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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For his first varsity start, Justin Walm drew one of the toughest matchups against one of the most highly-regarded teams in the Big Nine Conference. Walm, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, was tasked with guarding Northfield’s Luke Harris, a 6-9 forward who is garnering college interest. Walm was thrust into the role after starter Joe Sevlie rolled his ankle Tuesday against Rochester Century. “I was a little bit nervous going into it and stepping into Joe’s spot because he plays such a huge role on our team,” Walm said. “Once I got going, everything calmed down for me.”
LAKE CITY – Even as Zumbrota-Mazeppa jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start Monday’s season opener, Drew Olinger wouldn’t let his Lake City girls’ basketball squad get down. “That’s the thing I kept telling ‘em: you got down early but we were getting the shots we wanted in our offense. They just didn’t fall,” the first-year head coach said.
Even with a 28-20 lead at halftime, Red Wing wasn’t content. Then, Hastings hit a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game. From that point on, the Wingers’ defense laid the hammer down on the Raiders, turning what could have been a close non-conference tilt into a laugher. Opening the second half on an 18-5 run, Red Wing went on to knock off Hastings 66-46 Saturday at Sonju Gymnasium.
Red Wing girls’ basketball has an idea of what they want to be: fast-paced, running up and down the court, forcing an uncomfortable tempo on opponents. While that’s what the Wingers hope to become, that’s what Goodhue already is. And on Saturday, the visiting Wildcats gave Red Wing a clinic on that style of play. Sixth-ranked (Class 1A) Goodhue limited the Wingers to 16 percent shooting (8 of 49) as part of a 62-24 victory at Sonju Gymnasium.
Goodhue has lost two All-State players over the past two seasons. But with the team’s patented brand of high-pressure basketball, the Wildcats didn’t seem any worse for wear. Led by a press that resulted in 27 steals, and a 22-point, eight-steal, five-rebound effort from junior Maddy Miller, sixth-ranked (Class 1A) Goodhue had no trouble putting away River Falls with a 65-42 victory Friday in Red Wing.
In 2014-15, Red Wing girls’ basketball was thrown in flux when the team’s only senior, and top player, went down with a knee injury. The Wingers had to learn on the fly with McKenzie Muelken (and her 13 points and six rebounds a game) in a knee brace. But what was last year’s negative is a strong positive for Red Wing as Muelken is the only absence from last year’s 13-15 squad. “It’s a lot of review, even though we’re only a week in,” said Red Wing head coach Dave Muelken. “We’re just really picking up where we left off last year because of the (returning) kids.”
Travis Toivonen and Ben Munson have been through plenty on the basketball court.
After another intense Red Wing/New Prague matchup, Wingers senior forward Maddy Hardyman was still catching her breath 10 minutes after the final whistle. “I’m exhausted,” she said after a brief laugh. “New Prague’s always a tough team you got to be conditioned for.” And Thursday’s matchup at Prairie Island Arena had plenty of frantic moments: a five-goal second period between the two top-10 teams, and an overtime period that featured a penalty shot and a breakaway attempt in the waning seconds.
Like a broken record, the same question has been posed to the Red Wing boys’ basketball team the last three seasons: what do the Wingers have to do to get to the state tournament? In 2013 and 2014, Red Wing got to the Section 1AAA final, only to be ousted by Austin. Then last winter, as the section’s No. 1 seed, the Wingers came up short in a 52-45 loss to New Prague. “It’s always disappointing to finish where we have the last three years, being so close to what everyone’s goal is in trying to make the state tournament,” said Wingers’ head coach Doug Toivonen.
Two games into the 2015-16 season, the Red Wing girls’ hockey team has been battle-tested against quality Class 2A opponents. While the Wingers have started the year 0-2-0, including a 4-2 loss to a southern Minnesota standout in 15th-ranked Dodge County Tuesday at Prairie Island Arena, it’s a calculated risk for the team as they prepare for 1A competition.