By Per Peterson
The defending Section 3A champion Tracy-Milroy-Balaton volleyball team has some big shoes to fill for the 2017 season, but they have seven letter winners returning this year, including four seniors, as they look to return to the state tournament.
Gone from last year’s squad are All-State setter Gabbie Gervais, Lexi Tauer, Kendra Ludeman and Hannah Jensen.
Rick Haberman, who has succeeded Katie Gervais as head coach, likes the make-up of this year’s team. He said the four seniors — Evy Dolan, Kaylee Kirk, Sid Karbo and Syd Lanoue — will be integral in helping everyone mesh together.
“We expect to have outstanding leadership from our four seniors,” said Haberman, who was an assistant under Gervais for nine years. “They are excellent leaders and by far our most experienced players. We will be looking to fill some positions that were lost to graduation. We have to establish who those players will be and in what position everyone fits best, then from there we will need to gel into a cohesive unit. The leadership that our seniors provide will be instrumental in the team coming together.”
Haberman will rely on that core group to help the younger players, especially early in the season.
“It will take a little time, because we have some new kids mixing in with our veterans,” he said. “We have four seniors who have played tons of varsity volleyball, and the rest of the kids have played no varsity volleyball.”
Haberman said there has been a lot of experimenting going on during the first week-plus of practice, as the coaches have tried to fit all the pieces together, leading up to the team’s opener on Aug. 29 at Windom. However the rotation works out, Haberman said it’s important that the younger players adjust to the speed of play at the varsity level.
“Once you get to those first varsity matches, the pace is so much faster than they’re used to,” he said. “The seniors need to be patient with them, but also help give them confidence that they can do it.”
Juniors who are looking to have an impact this year include Brooklyn Ludeman, Cassidy Smith, Samantha Edwards and Kailey Beermann. There are seven sophomores, 10 freshmen, 11 eighth-graders and 13 seventh-graders.
There are 56 girls out for volleyball this year.
MEET THE 2017 PANTHERS
Seniors (4): Evelyn Dolan, Kaylee Kirk, Sidney Karbo, Sydney Lanoue
Juniors (4): Brooklyn Ludeman, Cassidy Smith, Samantha Edwards, Kailey Beermann
Sophomores (7): Catherine Wendland, Olivia Peterson, Carly Holland, Ceara Lasley, Mattea Steffes, Mariah Mayer, Audrey Johnson
Freshmen (10): Kylie Hensch, Jadyn Lessman, Kiana Benson, Rachel Przybilla, Theresa Przybilla, Megan Surprenant, Lauren Verlinde, Kelli James, Jolie Pond, Mady Vandendriessche
Eighth grade (11): Kaylee Campbell, Maddi Langerock, Sheridan Ludeman, Lauren Zick, Camille Dolan, Margaret Dolan, Kiarra Danielson, Chloe Bonderson, Taylor Hanson, Jaysa Davis, Marissa Johnson
Seventh grade (13): Sophia Dieter, Emma Edwards, Elizabeth Fultz, Ella Kamrud, Elsa Landherr, Jordan Munson, Kamryn Peterson, Allee Beermann, Sarita Canto, Hallie Landuyt, Danika Radke, Amber Hensch, Katelyn Swenhaugen
By Per Peterson
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton cross country coach Marie Hanson is excited about this year’s Panther team, no matter how small it might be with just 14 members.
On the girls’ side, the Panthers return a number of veteran runners.
“We have a small, but quality team this year,” Hanson said. “On the girls’ side we have a lot of talent. Alecia (Christian), Brooke (Christian), and Sarita (Hook) will bring a lot of experience and drive to the team. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Dakota (Rolling) can do this year after a year of experience. Together with Makala (Lemburg) they will round out our girls’ team. With Jordan (Munson) and Annaka (Hook) already having some experience we could be quite competitive as a team by the end of the season.”
The boys’ team is considerably smaller than the girls’ with just four runners out this year.
“For the boys, Fritz Landherr will lead the way,” said Hanson. “Fritz came out late last season. I think a full season will really benefit him. Gabe Struchen and John Schmitt are both hard workers and will be a big part of our team.
Hanson said the team will spend the first one-third of the season working on endurance.
“We do throw in some pace-type of workouts in which athletes need to run closer to their race paces,” she said. “We also start to build strength, especially in the core muscles from their shoulders to their knees. We are working on flexibility, which typically includes some yoga type workouts and routines. I look at the first meet as other sports would look at a ‘scrimmage’ type situation — it shows us where we are at, and a clearer, more individualized plan can be formed after that meet.”
The Panthers’ first meet is on Friday in Canby.
MEET THE 2017 PANTHERS
Seniors: Alecia Christian, Sarita Hook, Dakota Rolling
Sophomores: Brooke Christian, Makala Lemburg, Sawyer Schwartz
Eighth grade: Caitlyn Devereaux, Annaka Hook
Seventh grade: Jordan Munson
Sixth grade: Hannah Larsen
Juniors: Fritz Landherr
Sophomores: John Schmitt
Freshmen: Gabe Struchen
Sixth grade: Gage Struchen
By Per Peterson
Things could be looking quite different on the field for this year’s Plum Creek soccer team.
Roger Benson, who is now in his second year of coaching the team, admitted his novice grasp of the game was somewhat of a disadvantage a year ago, but he’s coming into this season with optimism — and more knowledge of the game.
“I have learned a lot from a volunteer coach (Jim Mouldenaur) from the Cities who was a head coach up there,” Benson said. “He is now retired and enjoys helping me out. I am very appreciative of his guidance. I now have some idea of how the offense works in soccer — something we really didn’t have during the first half of the season last year.”
Moldenaur has more than 20 years of experience.
“He doesn’t have to be here, but I think he loves it,” Benson said of his assistant.
Benson said his main goal this year is be competitive with other junior varsity teams. The Penguins, which has 19 members (three from WWG) started last year with back-to-back 9-0 losses to Marshall and Southwest Minnesota Christian.
“I feel more confident this year; last year I didn’t know what to expect,” Benson said. “We had a tough start last season. We’ve improved all the way around from last year.”
Benson said the team improved as the season went on with players being added to the roster and an improved defense.
This year’s 17-member team includes two seniors: Eli Thor and Mai See Thao, and four juniors: Michael Moua, Hayden Landuyt, Joel Byers and Levi Yang.
“We’re looking good,” Benson said. “We have some older, experienced players. We’re farther ahead at this point this year than we were at this time last year.”
The soccer opener is Monday in Marshall.
MEET THE 2017 PENGUINS
Seniors: Eli Thor, Mai See Thao
Juniors: Michael Moua, Hayden Landuyt, Joel Byers (WWG), Levi Yang (WWG)
Sophomores: James Dom, Amy Vang, Amy Vue, Jeffrey Thor, Joshua Herr
Freshmen: Erik Knutson (WWG), Jett Glenn (WWG)
Eighth grade: Grace Hanson, Nick Ankrum, Joseph Anderson, Mitchell Thor, Christina Vang