Sports roundup: Dec. 14
Two Harbors boys start with a win, now 1-2
The Agates boys' basketball team started out strong last Tuesday with a close win over Proctor.
"It was a great win for us. The kids played really well," said Head Coach Tom Nelson.
It was a close win at 58-55, with senior Trygve Lodin leading the scoring with 16 points. Senior Charlie Pavlisich added 12 and sophomore Kyler Kinn netted 10 points. Nelson said they only played six players the whole game, so the boys were worn out in the second half. They were winning by 10 points at halftime but the Rails outscored them by seven points in the second half, leading to the close final score.
"They were a little tired at the end," Nelson said.
Travis Carlson was the top scorer for the Rails, netting 18 points.
The next two games were tallied in the loss column, with the team falling to Carlton last Friday and to Ely on Saturday.
"We're having a hard time putting the ball in the hoop," Nelson said.
It was particularly evident in the 32-84 loss to offensive powerhouse Ely, during which Agate shots on net frequently missed their marks. Pavlisich scored almost half of the Agate points in the game with a final total of 15. Lodin added six points by sinking two shots from outside the three-point line.
Nelson also named rebounding as a point of weakness for the team and a reduced depth of bench caused by injuries: senior Kyle Omtvedt and sophomore Alex Lemke haven't hit the court yet this year. Lemke is expected back within a couple of weeks, but Omtvedt is likely out for the season.
Nelson said the injuries are frustrating for the players and the team, but "it is what it is. We're going to focus on who we do have playing," he said.
Similar to the Two Harbors girls' team, the boys' program is undergoing something of an overhaul. Nelson took over as head coach last year, and he and his assistant coaches are working to standardize program goals across the board, starting with the elementary school-age kids and working their way up. Nelson mentioned setting benchmarks so players will develop similar skill sets at each level.
"I knew this was going to be a huge undertaking. We are trying to build this program from the bottom up," Nelson said.
Although the team had just three wins last season, Nelson is optimistic about the new year and seeing his team progress. He said he looks forward to improving every day at practice.
"It's exciting to go to practice with a group of kids that want to work hard," Nelson said.
Nelson will be assisted this season by former head coach Dave MacDonald and junior varsity coach Gavin Bopp. Bill Anderson is coaching the C-team.
Nordic Skiing starts off strong
After only a week on snow and most of their training on dry land, the Two Harbors ski team had a strong showing at its first meet last Saturday in Grand Rapids. Last year, with poor snow conditions, the Grand Rapids race was only 4.9 kilometers. This year, the skiers tackled a 5.4-kilometer race.
Senior Owen Cruikshank led the boys' team with his 21st-place finish in the varsity race, also showing one of the biggest team improvements by shaving 7 seconds off his per-kilometer pace from last year. Junior Drew Christensen came in next for the Agates at 55th place with senior Dan O'Neil and sophomore Everett Hommes not far behind. Sophomores Brad Knight and Jake Hauger rounded out the boys' team. The team came in last, just one point behind Duluth Denfeld.
For the girls, senior Kiersten Haaversen retained her role as the team leader, finishing 14th. Junior Sara Schield came in at 29th followed by senior Savannah Juenemann (41st) and ninth-grader Marina Schreiner (45th). Ninth-grader Jessie Juenemann and senior Hannah Johnson also scored for the girls' team, leading to an overall 6th-place finish out of 13 teams.
Sophomore Scotti Berg and ninth-grader Kari Haaversen competed in the junior varsity girls' race (finishing 27th and 28th) and ninth-graders Jace Jordan and Ethan Compton raced in the boys' junior contest, finishing at 35th and 39th place.
In the girls' junior high race, ninth-grader Abi Seipke impressed by shaving almost 30 seconds off of her pace time from last year and finishing 11th. Ninth-grader Ruby Walsberg came in at 27th. Eighth-grader Mikael Overby was the lone junior high boys' skier from Two Harbors and finished 19th.
"They were looking good for their first race," Head Coach Sarah Haavisto said. They've been focusing on running, balance and technique in practices--whatever they can accomplish on dry land. The snowstorm this weekend was a welcome surprise for the skiers, meaning more time on their skis and less in running shoes.
Haavisto has high hopes for Haaversen, who has qualified for the state ski meet the past two years, and Cruikshank who finished 19th in the Section 7 championships last year, narrowly missing a coveted state qualification. This is Haavisto's first year as head coach, after a couple of years as an assistant.
The team is headed to Ironwood, Mich. this weekend for a training trip. Though Haavisto said the notoriously snowy region is currently lacking in white stuff, she hopes that changes before the team heads out.
"I hope that we have a really good snow season so that we spend a lot of time on the snow and have fun," she said.
Their next meet is Dec. 20, hosted by the Duluth East team at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center.
Two Harbors girls' basketball 3-2
The Two Harbors girls started their season with a tough loss to Cloquet, but things have been looking up since then. They handily beat Marshall on Nov. 30, held off Proctor on Dec. 4 and came out with a win against Carlton on Dec. 6. Ely served them a loss in a close game on Saturday, but the girls' season is looking up.
Junior Krista Keranen carried the scoring game in the Ely match, notching 21 of the 33 Agate points, including one three-pointer. Junior captain Lane Schraufnagel added 7. Marlee Muhvich led the Timberwolves with 11 points.
Their first win on their home turf gave the girls some confidence, but, Lemke said, there are still some areas in need of improvement. The team's greatest weakness is turnovers, many of which are passes gone wrong. To remedy the problem Lemke has the girls working hard at connecting their passes and improving ball handling during practices.
"We've got some specific goals for turnovers (in the upcoming games.) We're really looking to get that number smaller," Lemke said.
Silver Bay boys' basketball team 0-3, aims for growth
The Silver Bay boys' basketball team met a tough opponent in its season opener against Mesabi Academy. The Mariners lost their first game to the Range team by a score of 80-36.
"We were just overmatched," Head Coach Rick Frericks said.
They ran into a steam roller again last Friday against Esko, losing 36-90 at home. They had a better game with Cherry on Monday in which they minimizing the spread to 65-97. Kyle Blood, the only returning starter and a fourth-year starter, led the team with 39 points, with six of the points from behind the three-point line.
The team is currently relying on Blood's experience and Frericks said he will position Blood wherever he is most needed.
This season, with most players starting at the varsity level for the first time, their relative inexperience will be the biggest challenge, said the coach, and they'll have to be quick studies if they hope to compete against teams with more seasoned players.
"The guys are going to have to step up quickly," he said.
Practices will focus on improving overall skill, but there's no substitute for actual games to introduce players to the speed of varsity play, Frericks said. The game-day court will be a baptism by fire for the players.
"It's going to be a growing process this year, but it gets a little easier when you get more experience," he added.
After 15 years of coaching basketball, however, Frericks knows basketball skills aren't the only thing his players are learning. Whether they have a tough year or a successful one, the players are learning teamwork and how to win--or lose--with grace.
"Winning is nice, but what's more important is building character. It's a good venue to learn about yourself. I want the kids to have fun and we have to keep a positive attitude and improve and help each other out," he said.
Silver Bay girls' basketball 1-1
The Silver Bay girls' basketball team won its first game of the season against Fond du Lac on Monday, Dec. 3. Head Coach Dan Johnson, who started his coaching career at Fond du Lac, was happy to start off the season on a high note.
"We played together well," he said.
The girls out-played Fond du Lac by a score of 48-29. Senior Alicia Nopola, a force to be reckoned with at six feet, two inches tall, scored more than half of the team's points, finishing the game with 25. Sophomore Tara Dow also had a strong game, racking up 11 points.
The next game was significantly more challenging, with a tough loss last Friday to Esko. The girls are now 1-1.
In addition to Nopola and Dow, Johnson said he's counting on a few returning starters to step up on the court: senior Jackie Larson, Alicia's sister, junior Brandi Nopola and sophomore Kayla Maleski.
"They've all been playing together for a couple of years," Johnson said.
The girls are coming off of a rebuilding year--they finished last season with a 2-23 record. But Johnson said that the numbers don't tell the whole story. At the beginning of last season, they were losing some games by 50 or 60 points, but by the end they had significantly reduced that spread.
After focusing on fundamentals last season, Johnson said that this year he is working on offensive and defensive plays during practice. He added that some of the girls put in extra effort during the off-season, with many attending camps and working out to stay fit.
"We put in a lot of time. Hopefully we can turn those fundamentals into team play," Johnson said. "We want to be taken seriously and we want to stay positive as a team."