SPORTS & SCHOOL
Journal-Press Internet Sports & School - April 18, 2014 Rob LaPlante
Journal-Press Sports Editor
may be reached
by phone at 763-682-1221 or click here to email him
2013-14 Girls LAX Preview: Bison hope rebuilding year pays dividends
By Rob LaPlante
The classic case of a rebuilding year held true last season for the Buffalo girls’ lacrosse team.
Two years removed from a 10-5 season, with one of those wins resulting in their first ever section playoff victory, the Bison knew the loss of 12 graduating seniors from that team would cause potential havoc on the following year’s squad.
Havoc was an understatement. Outside of a 12-7 season-opening loss to St. Cloud Area, which later was reversed to a Buffalo win, based on a disqualification to St. Cloud Area for the use of an ineligible player, the Bison failed to win a game on paper all year (0-11 overall).
Senior captain Tiah Marr was one of the few varsity players remaining from both the 10-5 team and last year’s squad.
“Last year was our rebuilding year,” said Marr, a four-year returning letter winner. “We only had one senior that left last year. We’re really excited to get on the field this year and rock it. We had a really good first week of practice and everyone is just getting it. Things are clicking.”
Even though the senior departure from a year ago is minimal, there is a question mark early in the season at goalie. Last year’s starter, Hannah Adams, a senior this season, opted not to play lacrosse this season for personal reasons.
Bison head coach Andrea Lund said she already has faith in her new goaltender, junior Alyse Shelby.
“Hannah is working two jobs and we’ll miss her, but Alyse is doing real good for stepping up,” Lund said. “It will take time, but once we get outside, we’ll see a big change in everybody.”
“Alyse is awesome at goalie,” Marr said. “She is showing a lot of improvement, and showing all the skills that a goalie needs to have. She’s really determined and we’re really excited.”
Marr is one of the rare experienced midfielders on this year’s squad. The other midfielders consist of three sophomores; (Gabby Coudron, Sofia Fiebelkorn, Gabby Walstrom); two freshmen (Alyssa Englund, Jillian Hovland) and eighth-grader Claire Stevens.
Lund admits they have a lot of inexperienced players, and that it could be another season where they struggle for wins.
“It’s still a building year. We’re going to be building for this year and next year,” Lund said. “I finally have a feeder team of sixth and seventh graders that are playing right now, and they are pretty good. In a couple years, those girls will be so much better, and we will be a very forceful team. I’m excited about that.”
Senior defenseman Justine Stensby and senior attacker Savanna Fonkert are the other two captains. Like Marr, both Stensby and Fonkert will be four-year letter winners.
Fonkert said the ups and downs over her varsity career have led to a lot of mixed emotions.
“It was kind of frustrating a year ago,” Fonkert said. “Going from a winning team to a team lower in rank was pretty hard. But we’ve seen a lot of improvement from a lot of the girls that were freshmen last year.”
Much like her coach, Fonkert realizes that her job as a senior isn’t necessarily trying to go out and bring home a section title. She knows that the program is still in rebuild mode.
“The senior’s goal is to make a base team for the incoming years,” Fonkert said. “We didn’t have that much endurance last year, so adding a fitness coach (Nate Sunderman) this year will help push us physically and help with our endurance.”
Buffalo kicked off the season Tuesday night with a game against Elk River.
2013-14 Boys LAX Preview: Program moves forward with blend of old/new
By Rob LaPlante
Lacrosse is a sport that continues to take baby steps towards popularity.
The same scenario holds true for the Buffalo boys’ lacrosse team. Still waiting patiently to be an official school sanctioned team, the Bison begin their fourth season as an official member of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), despite the fact they have to supply all the costs to cover their expenses.
Since the MSHSL adopted the sport in 2007, the number of participating schools jumped from 18 the first year to 63 in 2013. This season, the league currently is at 68. The Bison compete in Section 8 with eight other teams.
Bison senior captain Jordan Hartman said he enjoys playing lacrosse for a number of different reasons.
“The reason it’s a great sport is because you have to have good hand-eye coordination, speed, agility and footwork,” Hartman said. “It incorporates everything. You can play any sport, and you come to lacrosse and it pieces everything together.”
Hartman is one of four captains on a team coming off its first winning season (7-6 overall) since joining the MSHSL ranks. In 2011, they finished 1-11 as a first-year program under head coach Joey Hartfiel. Larry Hunter took over as head coach in 2012 and the team had a miniature improvement going 2-11 overall.
Hunter said the biggest difference a year ago from the team going from 2-11 to 7-6 was Buffalo’s ability to keep the ball out of its own net. Senior goalie Ryan O’Neill stepped in as a first-year goalie and ranked among the state leaders in fewest goals allowed per game (6.10) and highest save percentage (.705).
“With Ryan in net, obviously he’s the core of our defense. He’s been outstanding. He stops a lot of balls most goalies wouldn’t dare jumping in front of,” Hunter said. “(Senior’s) Kody O’Neill and Jordan Hartman led our defense a year ago. We’re very excited to have those two guys back. We don’t have the offensive game yet, but our defense is there. So now we just need to add some goals to compliment our defensive end.”
Ryan O’Neill said he excited to get the season underway, and feels this year’s squad can improve on last year’s breakout year.
“We have a good system that we build ourselves around,” O’Neill said “We lost a couple seniors from last year, but I’m really happy with the seniors we have back.”
Unlike years past, O’Neill said this season will mark a first.
“It’s kind of the changing of the guard from old school Buffalo, to new school Buffalo,” O’Neill said. “This is finally the year where everyone on this team has played high school lacrosse.”
Both of the O’Neill’s, Hartman and junior Tyler Bruder will serve as team captains. Kody said he’s expecting big things from the younger kids on the team.
“We had a lot of people not come back this year, but I really feel the sophomores coming up can fill that gap,” Kody said. “They’re great with their hands and they can score. Now we have quite a few goal scorers, so it will make us more of a threat.”
Among the leading returning goal scorers are senior attackers Casey Anderson, who led the team in goals last season with 13 and second in points with 16. Bruder was second on the team with 12 goals and third with 15 points. Sophomore Dallas Perkins also hit double figures with 10 goals. Buffalo does lose leading scorers Tim Harkess, who led the team with 18 points and 11 goals.
Bruder thinks this year’s team has a shot of finally achieving that first elusive section playoff win. Buffalo is 0-3 in section playoff games, and last season it was Orono ending their season 14-1.
“I believe we have a chance of winning one or two section playoff games,” Bruder said. “Orono is really good, but I believe we have a shot of beating them. This season I think is more intense. Everybody wants that first section playoff win.”
With the new alignments, Buffalo has more local games on this year’s schedule. The ability to play games without having to travel 200 miles to Owatonna and Rochester to fill a schedule could be a bonus.
“Yeah it’s nice, they are shorter bus rides. But the bus rides actually get us to do some bonding as a team,” Bruder said. “I’d like to see another winning record. I know we can do it with the talent we got. My goal as a team though, is I hope we can mesh together. We have a huge sophomore class. If we can get chemistry, we will be golden for next season.”
With so many new faces to the mix, both Hunter and assistant head coaches Drake Hunter and Joey Hartfiel had a good long look to make last second cuts at the team’s opening practices.
Hunter said he expects big things from Anderson, Perkins and Bruder offensively, but some of this year’s surprises could come at the midfield position. Elijah Driver, Brady Hartman, Kevin Kemp, NoahVanderkooi and Gavin Welch are all sophomores listed at the midfield position.
“They’re pretty young,” Hunter said. “As long as they have the heart and hustle, we’ll make sure to do our best to get them prepared and ready for combat on day one.”
Bison pick up first win of season
By Rob LaPlante
The opening week of play for the Buffalo baseball squad resulted in three games that failed to go the standard seven innings.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t due to Mother Nature playing April Fools jokes. The result was three of the four games ending under the 10-inning mercy rule. The season started with the Bison dropping an 11-1 decision in 5 innings on Tuesday, April 8 at No. 5 rated Minnetonka. Senior catcher Nolan Triden drove in the Bison’s lone run, but the Skippers took an early 4-0 lead in the bottom half of the first inning and extended it to 6-0 with a 2-run home run by Josh Falk in the bottom of the second.
Senior pitcher Mitch Annis got the start for Buffalo and allowed six runs in two innings of work.
“They hit the crap out of the ball and we didn’t,” said Bison senior outfielder/pitcher Andrew Iverson. “It’s kind of eye opening knowing they are a good team. But you have to just keep fighting.”
Two days later the Bison were able to turn the tables on conference rival St. Michael-Albertville. Iverson pitched the first four innings in a 14-3 victory in six innings over their cross-town rival Knights. Senior Tommy Eckstein pitched two scoreless innings in relief.
Iverson said it felt good to have a rebound game, particularly beating one of their biggest conference rivals.
“Absolutely,” he said, on whether it was a good feeling to defeat STMA. “It never gets old beating them. For me, I tried to just throw strikes. Coach always talks about getting up on the hitter. You try to do that, but it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Buffalo’s lone seven-inning game resulted in a rare pitcher’s duel. Buffalo’s doubleheader last Saturday, April 12 at New Prague resulted in a 3-2 Trojans victory.
Senior pitcher Mitch Annis was staked to an early 2-0 lead, and made it stand until the last two innings when New Prague scored two in the sixth and got a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh to win it.
“Filling the strike zone is the key for our pitching staff,” said Bison head coach Mike Beilke. “On paper we have a good squad. Then you get beat up pretty good by Minnetonka and start doubting a little bit. But the STMA win is a huge win for our program. St. Michael is a good program. Pitching is the biggest difference right now.”
Buffalo closed out the New Prague doubleheader day with a 12-2 win in six innings over Willmar. Senior first baseman Jay Bollum and Iverson each had three hits and seven different hitters drove in a run. Sophomore pitcher Josh Munoz pitched three innings of no-hit ball to earn the win. Junior Eric Newman pitched the final three innings, fanning three to earn a save.
Buffalo’s home opener scheduled for Tuesday, April 15 against Rogers was postponed due to cold weather conditions. Their next game is at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17 at Big Lake. The Bison are currently 2-2 overall.
Buffalo softball off to 2-1 start
By Rob LaPlante
The opening week of play for the Buffalo softball team resulted in two lopsided wins for the team wearing purple.
The Bison won their season opener 8-2 on Thursday, April 10 at St. Michael-Albertville. Two days later, they won their home opener in convincing fashion with a 13-1, five-inning victory over Bemidji.
The Bison jumped to an early 3-0 lead over the Knights. Junior outfielder Amber Styve drove in the game's first run with an RBI triple that plated leadoff hitter Katelyn Radford from first base. The Bison added three more runs in the third inning to open up a 6-0 lead. Senior pitcher Maddy DeMarais (1-0) held the Knights to just two runs over seven innings, while fanning six, to pick up her first win of the season.
“When you jump on them early like we did in the first game of the year for both teams, it kind of makes it a little bit tough for them (STMA),” said Bison head coach Brad Zrust. “DeMarais kept battling all game and the defense was good behind her too.”
Senior catcher Nicole Duske had three hits and scored three runs. Seven different Bison players collected at least one hit, as the team finished with 10 for the game.
Junior pitcher Payton Speckel would get the call on the mound for the Bison's home opener on Saturday, April 12 against Bemidji. Making only her second career varsity appearance as a pitcher, Speckel's season debut couldn't have been scripted any worse.
Two hits and a walk created an early bases-loaded nobody out scenario in the top of the first inning for the Lumberjacks. Speckel would settle down a bit, striking out the next two batters, before eventually walking in a run to give Bemidji a 1-0 advantage. The run turned out to be the lone run the Lumberjacks would score on the day.
“That was huge to battle back,” Zrust said. “I think it was a little bit of jitters, but she held her poise out there for her first start.”
Buffalo would answer with two runs in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead. They blew the game open with a 7-run second inning, which included a 2-RBI double by Speckel, which helped her own cause.
“Being inside for a couple weeks, it’s been kind of crazy start,” Speckel said. “This year we’ve shown we can hit the ball well. The St. Michael win was nice, especially since we were co-conference champs with them last year.”
The Bison showed the ability early on to create havoc once they get on the base paths. Buffalo stole five bases in its win over Bemidji. Speckel had two and seniors Cassidie Kunkel, Katelyn Radford and Katherine Gatzke each had one swipe. Cleanup hitter, Duske, has scored a team-high 5 runs in the opening two wins.
Buffalo suffered its first taste of defeat in a 9-2 loss Monday, April 14 against Spring Lake Park. Speckel started her second straight game, but the Panthers offense connected for seven hits and four runs over her four innings of work. Junior Elisabeth King led the Bison going 3-for-3 at the plate.
Buffalo (2-1 overall) was scheduled to play a home game Tuesday, APril 15 against Rogers. Due to the extreme cold weather conditions, that game was postponed to a later date. The Bison will next take the field this Thursday, April 17 for a 4:30 p.m. showdown with Mississippi 8 Conference rival Big Lake.
Boys tennis improves to 6-2
By Rob LaPlante
After a 2-1 start to the season with three indoor matches at the Becker Quadrangular on March 29, the Buffalo boys’ tennis squad patiently waited for their first outdoor match and responded with a 6-1 home victory on April 8 over Delano and a 7-0 shutout Thursday, April 10 over Big Lake.
It was the second time already this season the Bison have faced Delano, a first-year boys program to tennis. Buffalo defeated the Tigers 7-0 at Becker.
The lone point in two matchups against Delano came in a 2-1 victory at No. 1 singles by Keaton Bonine over Buffalo junior Andrew Christenson. The match at that point was already long decided with the Bison up 6-0 at the time.
The highlight came at No. 1 doubles where senior captain Jordan Danielson and junior Jacob Jungwirth won 6-2, 6-2 over Delano’s Nate Petroski and James Henry. The win improved the top doubles tandem to a perfect 4-0 to start the season.
Jungwirth said he hasn’t had a ton of experience prior to this season playing doubles with Danielson, but the two seem to gel well on the court.
“We played a little bit together in the off-season, and once last year,” said Jungwirth, who played a lot last season with junior Ryan Bunting. Jungwirth added he think he and Bunting will eventually see time again as partners, but for now, he’s focused on trying to continue with this hot start. “Jordan and I are playing well right now, so that’s what I’m focusing on.”
Buffalo head coach Ben Watkins said he is thrilled with the fast start, but as the season gets longer, and the opponents get tougher, the lineup may still be subject to change.
“I might need to think about evening out some of the players by sticking some of the doubles players into the singles lineup,” Watkins said. “We’ll see how the season goes on. Jake and Jordan play really well together. Jake’s height and Jordan’s steady presence really compliment each other. But they can both play singles too.”
BHS Knowledge Bowl team brings home state title!
By Doug Voerding
City of Buffalo: Home of the 2014 State Knowledge Bowl Champions!
From the first question to the last question, Buffalo High School’s Knowledge Bowl Team Purple stayed focused and concentrated on each and every question. Those efforts brought Buffalo its first state Knowledge Bowl championship at the meet held in Brainerd last Thursday and Friday.
“This win was incredible,” said Coach Lacy Schramm, “for the students, for Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose school district, and for Region 7 Knowledge Bowl. It speaks to the strength of our academic programs and to the support from the community.”
Said team member senior Aaron Hamann, “I was very happy with how our team did. State was unknown territory for me, though. I didn’t know how tough the competition would be, so I was a little surprised when we were able to consistently hold our own and do well in room one.”
And, Buffalo’s Team Black, also participating in the tournament, tied for a respectable 13th place in the 24-team AA tournament.
Although Buffalo has had teams at every state tournament since 2003, this was the first time Buffalo won the tournament and had two teams in the competition.
Buffalo Team Purple of Hamann, juniors Ryan Bowers and Jon Thielen, and sophomore Jacob Nosbush were joined for the written round by sophomore Abbie Kunze.
Buffalo Purple started the meet in tenth place down in room four after earning a written round score of 47, six points behind the leader.
A first round score of 19, a top score in all of the five oral rounds throughout the meet, moved the team up to second place and into room one. Buffalo Purple stayed in room one for the rest of the tournament and went into the final round in first place, just one point ahead of second place Chanhassen.
Scoring 14 in the final round and adding the bonus points for competing in the top room, Buffalo Purple grabbed the championship by just 1.5 points over St. Thomas Academy and seven points over third place finisher Chanhassen.
Said Thielen, “We had a disappointing start with being in tenth place after the written round, which is normally our strong point, but we quickly recovered by having a great round one and staying in the top room for the rest of the meet.
“The hardest part of the meet,” continued Thielen, “was probably the last round. It was quite tense, and it was hard to stay calm, have fun, and do our best. As it turned out, we just pulled it out with a final lead of 1.5 points.
Team member Bowers agreed, “The hardest part of the meet was staying calm and collected, especially during the final round when we knew the results could hinge on as little as one question.”
The tenseness of the final round also affected Coach Schramm, sitting in the audience.
“Personally it was a wonderful experience to watch the team win, and the fact that it came right down to the wire was exciting. The final round of competition was so intense, that former (now retired) Knowledge Bowl coach Peggy Pasche and I could barely watch the last question.”
“We did better than I expected,” said Hamann, “and better than I let myself hope for. It was tough at times to not think about how close it was or worry about questions we could’ve gotten.”
Schramm added, “At the state meet, many officials complimented how well Team One worked together. It is amazing to watch them discuss the questions and come up with answers in 15 seconds. Their team dynamic is the secret to their success. Each player has their own special, subtle role on the team, and they thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.”
The second state team was Buffalo Team Black of seniors Robbie DuBois and Logan Thomas, juniors Evan Burandt and Tommy Dirks, and ninth grader Sophie Lefebvre.
The team started the meet in 21st place after scoring 40 in the written round.
Team Black scored only seven points in the first oral round, but redoubled their efforts and scored consistent double-digits of 15, 14, 11, and 10 in the last four rounds. Their total of 97 gave them the 13th place tie.
Said Schramm, “I am proud of the work of Team Two at state. Team Two has been strong all along, and during practice they gave Team One great competition, and any given day they could win. During the regular season they usually finished near the top, just not as well as Team One. However, Region 7 has some of the best competition in the state, including the 2014 Division A State Champions St. John’s Prep. With the small schools out of the running, Team Two strongly held their own against the other big school teams for their 13th place finish.”
Junior Dylan Harcey and ninth grader Rachel Lauer also participated in the tournament as computer operators, assisting with the competition scoring.
It was a great day for all of the Region 7 teams. St. John’s Prep were the champions, while Albany placed fifth in the A division. In Buffalo’s AA division, Sartell placed 11th. All three of those teams were strong competition for Buffalo in the Region 7 invitational meets where schools are not divided into classes.
The top forty-eight teams, 24 in each division, out of 914 teams across the state, competed in the state meet.
At the state meet, four person teams compete against one another in one written and five oral rounds of interdisciplinary questions for a total of 285 questions. Success at the competition requires the ability to work as a team, as well as to recall information quickly in a variety of areas of study. Knowledge Bowl is sponsored by the eleven Minnesota Service Cooperatives around the state.
Maple Lake students make school history at state speech
For the first time in school history, Maple Lake High School has a state champion in speech. Junior Maddie Nelson took first place honors at the state speech meet at Blaine High School on Saturday, April 12. Nelson’s championship came in the category of discussion. Also placing at state for Maple Lake was junior Charlie Stejskal, who took fifth place in the category of extemporaneous speaking. This year marks the first time Maple Lake has had two state speech finalists in over 20 years. There were 96 Class A teams represented at the tournament and There were 187 Class A teams that competed in speech statewide this year.