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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Entering this week, Somerset was one of three teams perched atop the Middle Border Conference standings with spotless 4-0 records. By the end of play next Tuesday, at most, only one team will remain with an unblemished record. Somerset reached the 4-0 record last Thursday by topping Prescott in four games.The Spartans were scheduled to play at Amery on Tuesday. At the same time, Osceola and Durand, the other two teams with 4-0 records, were scheduled to clash. That leads into the final two rounds of MBC play.
Two wins, including their initial Middle Border Conference win of the season, gives the New Richmond volleyball team the look of a team that is starting to roll. The Tigers got their first MBC win of the season last Thursday, beating Baldwin-Woodville in four games. The Tigers followed that up with a decisive three-game win over Unity Monday night. Right now the Tigers look like a team that is getting things in order.
The New Richmond boys soccer team earned a tie against Hayward last Thursday. This came two days after the Tigers lost at Barron, 2-0. The Barron game was one of the most difficult of the season for the Tigers. They struggled to get their offense rolling and were outshot by the Bears by nearly a 10-1 margin.
Remember when you were a little kid and you'd play with the water faucet controls? Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. That's how the Somerset and Ellsworth volleyball teams played for the first four games of last Thursday's match in Ellsworth. In the fifth game both teams decided to turn up the heat. Somerset was able to get enough of an edge to score a 16-14 win in the deciding fifth game. The Spartans played cold first, losing the opening game 25-9. That jolt of coldness must have been a wake-up call for the Spartans, because they came back with two potent games, winning 25-9, 25-18.
Confidence seems to be the last element missing for the St. Croix Central volleyball team. On Thursday the Panthers faced Mondovi, one of the top teams in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference and they gave the Lady Buffs all they could handle before the Panthers were beaten in four games. Central coach Amanda Webb said this match was similar to the Panthers' match against Somerset, where they gave a real battle to another top quality opponent. The Panthers are one of the few teams that has been able to win a game from Mondovi in conference play.
The two main roadblocks to New Richmond's hopes of a Middle Border Conference girls tennis championship stood in the Tigers' way last week. When the Tigers faced Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday, it was a faceoff between the two undefeated leaders of the MBC. The Tigers smashed through this roadblock like a semi going 100 miles per hour, beating the Blackhawks 5-2. That meant a win over Osceola last Thursday would likely assure the Tigers of the conference championship.
While the Somerset offense learns, the Spartan defense burns. Somerset rolled to 4-0 for the 2005 season and 2-0 in the Middle Border Conference with a 26-6 win at Durand last Friday. Somerset and Durand were both state-ranked leading into the game, Somerset ranked second in Division 5 and Durand listed tenth in Division 4. The Spartan defense wouldn't let Durand's offense do anything. The Panthers were held to 106 yards of offense, including 26 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
The Osceola Invitational couldn't have gone any sweeter for the New Richmond cross country teams on Saturday. Both Tiger teams were meet champions and New Richmond senior Alec Slocum was the meet champion in Saturday's races. The Tiger boys won by six points over Rice Lake and seven points over Osceola, which is even more impressive with the fact that the Tigers were missing two of their varsity runners for the meet. New Richmond's girls also pulled off a narrow win, with a nine-point margin over second place Mahtomedi. Slocum was the meet champion, winning by nine
The New Richmond volleyball team got out to a fast start in the 2005 renewal of its rivalry with Somerset. But it was the Spartan girls that had the stronger finish. New Richmond won the opening game by a 25-17 score. Somerset then won the next three games 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 to capture the match in the first round of Middle Border Conference play this season. The difference in the final three games was consistency. New Richmond had bursts where it looked like a top quality team.
The members of the Somerset cross country know well ahead of time when the River Falls Invitational is scheduled. They don't want to miss it. The River Falls Invitational is a true cross country meet. Runners leap over logs and bales of hay on the course. They churn their legs through deep weeds.