Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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The St. Croix Central football coaches came to the realization that they may have been overwhelming the young lineup the Panthers are using during the team's first two games of the season. So as the Panthers shift toward their Dunn-St. Croix Conference opener this Friday, expect to see a simpler, more direct game plan when they play at Colfax. The Panthers went 0-2 in the non-conference start to the season, including a 35-18 homefield loss to Barron last Friday.
Friday's game against Ashland was what the Somerset boys soccer team was pointing toward, with the hopes of proving that the Spartans were as good as any team in the Division 2 sectional tournament bracket. The Spartans found out they still have some work to do, after they were defeated by the Oredockers 3-0 at the Somerset High School soccer field. Ashland and Amery were the Division 2 sectional semifinalists from this area last year and Ashland has already defeated Amery 2-1 this season.
For the past few years, the New Richmond boys soccer team has faced St. Paul Academy. Each time, the Tigers have taken their lumps from the standout Minnesota program that reached the MSHSL state championship game last year. This year, the story was different. SPA graduated 13 players, while New Richmond fields an experienced, savvy team that has developed a keen knack for controlling the ball. The Tigers were able to dominate time of possession in defeating SPA 3-0 on Friday.
Every match for the New Richmond girls tennis team this season has been a battle. The Tigers finally got their first chance to relax on the court this season, scoring a 7-0 win over Mondovi in a Middle Border Conference match on the Tigers' home courts last Thursday. Mondovi and New Richmond were two of the MBC teams hit most severely by graduation last season. Mondovi graduated six players from its 2012 lineup while the Tigers returned just two starters from last season.
If there was any doubt about the strength of the New Richmond cross country teams, the Tigers answered them with a resounding "Roar" at the 2013 Eau Claire North Husky Invite on Saturday. New Richmond's girls took second place among seven full varsity teams while the Tiger boys ranked fourth among 10 teams in the meet. The Tiger girls finished second behind a dynamic Eau Claire Memorial team which had seven of the top 11 runners in the race. New Richmond was led by senior Maddie Kelly, who placed fourth overall. Her time of 20:18 was a personal record for the 5K distance.
When Tiger coach Beth Kelly had more than 50 runners out for the cross country team in 2012, she thought she'd never see interest like that again in the program. Imagine the surprise she got when 69 kids joined the team this year. With 37 boys and 32 girls, the Tiger cross country program is exploding like never before. "It's a good problem," Coach Kelly said. "I remember when I thought it would be good to keep five kids from every grade. Now we've run out of uniforms and warmups."
Cross country fans might not recognize many of the names on the 2013 Somerset Spartan roster. By the end of the season, that could definitely change. The Spartans are young and saw significant losses to graduation. Second-year coach Julie Mocadlo said the team has an upside that could surprise people.
Getting tough competition is the goal of the preseason for the New Richmond volleyball team and the Tigers are getting it by taking part in several large tournaments. On Saturday the Tigers were one of eight teams in a tournament at West Salem. The Tigers have continued to go to this tournament because of the strength of the competition. Teams like Mukwonago and Eau Claire North head the field. Both were Division sectional qualifiers last year.
There have been flashes of major potential shown when the St. Croix Central volleyball team has taken the court in its early-season tournaments. If the Panthers can become more consistent in playing at that level, they could become a factor in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference this season.
This isn't the Somerset volleyball team you are accustomed to seeing. Somerset coach Sarah Praschak said she hasn't had a Spartan team this inexperienced since the 1990s. The youthful roster has put the Spartans and the team's coaches in a mode of learning, and doing it quickly. It is a young Spartan team in terms of age, as well as experience. Three of the varsity players are making the step up from eighth grade volleyball.