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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As the start of the Middle Border Conference volleyball season arrives this Thursday, the Somerset Spartans are right where they want to be. The Spartans played top-level competition in the Hudson Invitational on Saturday, capping a challenging pre-season. Coach Sarah Praschak said the team accomplished everything she was hoping for in the early-season matches. "We're ahead of where I thought we'd be," Praschak said. "Now we need to be consistent and not go backward." The Spartans start their MBC schedule by facing two top contenders.
Sometimes a 7-0 win isn't as easy as it looks. Last Thursday's 7-0 win by the New Richmond tennis team over Osceola is a good reminder of that. The Tigers only lost one set in the match, but Osceola kept the Tigers on their toes in most of the flights. Osceola is coached by former NRHS tennis standout Joe Early. Early said it is his team's goal to keep their opponents moving and try to control the action.
The two largest defensive front walls the New Richmond football team will face in 2012 were those the Tigers ran up against in their first two games. The second of those games was the Tigers' home opener last Friday against Durand. The Tigers could manage just 141 yards of offense in the 20-0 loss to the Panthers. Tiger coach Jason Eckert said he's expecting the team to begin having more offensive success this Friday when the Tigers play at Prescott. Prescott lost last Friday to Somerset 40-17.
The race for the 2012 Middle Border Conference volleyball championship appears to be wide open with no team as a clear-cut favorite. The New Richmond volleyball team is hoping to be the squad that steps to the forefront to win this season's title. This is the most experienced New Richmond varsity team since the Tigers won the MBC championship in 2009. "Our goal should be to compete for the title," said fourth-year Tiger coach Bob Fisher. "That's our goal every year.
When the number of athletes out for cross country matches the number out for the football program, you know running has become a popular sport. That's the case at New Richmond High School. There are 56 athletes out for the NRHS cross country program this fall: 31 boys and 25 girls. What's the key to attracting so many kids into running? Tiger coach Beth Kelly said it involves taking the focus off the running. "Running isn't fun, but that's what we do," Kelly said. "So we try to make it fun. We do a lot of team building and leadership training.
Last season, the Somerset volleyball team produced its first championship since moving into the Middle Border Conference a decade ago. The Spartans graduated a large group of seniors from that team, including four all-conference players. Even with those losses, the Spartans do return several players who saw considerable varsity playing time last season. The roster begins with six athletic seniors who have a wide array of volleyball skills. In Sarah Northey, Natalie Broome and Sarah Krig, the Spartans put up one of the strongest front walls of blockers that will be seen in the conference.
There's a new look to the Somerset cross country program this fall. The Spartans have a new coach and there are a number of new members of the team, especially on the boys roster. There are 16 runners on the Somerset boys team this fall and only one-quarter of that group has run with the team in the past. The Spartan girls have nine members on their team. The new coach is Julie Mocadlo, who is in her second year as a physical education instructor in the school district. Mocadlo has an impressive running background.
Having to redo team goals two weeks into the season is not a bad problem to have. That's what happened for the St. Croix Central volleyball team. By the end of their second week, the Panthers had already achieved one of their main goals. The goal was to win more matches than they had in 2011. Last year the Panthers only won three matches. They already have won four matches and have been competitive with some strong programs from around the area. The Panthers have a new look in several respects this season. They are a young squad with one of the tallest lineups the team has ever had.
It seems like every year the St. Croix Central boys suffer major losses through graduation. And every year, the Panthers come back just as strong, if not stronger, than the year before. Central coach Bill Emery put the responsibility on the team leaders to get the work done over the summer so the team would be ready for the season. Seniors Andrew Skala, Brett Briggs and Nathan Bringgold took the duties to heart and the Panthers are again looking like a formidable team. Skala is the captain of the boys team and Emery said he has handled all the administrative duties for the team.
Anyone who thought St. Croix Central's two football wins over Baldwin-Woodville last season were flukes was proven wrong on Friday. The Panthers won their annual clash for bragging rights in the center of St. Croix County, beating the Blackhawks 30-12 in Hammond to start the 2012 season. By halftime on Friday the Panthers had built a 24-0 lead. The lead was 30-0 after three quarters, with the Blackhawks scoring twice in the fourth quarter. Central begins its Dunn-St. Croix Conference schedule this Friday, drawing one of their toughest D-SC opponents in the first round.