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 Somerset girls basketball team could be viewed as the "Jekyll and Hyde" team of the winter sports season. Their two-sided description refers to their play in Middle Border Conference games, compared to non-conference games. In MBC games, the Spartans continue to stand out. They entered the week tied for the MBC lead after earning a 44-36 conference win over Amery last Tuesday. It's in non-conference games that the Spartans' scary side comes out. The Spartans dropped to 0-8 in non-conference games when they lost at River Falls last Friday, 31-25.
Take away a 94-second span in the second period and the New Richmond girls hockey team gave the state-ranked Eau Claire-Altoona Stars quite a battle on Jan. 17. The Tigers lost 5-1 to the Stars at the New Richmond Sports Center, but the final score isn't an indication of how competitively the Tigers played. Neither team was able to score in the first period as the Tigers maintained a strong defensive presence in their own zone. The pivotal stretch of the game came in the middle of the second period, when the Stars scored the first three goals of the night within 94 seconds.
Somerset natives Kellie Ring and Ashley Martell are putting together strong seasons in women's college basketball in Minnesota this winter. Another Somerset native, Mike Schachtner, just began his third season of playing professional basketball in Europe. Ring is a junior point guard for the University of St. Thomas team that is currently leading the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Martell is a freshman shooting guard who has started 11 of the first 13 games for the Minnesota-Crookston team in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Talk about a drastic difference in performances. Last Thursday the Somerset hockey team was all but unstoppable in a 9-0 win at Baldwin-Woodville where the Spartans put 53 shots on goal. That came two nights after one of the Spartans' weakest performances of the season. The Spartans were limited to just 14 shots as they were plowed by Hudson 5-0. The two games last week leave the Spartans with an 11-5 record as they plan to face Amery on Somerset's home ice on Thursday. The Spartans lead the Middle Border Conference with a 3-0 record. The loss to Hudson came as a shock to the Spartans.
Never heard of pickleball? It is a fun, fast-paced game for all ages that has gained rapid popularity across the nation. A demonstration of how to play pickleball was held last Thursday in the New Richmond Community Commons gymnasium. Marc and Beth Lybeck led the pickleball demonstration. It was a hands-on demonstration, which showed how quickly and easily the basics of the game can be learned. Lybeck said he hadn't heard of pickleball until a year ago. He said business clients who wintered down south told him about the new game.
In terms of competitive progress, the St. Croix Central girls basketball team took a large step forward against Elmwood. The Panthers nearly notched their first win of the season on Thursday. They took Elmwood, which owns an 8-5 record, to the final minute before the Raiders hit several clutch free throws. The result stands as a 43-36 loss for the Panthers, but in terms of progress, this game offered many positive signs. The progress couldn't have come at a better time. The Panthers are scheduled to play the two teams directly in front of them in the Dunn-St.
After hitting the low point in its season, the St. Croix Central boys basketball team followed up with its finest night of the season. The Panthers earned their second win of the season on Friday, winning at Glenwood City 50-37. Friday's win came three nights after the Panthers were soundly beaten by Spring Valley, 60-33. Central coach Zach Turpin called that loss "rock bottom" after the Panthers thought they could contend with the Cardinals. Perhaps because the Panthers struggled so badly at home against Spring Valley, it made Friday's sharp performance all the sweeter.
Six Somerset wrestlers reached the finals and three brought home individual championships from the EP Invitational held at Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School on Jan. 21. Winning championships for the Spartans on Saturday were Gabe Flandrick, Austin Bushinger and Haydon Dvorak. Also reaching the finals were Bobby LeRoy, John Russell and Anthony Doree. This held special significance for Russell and Doree. It was the first varsity tournament championship bout for both seniors. The Spartans finished fourth among the seven teams in the tournament with 179 points.
A major scholastic honor was earned by the Somerset Academic Decathlon team at its regional competition at UW-Barron County in Rice Lake on Jan. 13. For the first time in team history, the Somerset High School team advanced to the state level in the Academic Decathlon competition. The state Academic Decathlon competition will be held on March 15-16 in Wisconsin Dells.
Junior Austin Zywiec scored a hat trick as the New Richmond boys hockey team won its fourth straight game on Saturday, a 6-2 decision at River Falls. Zywiec's goals have come in clusters since he was moved to the first forward line, paired with Nate Jones and Parker Olson. Zywiec scored once in each period of Saturday's game at Hunt Arena on the UW-River Falls campus. This is his second hat trick of the season. The first came against Rochester Century. Tiger coach Adam Swanda said there were two goals that stood out in Saturday's game.