Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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Replacing some top-end swimmers from last year, including a two-time state champion, is a daunting task for any team. But the Red Wing boys’ swimming and diving team still has plenty of top-end talent diving back into the water this winter. So what could have easily been a rebuild seems more like a reload with experience and talent up top mixed with youth and potential down the line. “We got a lot of good guys in upperclassmen but a lot of potential in the lower ranks,” said senior Konner Brickey. “Hopefully we can capitalize on that.”
Drew Olinger patrolled the sidelines of Sonju Gymnasium in a Red Wing boys’ basketball jacket. But when he came out of the locker room after the game, the Wingers’ first-year coach was smiling, with wet hair and a gray hoodie that seemed out of place with his black slacks. After getting his first win of the season Friday, a 67-54 Big Nine Conference victory over Rochester Century, there was cause for celebration in the locker room.
MINNETONKA – Getting to the top is hard enough. Staying on top is a whole different challenge. On Saturday, Goodhue learned that lesson first-hand. In a showdown between two of the top Class 1A teams in Minnesota, what was pegged as a marquee game turned into a laugher with Mountain Iron-Buhl rolling through the defending state champs 78-34 at the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins High School Saturday. It was a humbling experience for the Wildcats, but one that head coach Josh Wieme doesn't want the team to forget.
HASTINGS – It was a night of new beginnings on Friday. As Hastings and Red Wing took the court on Friday night, both teams had to replace senior-heavy lineups. In the Wingers’ case, they had to replace the entire starting lineup of a team that took third place in the Class 3A state tournament last season. And on the bench, Drew Olinger took the helm for his first game as Red Wing’s head coach. And in the beginning of Friday’s game, things looked promising when the Wingers opened with an 8-0 lead in the first four minutes.
For years, the Red Wing girls' hockey team was known for being a fast-skating high-scoring juggernaut that thrived in transition. This year's iteration of the Wingers is more of a scrappy lunch pail group, according to head coach Scott Haley. And that was an appropriate description of his team after Red Wing came off the Prairie Island Arena ice Tuesday with a 3-0 victory over Mahtomedi. “We're trying to play a different style. It's taken some time for the kids to adjust but I think they did a terrific job,” Scott said.
Goodhue's press and 2-3 zone is usually enough to leave any team reeling. But if you have four experienced ball-handlers and a trio of sharpshooters along the perimeter, the Wildcats have to go a little out of their comfort zone. “We went man-to-man and we really haven't played man for over a year,” said Goodhue junior Sydney Lodermeier. “That was a different look for us. That was a challenge but we knew we had to do it in order to stop their shooters.”
Goodhue is steadfast in its brand of basketball. High-pressure defense, points off turnovers and an inside-out game that leads to 3-pointers if the Wildcats can find the hot hand. Goodhue basketball brought the team a Class 1A state title last year. And if something isn’t broke, why fix it? “We’ve been working a lot on (the defense). It’s a new season, we’re starting over playing our same defense with new people and new things,” said senior guard McKenzie Ryan.
Red Wing hit the ground running in the opening week of practice. Not only are they trying to implement an even faster pace from last year’s team in hopes of improving on an 8-18 record, they are doing so with a new coach in former JV coach Jesse Nelson. One practice in particular, the Winger girls were feeling it. “We had one three-hour practice that was really rough,” said senior guard Morgan Zebro. “The pace is going to be pretty fast. As long as we’re focusing when playing fast, we’re having a better time.”
It was a junior high tournament where Jen Nerison saw a special player. Working as an assistant coach at the time at Cannon Falls, Nerison was helping out with a home tournament when she watched Kenyon-Wanamingo take the floor. One player caught her eye: Mara Quam. “She was easy to spot,” Nerison said. “I thought to myself, I can’t believe she’s playing seventh grade. If I were in the program, she’d be playing C-squad. You could see from a young age she was going to be very good.”