Archive for HJ Sports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Bloomington Kennedy outlasts Mayer Lutheran in back-and-forth affair

MAYER – For the Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team, the season opener was a true test. Taking on Class AAA Bloomington Kennedy, the Crusaders were without three key players, yet found themselves in the thick of things throughout.

A back-and-forth affair, it was the Eagles that outlasted the Crusaders for a 65-61 victory Tuesday night.

“I think they competed,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said about his guys. “They played hard. You look and there’s only one person out there with starter experience. You’re talking about a bunch of guys who have been role players or JV players. These guys have to go through things and gain some experience.”

Mayer Lutheran’s young talent were on full display in the first game of the season. At times, there were five sophomores on the floor at once. Despite that, the biggest lead of the game on either side was just six points. With the game close the entire way, it put pressure on each possession throughout for both teams.

“We try to take it one possession at a time,” Buchanan said. “We take it one day at a time. We had opportunities there, but things didn’t go our way. We got better, though. Without a doubt.”

Sophomore Tyler Neitzel made a big impact for the Crusaders in his varsity debut. He hit three 3-pointers in the first half, and finished with a game-high 22 points in his first varsity action.

“He’ll get an opportunity to watch film and just learn,” Buchanan said about Neitzel. “He’ll learn how teams make adjustments and how he adjusts to them. He was completely composed tonight.”

Mayer Lutheran had a two-point lead at the half, but just like the first half, neither team could pull away. The Eagles had a 62-57 lead with under a minute to go, but a pair of free throws from Neitzel made it a one-score game.

The Crusaders had several chances to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but couldn’t get one to fall. Bloomington Kennedy closed out the game going 5-for-6 from the free throw line, sealing a win over a pesky Mayer Lutheran team.

“We just need to fix some of the small things,” Buchanan said. “Just be a little more sharp. We just need to get better. We’re going to get better and we’ll be fine.”

Riley Krueger returns

While getting the season officially started is exciting for the Crusaders, it fails in comparison to having a teammate back on the floor with them. Senior Riley Krueger made his first appearance in a Mayer Lutheran uniform after beating cancer last year.

“It just feels great,” Krueger said. “After a whole year without it, I just really appreciate being back.”

There’s no doubt the past year has been tough for Krueger. While being away from the game was hard for him, being back has given him a new appreciation for it.

“It’s just amazing,” Krueger said. “Basketball, I just can’t live without it. Last season just made me really appreciate it.”

Krueger missed all of last season after going through treatment. Having him back on the floor this season is something Buchanan sees as bigger than basketball.

“There’s things and someone bigger than us out here in this world,” Buchanan said. “To see a kid go through and fight the cancer that he has been fighting, and to see him step up on  there on the floor, it’s special. At the end of the day, basketball doesn’t matter. You look at that. Basketball doesn’t even matter. We’ve supported him and we were excited for him. Finally he was in the huddle with us. We’re going to enjoy this. He’s going to enjoy this.”

Krueger finished with four points in his first game back for the Crusaders. While he looks to continue to improve even more as the season goes on, there’s no doubt he will be giving it his all like he always has.

“Just take it one game at a time,” Krueger said. “I just wanted to play with all my heart and go from there.”

Stay connected with the Herald Journal for an in-depth story about Riley Krueger’s journey back to the game of basketball in a future edition.

PREP VOLLEYBALL: 2019 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Team

2019 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball First Team

Everybody loves a good spike or kill when it comes to volleyball. While the area certainly has some players that can put the hammer down when called upon, they also are as versatile as they come.

Below is a look at the 2019 Herald Journal Volleyball All-Area First Team, featuring some of the most versatile players in the area.

Alexa Schumann (HLWW)

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted volleyball team lost a ton of talent from the 2018 team. They also brought back a ton of talent in the form of Alexa Schumann.

The senior outside hitter for the Lakers did it all this past season. She led the team in kills (215) and aces (36), while also being second on the team in digs (222). Schumann’s versatility and all-round talent helped the Lakers overcome the talent lost from a season ago.

With so many players from a year ago gone, Schumann was just one of two seniors on the roster this year for HLWW. Not only was she counted on for talent, but also for her leadership to help develop the younger girls playing alongside her.

“Alexa has had many roles on our team since she was a freshman, and this year as senior, she had an even bigger role to fill,” HLWW coach Brooke Orazem said. “She embraced it and took charge. We looked to Alexa as our go-to hitter in the front row but also getting us passing going in the back row. She is a player that plays with passion and energy that is contagious. She has been a part of a successful program, and has been a huge contribution to it the past few years. There will be big shoes to fill in her spot next year.”

Paige Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)

It’s hard to believe that Paige Thibault is only a junior and will be back for one more year with the Royals. She’s already played in three state tournaments, and this past season, the University of Virginia commit reaches 1,000 career kills and digs.

While Thibault’s skill set makes her one of the top players in the area, she’s also a leader on and off the floor for her team.

“Paige is a great teammate and leader,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “She is committed to the success of her team on and off the court. She’s the best all-around player.”

Thibault was named to the Class AA All-State Honorable Mention this year as a junior. She led the Royals with 454 kills, while also racking up 56 aces and 370 digs.

She was also an All-Conference selection in the Wright County Conference (West) after leading the Royals to a perfect 7-0 record and the conference title. She was selected to the All-Tournament Team at the Class AA Showcase, as well as a captain for the Royals this past season.

Kate Thibault (Watertown-Mayer)

There might not be a more exciting player in the area to watch than Watertown-Mayer’s Kate Thibault. Anyone who has seen a match for the Royals this past season knows the freshman knows how to celebrate a point, and knows how to do so in style.

Thibault gave the Royals plenty to celebrate all season long. She led the state in digs with 606 regardless of class. She also finished with 31 aces, 43 assists, and 36 kills, as she truly did a little of everything for the Royals. That helped her being named to the All-Conference team for the WCC West this season.

While Thibault can do it all on the court, it’s her contagious energy that has a big affect on her teammates.

“Kate is the driving force behind keeping the ball in play,” Raser said. “She’s the spitfire on our team that gets us pumped.”

Lilly Wachholz (Mayer Lutheran)

At times last year, Lilly Wachholz showed flashes of being a go-to hitter for the Crusaders. This year as a sophomore, Wachholz put it all together and was a huge piece to the success of Mayer Lutheran.

Wachholz led the Crusaders in kills with 333, while also recording 62 digs and 68 blocks. With Olivia Tjernagel and Claudia Stahlke gone next year, Wachholz will now be the go-to hitter for the Crusaders, as she’s already proven she can be.

“Lilly is a determined athlete with excitement and fire by her side,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “She led the team in kills this year, and was a very vocal leader.”

Claudia Stahlke (Mayer Lutheran)

One of the most underrated, yet talented players in the state this year was Mayer Lutheran’s Claudia Stahlke. At any point, the senior could take over a match and give the Crusaders a spark.

Stahlke did that time and time again as she was third on the team in kills with 241. She also had 58 blocks, 39 digs, and 13 aces as her versatility was key for Mayer Lutheran.

Stahlke’s toughness also makes her one of the top players in the area. After missing two matches in the postseason with an ankle injury, Stahlke battled through that injury in the Section 2A title game.

“Claudia is an explosive player with a desire to push her teammates,” Grimsley said. “She is full of energy and someone to reckon with at the net.”


2019 Herald Journal All-Area Volleyball Second Team

Setters and liberos are sometimes overlooked players, as everyone loves a good kill. Those kills wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for those setters and liberos, and there’s plenty of good ones around the area.

Below is a look at the 2019 Herald Journal Volleyball All-Area Second Team filled with setters and liberos.

Jenna Pelnis (HLWW)

She may be young, but HLWW’s Jenna Pelnis is proving she’s one of the best liberos in the area.

Pelnis once again led the Lakers in digs this season with 431. She also added 18 aces, 32 assists, and two kills as she has continued to grow into a go-to player for HLWW.

“Jenna plays with true passion and makes everyone around her better,” HLWW coach Brooke Orazem said. “She is a great team player and puts the team’s success over her own. Her skills are second-to-none when it comes to playing defense and serve receive, something that our team relies heavily on in the back row. I’m excited to see Jenna develop even more these next two years and see where she can bring this team.”

Josie Dolezal (LP/HT)

Anyone who watched the Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity volleyball team this season knows how good of a libero Josie Dolezal is. While just one of few seniors on the roster this season for the Bulldogs, Dolezal was a crucial part in all aspects of the game for her team.

Dolezal led the team in digs with 305, while also finishing third in aces with 31. As the libero, Dolezal was leaned on for her leadership all season long no matter where she was on the floor.

“Josie was a key leader on our team this year, and has been a joy to coach,” LP/HT coach Mary Otto said. “She will be missed tremendously. She worked hard all season, was always vocal on the court, and worked so great with all of the other girls. We never had to worry about our back row with her back there. She never let a ball hit the floor without making an attempt at it. She always hit the floor to go after it, hustled to shanked balls, and gave it 110 percent every time.  It was our honor to be able to be her head coach for her final season here at LP/HT. If she takes with her, her work ethic she had on the VB court, she’s bound to go places in her career path she chooses.”

Morgan Chmielewski (Mayer Lutheran)

Morgan Chmielewski had big shoes to fill once she took over the libero position for the Mayer Lutheran volleyball team. She’s done more than just fine.

Chmielewski led the team in digs with 376, and almost was like a second setter on the floor as she tallied 74 assists, as well.

There’s no play on the floor Chmielewski can’t make, and she also offers a sense of calmness for her team, as well.

“She is a calming factor out on the court,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “She’s very determined to sacrifice her body to get that ball up and keep it off the floor.”

Natalie Ernhart (Watertown-Mayer)

Sophomore Natalie Ernhart waited patiently for her time to be the full-time setter for the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team. This year, it was all hers and she didn’t disappoint.

Ernhart stepped right in and delivered time after time helping lead the Royals to a third-straight state tournament appearance. For the season, Ernhart finished with 844 assists, 33 aces, 160 digs, and 28 digs.

“As a sophomore, Natalie stepped up and helped run our offense,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “She was a young leader on our court.”

Emma Lade (Mayer Lutheran)

She may just be a sophomore, but Mayer Lutheran’s Emma Lade has already proved she’s one of the best in the area.

Lade reached 1,000 career assists this season after posting 701 assists alone this year. She split the setting duties with senior Riley Corrigan at times, as Lade’s versatility let her play almost anywhere on the floor.

Lade also had 24 aces, 168 digs, and 12 blocks as she was a key piece to the dangerous lineup for the Crusaders.

“Emma is another athlete that has the fire and grit to continue to work hard and get better,” Grimsley said.  “She led the team and worked very hard at getting the ball where it needed to be to end the rally.”

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Tjernagel’s skillset, leadership net her HJ Volleyball Player of The Year

MAYER – The name Olivia Tjernagel is a familiar one around the world of Class A volleyball in Minnesota. Soon, it will spread beyond Minnesota, if it hasn’t already.

The senior middle hitter closed out her high school career with another strong season, ultimately being named the 2019 Herald Journal Volleyball Player of The Year. This is the second-straight season Tjernagel has been named the HJ Volleyball Player of The Year.

“Olivia is a player that strives to be the best player she can,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “She led by example for others to follow her.”

There’s not many things that Tjernagel can’t do on the court, and she’s been showcasing that the past four years for Mayer Lutheran. She was a four-year varsity player, a two-time captain, and one of the top players in the state this season. For Tjernagel’s impressive career, it wrapped up being one of five finalists for the Ms. Baden Award.

Each year, one player is selected for the Ms. Baden Volleyball Award, which goes to Minnesota’s top senior volleyball player. Only seniors are considered for this award, and the voting is based on career achievements and accomplishments. When narrowing the field to the top five finalists for the Ms. Baden Volleyball Award, each competitive class (AAA, AA, and A) is represented with at least one player in the group. Tjernagel was the lone represenative from Class A.

In her senior season, Tjernagel did almost everything for the Crusaders. She was second on the team in kills with 306. She led the team in blocks with 78, while also recording 20 aces and 71 digs.

For her career, Tjernagel finished with more than 1,000 career kills, and finished second in the state all-time in career blocks with 422. That’s just 39 blocks short of being the all-time record holder in career blocks. Belle Plaine’s Cassie Wolpern holds the record with 461 career blocks.

Tjernagel will continue her volleyball career next season at the University of Northern Iowa. She’ll be a huge piece to replace for Mayer Lutheran going forward, as she’s been to three state tournaments and has won two state titles in the past four years.

PREP FOOTBALL: 2019 Herald Journal All-Area Football Team

2019 Herald Journal All-Area Football First Team

Another year of prep football in the area is in the books. Once again, there was no shortage of talent in the area.

Between the four schools, each team had an abundance of talent on the roster, with at least one player selected to the All-Area team. Below is a look at the All-Area Football First Team.

Noah Bush (HLWW)

For teams going up against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, finding No. 2 for the Lakers is always a key. Noah Bush, a junior who can line up just about anywhere on the field for the Lakers, was another big play threat for his team this season. Whether lined up in the back field or out wide, Bush was a threat to score each time the ball was put in his hands.

For the season, Bush finished with 800 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns. He carried the ball 80 times for 289 yards, while also hauling in 22 passes for 511 yards.

Making big plays was Bush’s game. He averaged 23.2 yards per catch this past season, and had four touchdowns of 35 yards or more in the regular season. Bush continued the big plays into the postseason as he hauled in a 78-yard touchdown against St. Agnes in the Section 4AA semifinals.

“Noah is a very versatile player,” HLWW coach Ben Anderson said, “Not only does he make plays himself, but the attention he draws often sets up many other of our plays offensively.  His speed and athleticism allows us to have big play potential.”

Tanner Scheevel (LP/HT)

The Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs lost one Scheevel from last season. They just replaced him with a younger version. Freshman Tanner Scheevel, who saw some time at the varsity level last year, became one of the best players for the Bulldogs this season, as he simply did it all.

Scheevel led the Bulldogs in rushing, nearly hitting 1,000 yards for the season. He finished with 934 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 160 carries. He also had two receiving touchdowns.

Scheevel also was one of the top tacklers for the Bulldogs, finishing with 74 total tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions.

“Tanner had a very successful freshman year,” LP/HT coach Joe Scoblic said. “He is already a two-time letter winner. He was voted the Most Valuable Back on the team by his teammates, and made the All-District Team.”

Zach Jackson (LP/HT)

In his first year as starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, junior Zach Jackson was the leader LP/HT needed. Whether throwing passes or keeping it and running, Jackson gave the Bulldogs a little bit of everything.

He threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns, to go along with 346 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Jackson played both ways for LP/HT, often tasked with defending the opposing team’s best receiver.

“Zach was definitely a leader on this team,” Scoblic said. “On defense, he was usually put on the oppposition’s No. 1 receiver.”

Ty Hoese (Mayer Lutheran)

Mayer Lutheran head coach Dean Aurich has been around for a long time. He’s not used to seeing a young player lead the way under center. That’s what he got this season in sophomore Ty Hoese, who was more than up to the challenge.

In his first year as starting quarterback, Hoese threw for 1,389 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also ran it 44 times for 223 yards.

Hoese’s strong season has him poised for a big season next year as he returns for his junior year.

“Ty is only the second sophomore to start at quarterback in my coaching career,” Aurich said. “His leadership and game demeanor were equal to most senior quarterbacks, and he had an exceptional year.”

Teigan Martin (Mayer Lutheran)

While the Crusaders had one sophomore under center, their leading receiver was another young talent. Sophomore Teigan Martin burst onto the scene this year, leading Mayer Lutheran in receptions (22), receiving yards (636), and touchdowns (8).

Martin was a big play waiting to happen, as he averaged almost 30 yards per catch this season. With both Hoese and Martin back for two more years, the Crusaders have a dynamic duo to build off in the passing game going forward.

“Teigan, another sophomore, has great height and makes most catches look easy,” Aurich said.  “He has great hands and catches the ball well in a crowd.”


2019 Herald Journal All-Area Football Second Team

The talent in the area continues for the 2019 prep football season. At the high school level, several players are called upon to play both sides of the ball. The members of the 2019 Herald Journal All-Area Second Team feature some players who can do it all on both sides of the ball.

Bennett Paulson (HLWW)

The Lakers had a new quarterback under center this season in Bennett Paulson. Although Paulson started a few games last season, it was his job to keep in his junior season.

Paulson didn’t disappoint in his first year as starting quarterback for the Lakers. He helped the Lakers snap an 18-game losing streak this season with an upset win over No. 2 Concordia Academy in the Section 4AA quarterfinals.

For the season, Paulson threw more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran for 74 yards and one touchdown. With Paulson back for his senior year next seasons, look for him to take a big step forward for HLWW.

“Bennett throws a great deep ball,” HLWW coach Ben Anderson said. “He does a nice job of calling audibles at the line when the defensive front is not favorable for the play that was called.  He knows the offense inside and out.”

Carter Serna (LP/HT)

The Bulldogs had plenty of defensive players who could make a play, but one in particular stood a part. Senior defensive lineman Carter Serna was a playmaker all season long for LP/HT.

Although undersized to play on the line, Serna found ways to make plays. For the season, Serna had 43 tackles and three sacks. Each game, Serna would find himself in a different spot, but would use his relentless attitude to make plays.

“Carter had a good motor on him, which allowed him to create some havoc on defense,” LP/HT coach Joe Scoblic said. “We moved him around a bit this year for what we felt were our best matchups against an opponent. Sometimes he rushed from the inside at defensive tackle, and other times he rushed from the outside at defensive end.”

Ethan Tang (Watertown-Mayer)

The one constant for the Watertown-Mayer football team this year was senior Ethan Tang. When the Royals needed a big play or conversion, Tang was almost always the go-to guy.

On the season, Tang finished with 44 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year. Defensively, Tang had 30 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery.

“Ethan is a product of his own work,” W-M coach Andrew Phillips said. “Ethan received this recognition because of the work he put in during the off season. He transformed his body to be physically ready to play, he also put in the time during our summer sessions to understand our offense and defense, and be ready to help us on both sides of the ball this season. Ethan was a member of our receiving group that set school records this season for completions, and yardage. Ethan came to practice everyday with the plan of getting himself better, but also to get our team better.”

Whether playing offense or defense, Tang was a crucial part of what the Royals wanted to do. He would give it all he had, not matter what the score might be.

“Offensively this season, Ethan was a guy who, if we needed a big catch, we could count on him to give us his best effort,” Phillips said. “Defensively, Ethan improved his game each week, as we went through our season game planning, his name was constantly coming up as a versatile athlete who we moved in different spots and what our game plan was.”

As a senior, the Royals will need to replace Tang next season. That will be easier said than done.

“Ethan provided a tremendous amount of leadership for our younger players and his work ethic in the weight room will be greatly missed,” Phillips said. “Ethan hopes to play football in college next year. We will miss his joy of the game of football, his leadership for our team, and his accountability both on and off the field.”

Austin Crown (Mayer Lutheran)

Austin Crown is a player who can do many things. That’s why he will be a tough player to replace next season for the Crusaders.

Whether he’s asked to block for the running game or run routes, Crown is as effective as they come. Whether he’s asked to rush the passer or defend against the run, Crown does it all.

“Austin has played tight end and the slot positions and has ability to be a great possession receiver,” Aurich said. “We designed numerous plays to sneak him out into the flat, and he was a big play receiver for us.  He was also an outstanding defensive end the past two seasons.”

For the season, Crown hauled in 15 catches for 327 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 21.8 yards per catch, which was the second-highest on the team.

Cody Bonk (Mayer Lutheran)

It’s no secret that Mayer Lutheran’s strength this season was their running game. Senior Cody Bonk was a big reason why.

The senior lineman seemed to come up with the big blocks on every big run for the Crusaders. If that’s not enough, he played both ways, as he was also one of their top defensive lineman, as well. Bonk finished with 51 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his senior season.

“Cody was one of our best pulling linemen and sure tacklers on the team,” Aurich said.  “His motor was always running and worked hard until the whistle blew.”

PREP FOOTBALL: Flucas’ monster season earns him HJ Football Player of The Year

MAYER – When you have a player like Mayer Lutheran’s Zander Flucas, there’s no reason you run him as much as possible. With a young quarterback in Ty Hoese in his first year as starting quarterback, the Crusaders often relied on the running game. Flucas didn’t disappoint.

Throughout out the season, Flucas carried the load in the running game, helping Mayer Lutheran reach the Section 4A title game. With his monster season running the ball this year, Flucas is the 2019 Herald Journal Football Player of The Year.

“Zander’s size and power when he was healthy dominated opposing defenses,” Mayer Lutheran coach Dean Aurich said. “We were a well-rounded team when he was on offense and defense.

Flucas finished the season with 1,423 yards rushing. He averaged more than seven yards per carry, while scoring 19 touchdowns. For the season, he averaged 158 yards rushing per game, and ran for 100 or more yards in seven of Mayer Lutheran’s 11 games.

Flucas had the ability to take over games when needed. Late in the season in back-to-back games against rival Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Flucas single-handedly helped the Crusaders pick up two wins. In those two games, Flucas ran the ball 62 times for 482 yards and seven touchdowns.

PREP GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Hoof’s breakout year earns her Herald Journal Girls Runner of The Year

LESTER PRAIRIE – She’s only in seventh grade, but Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity’s Addison Hoof made a name for herself this past cross country season. The top runner for the LP/HT girls this season had a season to remember. Hoof’s breakout and impressive season earns her the 2019 Herald Journal Girls Runner of The Year.

Hoof had an impressive season, as you’ll see, for any runner. As a seventh-grader, Hoof not only earned All-Conference honors in two different conferences, but also found success in the postseason, as well.

Coming off earning All-Conference honors in the Minnesota Classic Athletic Association and the MN River Conference, Hoof continued her excellence at the Section 5A meet.

Hoof not only ran well at the Section 5A meet, she won the whole thing. She didn’t only win the Section 5A title. She did so by crushing the competition.

Hoof finished with a time of 19 minutes and 4 seconds, which was 14 seconds faster than second-place finisher Madeline Kelly of Providence Academy. Winning the Section 5A meet sent Hoof to the Class A state cross country meet for the first time in her young career.

The big stage of the state meet was nothing for Hoof once again, as she continued her astounding season. In her first time at the state meet, Hoof brought home All-State honors by finishing in fifth place overall out of 175 runners.

Hoof’s time of 18 minutes and 46 seconds at the state meet was also a new personal record for her.

With Hoof back for years to come, the LP/HT girls country team is in good hands, as Hoof proved she was one of the state’s best this year.

There were five other area runners selected to the HJ All-Area Team. Howard Lake Waverly-Winsted’s Gracie Mallak, Brooke Baumann, and Jacklyn Tepley were selected after the Lakers took third place as a team at the Class A state meet. From Watertown-Mayer, Anja Gilbert was selected for the Royals. Also, LP/HT’s Jessa Heimerl was selected to the All-Area team for the Bulldogs after a strong season as an eighth-grader.

2019 Herald Journal All-Area Girls Cross Country Team

Runner of The Year

Addison Hoof (LP/HT)

All-Area Team

Gracie Mallak (HLWW)

Brooke Baumann (HLWW)

Jacklyn Tepley (HLWW)

Jessa Heimerl (LP/HT)

Anja Gilbert (W-M)