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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.
NORTHFIELD – Carl Kozlowski was bloodied but unfazed when he crossed the finish line Saturday. The Lake City junior admits to having a bad habit of biting his lip during races, but he wasn’t feeling any pain in the Class 1A boys’ state cross-country championship. For the second straight year, Kozlowski took All-State honors, placing third overall in 16 minutes, 17.4 seconds.
NORTHFIELD – A little bit of eavesdropping gave Kianna Stewart a little bit of strategy before the last race of her high-school career. Right before the start of the Class 2A girls’ state cross-country championship, she heard some runners next to Red Wing’s lane talking. “I actually heard some girls talking at the starting line and they were like, ‘Whenever you get tired, think about your arms. It really helps,’ Stewart said. “So the whole time I’m thinking when I’m getting tired, I’ll think of my arms.”
Something special were set in the spring for the Red Wing girls’ cross-country team. Even when the track team was running in the oval, there was always an eye on the fall. “There was a few times late in the spring where I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish it was section cross-country day right now because we’re running so well,’” said Red Wing cross-country head coach Jesse Nelson, who also coaches girls’ track. The foundation was laid in the spring with a solid track season. That work continued with off-season training in the summer.
After the last two weeks, Goodhue’s defensive players think they can stop anyone. There was the Section 1A championship game, where the Wildcats held Fillmore Central to under 100 yards of total offense on the way to a 29-0 victory. Then in the Class 1A state quarterfinals, Goodhue pitched another shutout and held Bethlehem Academy star running back Peyton Glenzinski under 100 yards in a tightly contested 14-0 victory. “Everyone has been playing as a team,” said Goodhue junior linebacker Bailee O’Reilly, who leads the Wildcats with 136 tackles.
Sydney Book was going to give Red Wing everything she had so the Wingers could get out of the first round for the first time in her varsity career. Feeling under the weather throughout Thursday’s Section 1AA-East opener against fifth-seeded Winona Cotter, Book battled through illness with 17 kills, nine digs, three ace serves and an ace block as the fourth-seeded Wingers knocked off the Ramblers in four sets (25-23, 25-18, 20-25, 25-7).
MINNEAPOLIS – Eighth-grader Ava Wallerich and freshman Ashley Thieren may have been the youngest squad in the Class 1A state doubles tennis tournament, but their ability to fight back was beyond their years. After falling to the consolation bracket after a first-round loss, the Lake City duo stayed alive with a three-set super-tiebreaker victory against Crookston’s Tori Demarais and Elisa Samuelson, 6-2, 3-6, 10-6.
In just five matches together, Lake City youngsters Ava Wallerich and Ashley Thieren found the proper mix for a state berth. But some of that chemistry was formed early in the season as the two were both in singles competition. “I started playing three singles in the beginning and Ashley was four. So we were right next to each other and we got really close,” Wallerich said after the two clinched a state berth in the Section 1A tournament last week. “So against Lourdes (in the team tournament), we weren’t used to each other’s style of tennis.