Joe Brown is a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Prior to becoming regional editor, he was the sports editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle from 2012-2018. He also worked as the sports editor for the Marshall Independent (2010-2012) and as a sports/news clerk for the St. Cloud Times (2008-2009). He graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication.
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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.”
MINNEAPOLIS – Safe but fast. Trying to make the swim season last one day longer, that was the philosophy for the Red Wing girls' 200-yard medley relay in the Class 1A state prelims on Thursday as they hoped to improve from the 17th seed to a spot in the finals. “We wanted to finish strong and have super-safe starts,” said Wingers senior Claire King. “We had super-safe starts but that's OK just as long as we got into finals.”
ST. PAUL – Concordia Academy wanted to see how Kenyon-Wanamingo could handle the pressure. The Beacons were the Class 2A runner-up a year ago but came into Friday's state semifinal match as the No. 4 seed against the top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Knights. “We talked about in the pregame, them coming in as a one seed and us as a four and they had a lot to prove,” said Concordia Academy head coach Kim Duis. “They're a great team and we knew going into it that it was going to be a battle.”
ST. PAUL – Initially, Kenyon-Wanamingo was caught off-guard. The bright lights of the Xcel Energy Center, the vibe of the state crowd, the expectations of a No. 1 seed in Class 2A and a strong block by Holy Angels. “There was a big spotlight on us and I don't think we were expecting it to feel like that,” said K-W setter Mia Peterson. “Once we got our nerves out and played our volleyball, we were fine.” Champion-caliber teams find a way to adjust. And once the Knights got their feet on the ground, nothing was keeping them out of the state semifinals.
MANKATO – Jen Nerison pantomimed the motion of taking weight off her shoulders. Because after three straight unsuccessful tries, her Kenyon-Wanamingo volleyball squad finally got past Belle Plaine for the Section 2AA championship. “Monkey off the back,” Nerison said after the Knights walked off the floor at Minnesota State University-Mankato's Taylor Center Saturday night after a four-set victory over the defending state champs, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21. “It feels good now but it's going to feel even better because we're not done with what our goal is.”
NORTHFIELD – With Red Wing boys and girls at the state cross-country meet together for just the second time in school history, both teams felt the ups and downs of the Class 2A championship Saturday at St. Olaf College. The unseasonably hot 70-degree weather and a soft course slowed down times across the board for a race that typically runs slow anyways.