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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For the second straight year, the New Richmond girls hockey team took second place at the Wisconsin River Classic. The tournament was held on Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids. The Tigers won their opening game 3-2, when senior Paige Charland scored 20 seconds into the overtime period to top the Stevens Point-Rapids co-op team. In the championship game, the Tigers were defeated for the second straight year by the Bay Area Bears, a co-op team from the Green Bay area. This year's score was 3-0. The Tigers and Bay Area were both scoreless in the first period.
Some teams try to pad their early season record by scheduling a few easy opponents. The Somerset girls basketball team isn't one of them. Somerset's opening opponent was Hayward, a team that finished with a 19-4 record last season. The Spartans took a 52-34 loss in Friday's opener, but the coaches saw what they wanted to see from the team in a competitive setting. The Spartans were competitive for most of Friday's game with Hayward.
There isn't a great deal of varsity experience on the 2011-12 St. Croix Central boys basketball roster. So the Panthers are going to try to overcome their lack of experience with a highly committed effort level. That worked for the Panthers in their season opener, beating Glenwood City 37-22 last Tuesday. The Panthers' lack of experience was exploited when they played at Mondovi last Friday, with the Buffaloes winning 65-32. The win over Glenwood City was the first varsity victory for new Panther coach Zach Turpin.
There's a great deal of anticipation surrounding the Somerset boys basketball team this season. By finishing 4-4 in their final eight games last season, the Spartans appeared to be a team on the verge of maturing into a contender in the Middle Border Conference this season. In their first outing of the 2011-12 season, the Spartans showed they are ready to live up to those expectations.
Six dual matches in the first three days of their season helped to get the Somerset team back in wrestling shape in a hurry. The Spartans began their season last Thursday, winning a Middle Border Conference dual match against Prescott, 44-27. The Spartans followed that up by wrestling five dual matches in a tournament at Glenwood City on Saturday. The Spartans won two of their five matches. The late run by the football team set the Spartans behind the clock in the wrestling season. There are 24 wrestlers out for the team, one of the highest numbers in decades.
With all the new players on the St. Croix Central girls basketball team, the first two games of the season were more like a fact-finding mission. So while the Panthers lost both of those games, they gave evidence that they are quickly progressing in the right direction. The Panthers lost their season opener at Ellsworth last Tuesday, 45-26. Two nights later they were nearly able to knock off Glenwood City, losing 39-36 in the Panthers' home opener. The Panthers are terribly young, with two seniors, Shelby Thomley and Shaylyn Lyksett.
In the frantic world of high school football, extra time is in short supply. So when special needs student Hunter Harstad decided he wanted to go out for the Somerset football team this fall, there were concerns about whether there would be ways to incorporate him into the football program. There were as many concerns whether the time needed for a student with Down syndrome would take away from time needed by the coaches to work with the rest of the players. The concerns were quickly put to rest. The coaches found a role for Harstad, as an assistant to the coaching staff.
After the New Richmond boys basketball team graduated nearly its entire roster last season, it might have been natural to assume the Tigers could suffer a dropoff this year. The first game of the season caused everyone thinking that way to change their minds. The Tigers put together an impressive season opening win on Saturday afternoon, taking down Eau Claire Memorial 47-42. Eau Claire Memorial scored the first two points of the game on Saturday, but that was the only lead the Old Abes would possess.
The state-wide respect for the New Richmond hockey program was clear when the Tigers were invited to play in the Red Flint River City Meltdown season-opening tournament in Eau Claire over the weekend. All four teams in the tournament were among the top 10 teams in the state in pre-season rankings and all four played in last season's WIAA state tournament. In the opening round of the tournament on Friday, the Tigers faced Notre Dame of Green Bay, the number one ranked team in the state. The Tigers led the game 2-1 until penalties turned the game in Notre Dame's favor.
Few people around the state believed that the Somerset football team had a prayer of winning in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game. When the Spartans took the field, they believed. And by the end of the game, they had converted many non-believers around the state. Somerset and Wrightstown waged one of the more memorable games in recent years in the WIAA state championships. Somerset and Wrightstown battled through regulation, and then two overtimes, before Wrightstown could stop the Spartans, 28-26.