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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After playing 27 games in three days to start their season, the Somerset volleyball girls earned a break. The Spartans opened their season last Thursday playing in a quad match in River Falls. The Spartans arose early each of the next two mornings to play full days of volleyball in a tournament at UW-Stout in Menomonie. The Spartans placed 10th among the 27 teams. They won once in three dual matches at River Falls. The River Falls quad was a good way for the Spartans to start the season.
With the inexperience on the Tiger varsity volleyball team, getting an early, intense cluster of court time was critical to the team's plans. The Tigers got that court experience in tournaments at River Falls and West Salem. The Tigers played in a quad tournament last Thursday. That was followed by the West Salem meet on Saturday, where the Tigers played seven matches. Those matches gave the coaches enough of a test sample to know what the team's early strengths and weaknesses are. That's why they scheduled a nine-day span before the Tigers' next match.
History bears out that if you have any hope of winning the Middle Border Conference boys soccer title, you'd better beat Amery. The New Richmond boys soccer team took care of that assignment, winning on their home field against the Warriors last Thursday, 1-0. The only goal of the game was scored by Tiger junior Eric Miller on a penalty kick. The penalty was drawn by the hustle of Tiger freshman Joey Turnipseed. Turnipseed carried the ball down the right edge of the field, then made a sharp turn toward the net.
The Somerset boys soccer team overcame a 4-0 deficit once last week, but the Spartans couldn't do it a second time. The Spartans trailed at home last Tuesday against Baldwin-Woodville by a 4-0 score 30 minutes into the game. The Spartans pulled off an amazing turnaround, scoring six goals in a seven-minute span in the second half to overcome Baldwin-Woodville 9-4. On Friday the Spartans traveled to Barron to face the unbeaten Bears. Barron jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. The Spartans did manage to cut the margin to 4-2 early in the second half, but they could get no closer.
Every year the New Richmond girls tennis team plans one overnight road trip as a team building event. That event was supposed to take place on Saturday in Cedarburg, in the Milwaukee area. Last Thursday, Tiger coach Denise Devereux was contacted by the Cedarburg coach that the tournament was cancelled. All was not lost. Through discussions with area coaches, Devereux found there was an opening in a tournament in Menomonie on Saturday.
If it's a Thursday, the New Richmond girls golf team must be setting another team record. On each of the past two Thursdays the Tigers lowered their school record score for a nine-hole round. They shaved the record to 168 last Thursday when they won a Middle Border Conference match at Krooked Kreek Golf Club in Osceola. The previous Thursday the Tigers set a record by shooting 170 at Pheasant Hills Golf Club in Hammond. Sophomore Alex Wheeler set a school record individual score as part of the record-setting in Osceola last Thursday.
With two seniors and five returning varsity players, the New Richmond volleyball team will be one of the younger teams in the Middle Border Conference. The Tiger coaches have built their roster with the intent of having the team grow together. Coach Bob Fisher, in his third year of leading the Tigers, has constructed a well-balanced team that has a considerable upside. After being one of the shortest teams in the MBC a year ago, the Tigers will be one of the taller teams in the conference this year. The two seniors on the team are returning players Maggie Dalton and Brooke Ver Bunker.
The New Richmond cross country teams start the season at the opposite ends of the experience spectrum. New Richmond's girls team returns all seven girls who ran when the Tigers won the 2010 Middle Border Conference championship. Conversely, the Tiger boys could be one of the youngest teams in the MBC this season. The New Richmond girls won the 2010 MBC title by having all seven runners place among the top 24 finishers in the meet. All seven of those runners are back.
Somerset volleyball coach Sarah Praschak doesn't mince words. "The sky's the limit," she said about the possibilities for the 2011 Spartans. "They have all the ability of any team I've coached." That's pretty heavy stuff, especially considering Praschak coached Somerset's 1993 WIAA state championship team. The Spartans are carrying 11 girls on their varsity roster and every one is there for a purpose. "It's a very unique team," Praschak said. "Some have strengths in the front row and some in the back row.
A few returning veterans on each team will be counted upon to lead the Somerset cross country teams this season. Somerset's girls ranked second in the Middle Border Conference last season, with three of the seven girls from that team returning this year. The Spartan boys placed seventh in the MBC meet last season, with four of their seven runners returning. The biggest change for the Spartans is the graduation of Monica Emerson. For the past three years Emerson and senior Ontario "Tia" Belter have been the lead tandem for the Spartan girls.