Lakers this season, Roufs always seemed to be able to deliver in the clutch.

In a regular-season match against rival Annandale, Roufs brought her best. She finished with a career high 31 kills to help lead the Lakers to a 3-1 victory. Roufs followed that up with 27 kills in the Section 6AA tournament against the Cardinals in a thrilling five-set match.

Roufs was named All-State for Class AA this season for her performance on the court. While her time is over in a HLWW uniform, she’ll continue her volleyball career at Central Connecticut State University next year.

Janessa Berrios    (Watertown-Mayer)

While the season didn’t exactly end the way Janessa Berrios wanted it, that doesn’t take anything away from how she played before an ACL injury kept her sidelined for Watertown-Mayer’s run to the state tournament for a second-straight season. Even with the injury, Berrios still got the recognition she deserved.

Berrios was named All-State for Class AA despite missing the last three weeks of the season. Before the injury, Berrios was one of the top players in Class AA, and had the Royals rolling to open the season.

Berrios was already at 300 kills before the injury, and helped Watertown-Mayer get off to a 15-2 start. Berrios suffered the ACL injury against Hutchinson Oct. 11, and missed the final game of the regular season, as well as the postseason.

Nikki McDonald (Watertown-Mayer)

While the Royals were without Berrios for the postseason, they still had their fearless leader in Nikki McDonald. Whether it was with her play or attitude, McDonald was the leader for the Royals all season long.

She recorded her 2,000th career assist at the Class AA state tournament, the same spot she recorded her 1,000th career assist. On the season, she finished 820 assists, which ranked fourth in the state regardless of class.

McDonald was the heart and soul of the Royals all season long, especially in the postseason as they overcame the absence of Berrios to make their second-straight state tournament appearance. With her leadership and skill set, McDonald will be a big piece to replace next season for the Royals.

Paige Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)

The name Paige Thibault will be on this list at least a few more times. The sophomore outside hitter for the Royals stepped up her game this season, and quickly became one of the top hitters in the area.

Just a sophomore, Thibault was the go-to hitter for the Royals after Berrios’ injury. The Royals leaned on her and her powerful swing through the Section 5AA and Class AA tournament. She racked up 340 kills this season, but also was able to do it with her defense.

While the Royals lose five key seniors from this year’s squad, Thibault gives the Royals a great piece to build around for two more years.


2018 Herald Journal All-Area Second Team

Lanney Loebertmann (HLWW)

There’s not much Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Lanney Loebertmann can’t do on the court. The energy she brings, the passion she plays with, and the skill set she has is a big reason the Lakers enjoyed one of their best seasons in a decade this year.

Loebertmann reached the 2,000 career assist milestone against Eden Valley-Watkins Oct. 11, and helped lead the Lakers to another successful season under head coach Brooke Decker.

Loebertmann had a knack for getting the ball in the right spot. While she had plenty of hitters to set up, she always knew the right time to pull the trigger herself and catch the opposing team off-guard by going over on two.

Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

Stepping into a bigger role this season, HLWW’s Alexa Schumann delivered. Schumann was a perfect second option for the Lakers this season, and was a big reason  the Lakers enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory.

The junior outside hitter can do it all. Whether it’s laying the hammer down for a kill, taking a kill away with a dig in the back row, or serving up another ace, Schumann is a threat anywhere on the court.

With the Lakers losing Roufs next season to graduation, Schumann will take on an even bigger role for HLWW. She’s been on the varsity level since her freshman year, and will be a key player and leader for the Lakers next season.

Kate Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)

In the program, she’s just an eighth-grader. On the court, she looks like a veteran player that’s been doing it for years.

Watertown-Mayer’s Kate Thibault stepped up big time for the Royals this season, taking over the libero duties as an eighth-grader. It’s safe to say the job is hers for the next four years as she earned respect from her teammates and opposing teams for her play.

Thibault was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Class AA showcase this season, and showed she can handle the pressure under the bright lights of the state tournament this season at the Xcel Energy Center.

Kylie Hoese (Watertown-Mayer)

There’s something about the state tournament that brings out the best in Watertown-Mayer’s Kylie Hoese. The senior outside hitter had two of her best performances on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center, giving the Royals a spark they needed in both matches.

In two matches, Hoese finished with 27 kills, including 18 kills against St. Cloud Cathedral in the second match of the tournament.

Hoese gave the Royals another threat at the net to go along with Paige Thibault. While she was solid all season long, she stepped up her game once again in the postseason to help the Royals get back to the state tournament.

Lily Wachholz (Mayer Lutheran)

In her first season at the varsity level, Mayer Lutheran’s Lily Wachholz showed what she could do. Despite being a freshman, Wachholz made her impact on the court throughout the year, giving the Crusaders a weapon at the net for years to come.

Wachholz finished the season with 218 kills, which was the third-most on the team. She also had 75 blocks on the year, which was third-most for the Crusaders, as well.

The state tournament stage was not too bright for Wachholz. Instead of it being too much for her, the 6-foot-1 outside hitter finished with 27 kills at the Class A state tournament in three matches. She was a consistent threat throughout the tournament for the Crusaders, finishing with nine kills in each match.

Wachholz’s best performance of the season came against Jordan when she finished with 13 kills. She also racked up 13 kills two other times, once against SW Christian in a five-set match, and once against BOLD in the Section 2A North Sub-Section title game.

2018 Herald Journal All-Area Football Team

2018 Herald Journal All-Area Football First Team

WINSTED – What a season it was around the area for prep football. Whether it was upsets, big-time performances, or games coming down to the wire, there was plenty of action for prep football fans to enjoy this fall.

With several teams finding success this season, there was also a good number of players who had impressive seasons for their respective teams.

Below is the Herald Journal All-Area Football First Team.

Brock Bangasser (HLWW)

When teams played against the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted football team this season, there’s one player they always had to know where one player was – HLWW senior Brock Bangasser.

Teams would make make a conscious effort to run away from Bangasser. The 6-foot-7 lineman was a force to be reckoned with all season long. In the first round of the Section 4AA tournament, St. Agnes took extra time to flip run plays away from Bangasser, knowing how much he can disrupt an offense.

Michael Ziermann (LP/HT)

He’s been the starting quarterback for the LP/HT football team the last four seasons. Up till this year, he’s never won a playoff game. Senior Michael Ziermann changed all that, as he helped lead the Bulldogs to a thrilling run, winning the Section 4A title and reaching the state tournament.

Ziermann saved his best for last, turning in the best season of his career in his final go-round. He took care of the ball this season, and made the big plays when needed, as the Bulldogs found their groove at the right time.

He finished the season with more than 1,700 yards passing, while throwing 15 touchdowns with just six interceptions.

Dylan Ruzicka (LP/HT)

When it comes to toughness, LP/HT’s Dylan Ruzicka is near the top. Despite battling a nagging knee injury all season, Ruzicka was a monster in the backfield for the Bulldogs this season.

Whether it was grinding through the middle for a few yards, or catching passes on the outside, Ruzicka is a threat anytime he touches the ball. He finished with more than 500 yards rushing and almost 400 yard receiving. Finding the end zone was no surprise for Ruzicka, as he finished with 10 total touchdowns. Ruzicka was also an All-District Award winner.

Mitch Thiesfeld   (Mayer Lutheran)

There might not be a more explosive player in the area than Mayer Lutheran’s Mitchell Thiesfeld. He had just 32 catches this past season, but they were big catches, as he finished with 725 receiving yards. That’s an average 22.7 yards per catch.

Thiesfeld also had a knack for finding the end zone with his big catches. He finished with 11 touchdown receptions, nine of which came from 20 yards or more. He also finished with 230 yards rushing and two touchdowns, earning All-District Award for the Mid Southeast (West) District.

Kaleb Winter (Mayer Lutheran)

It’s not often a lineman can have a huge impact on the game. That’s exactly what Mayer Lutheran gets when Kaleb Winter puts on the pads.

The senior lineman did it all for the Crusaders this season. Whether it was creating holes or holding his own in pass protection, Winter was a big reason the Crusaders had an explosive offense.

On defense, Winter was the signal caller and heart of the defense. Winter had 10 or more tackles in all but one game this season. His best game came against Medford, in which he recorded 21 tackles. He also had two sacks against MN Valley Lutheran. Winter was an All-District Award winner, as well.


2018 Herald Journal All-Area Football Second Team

Nathaniel Hausladen (LP/HT)

Every football team needs a grinder, and that’s just what Nathaniel Hausladen brought to the LP/HT football team this season. Whether it was blocking on the offensive line, sneaking out to catch passes, or clogging holes for opposing running backs, Hausladen was one of the most important players for the Bulldogs this season.

Hausladen was a senior captain for the Bulldogs and earned All-District honors. He finished the season with more than 60 tackles, and had two interceptions, including a pick six, for the Bulldogs on defense this season.

Austin Crown (Mayer Lutheran)

Whether it was sealing blocks for running backs or catching touchdowns, Mayer Lutheran’s Austin Crown was an important player for the Crusaders this season. The senior tight end was a big threat in the red zone, and brought his best in big games.

On the season, Crown finished with 26 catches for 593 yards and nine touchdowns. He had four games with two touchdowns, including hauling in two scores against United South Central. In that game, Crown finished with three catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Zander Flucas (Mayer Lutheran)

Despite being limited to start the season, Mayer Lutheran’s Zander Flucas had another big season for the Crusaders this year. In just eight games, Flucas ran for almost 700 yards, while racking up nine touchdowns.

Flucas had his biggest game come against the Bethlehem Academy Cardinals, in which he rushed 25 times for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Being just a junior, Flucas will be back next season for Mayer Lutheran to wrap up his high school career. With several key players gone next season, Flucas will be a major key to the offense for Mayer Lutheran next year.

Carter Entinger (Watertown-Mayer)

While the Watertown-Mayer football team didn’t win a game this season, senior Carter Entinger was the bright spot for the Royals. Entinger, a senior who’s battled tough seasons before, was the leading rusher for the Royals.

On the season, Entinger rushed 131 times for 442 yards. His best game of the season came against Holy Family, in which he ran for 96 yards.

Baden Noennig    (Mayer Lutheran)

It was another season with Baden Noennig under center for the Crusaders, and he didn’t disappoint. He earned All-District for his performance on the field, and was also named the Offensive Player of The Year for the Mid Southeast (West) District.

On the season, Noennig completed 92 of 216 passes for 1,807 yards and 20 touchdowns. To go along with 20 touchdowns, Noennig had just five interceptions. On the ground, Noennig also rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns, as well.