Inhuman Awards announced for winter sports seasonWow, what a winter. Conference champions were plentiful, in team and individual sports. There were so many noteworthy performances, with the senior class stepping up to put in a memorable season.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Wow, what a winter.
Conference champions were plentiful, in team and individual sports. There were so many noteworthy performances, with the senior class stepping up to put in a memorable season.
To honor some of the top performances of the winter, we present the season’s Inhuman Awards.
Most Valuable Offense: Nate Jones, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Austin Zywiec, New Richmond; Zach Dybedahl, Somerset, Robbie Flom, Somerset.
Jones wore a 9 on the back of his Tiger sweater, but it just as easily could have been a target in the center of his back. Every opponent the Tigers played had Jones as the heart of its scouting report. With all the defensive attention he received, Jones still managed to be the Tigers’ leading scorer and be one of the top scorers in the western side of the state.
Most Valuable Defense: Jordan Langness, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Jesse Anderson, Somerset; Parker Olson, New Richmond; Kaleb Kier, New Richmond; Jacob Hilby, New Richmond.
Langness doesn’t get the attention he deserves because good goalies don’t get noticed. They just consistently stop shots and maintain good position, so they don’t have to fly around, trying to make spectacular plays. Langness maintains excellent position and squares up to the puck as well as any goalie in the area.
Most Improved: Jacob Hilby, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Jarek Manske, New Richmond; Adam Marty, Somerset; Drew Kelly, Somerset.
Goaltending was the one major question mark for the Tigers leading into the season. Hilby stepped in and took control of the role better than the team’s coaches could have dreamed. He showed poise and he played his best hockey in some of the Tigers’ biggest games.
Most Valuable: Dalton Sabby, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Gaelin Elmore, Somerset; Tyler Ledbeter, Somerset.
It seemed that everyone around the Middle Border Conference wrote off the Tigers, that they’d never continue their string of conference championships this season. As the only returning starter in the Tiger lineup, Sabby took those snubs personally. He played with attitude and unmatched desire. When you consider scoring, ball handling, defense and rebounding, he may have been the most complete player in the conference this season.
Most Improved: Jake LaMirande, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Alec Knox, New Richmond; Joe Deppe, New Richmond; Gaelin Elmore, Somerset.
LaMirande looked like a bull in a china shop in early season practices. But his hard work turned him into a highly valuable reserve for the Tigers. He’s an exceptional passer and a physical defender who listens to coaching and puts the coaching into action.
Defensive Stopper Award: Tyler Ledbeter, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Dalton Sabby, New Richmond; Luke Praschak, Somerset; Joey Miller, New Richmond.
Ledbeter’s defense was one of the cornerstones of Somerset’s success. He could lock onto any opposing team’s best perimeter player and silence them.
Most Valuable: Sydney Kannel, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Kat Keller, New Richmond; Bridget Kieckhoefer, Somerset.
Kannel emerged as one of the supreme players in the Middle Border Conference this season. By the end of the season, there may not have been anyone playing better. She has multi-faceted offensive skills, with the ability to shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and precisely pass to set up her teammates.
Defensive Stopper Award: Kat Keller, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Sydney Kannel, New Richmond; Amy Kukacka, New Richmond.
Keller has long been one of the most intense defenders in the MBC. This year she added discipline. She used to be a nightmare for opponents until she inevitably fouled out. This year she stayed out of foul trouble. Having her available late in games helped the Tigers pull out close wins they’d lost in previous seasons.
Most Improved: Mattie Kidder, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Sadie Gilbertson, Somerset; McKenzy Johnson, St. Croix Central.
Kidder was emblematic of the rise of the sophomore class for the Tigers this season. They were still a bit shy at the start of the season. But when they got comfortable with varsity level competition, the Tigers took off. Kidder made a big impact on defense. Despite her slight build, she was a tough post defender. And opponents found out quickly that she was a demon at the front of the Tigers’ full-court press with her long reach and deceptive quickness.
New Richmond Girls Hockey
Most Valuable: Paige Charland.
Honorable Mention: Bailey Erickson.
Charland’s high hopes for her senior season were marred by injuries. When she was on the ice, she often wasn’t at full strength, but she was still the undeniable leader for the Tigers.
Most Improved: Bailey Erickson
Honorable Mention: Emma Lepper, Meghan Wolner, Kaylee Bebeau.
Erickson wasted no time this season establishing herself as the team’s second-best offensive threat, behind Charland. And when Charland suffered through injuries in the second half of the season, Erickson elevated her game again, becoming a strong two-way forward who has the skill and vision to be a scoring leader in the future.
Most Valuable: Marcus Malecek, St. Croix Central.
Honorable Mention: Haydon Dvorak, Somerset; Gabe Flandrick, Somerset.
Talk about heavy duty competition. There were seven 100-match winners competing on the teams this season, and several more who will reach the 100-win mark some time in their careers. Among all those elite wrestlers, Malecek stood out this season. Many opponents built their schedules around avoiding Malecek, because they knew it was an unquestionable loss. There are very few wrestlers who make major improvements in every year of their career. Malecek is one of those, using an unmatched work ethic to make himself a superb wrestler.
Most Improved: Austin Bushinger, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Mitchell Kern, New Richmond; Kyle Aaby, St. Croix Central; Adam Lewis, St. Croix Central.
Any of these wrestlers would be a worthy choice for this honor. Bushinger has long possessed the wrestling skill to be a state placewinner. This year he began to trust his talent. His confidence took off, making him nearly unstoppable.
Coach of the season: Jeff Kanewischer, New Richmond girls basketball.
Honorable Mention: Brad Holzer, St. Croix Central wrestling; Rick Montreal, New Richmond boys basketball; Mitch Flandrick, Somerset wrestling.
Kanewischer was able to accomplish something this season that many coaches haven’t been able to do over the past two decades in the Tiger girls program. One of the toughest things in sports is changing a defeatist attitude. The Tiger girls had talented teams in the past, but early losses seemed to wipe out the team’s confidence like a plague. This year, building around an exceptional group of senior leaders, Kanewischer was able to get the team to believe, and to keep believing when the team ran into any struggles.