Monday, November 27, 2006

Jaguar Winter Sports Previews

Basketball and wrestling seasons are set to begin for the Jaguars this week.

The Lady Jaguars basketball team hosts Sauk Centre on Tuesday, November 28th and travels to Paynesville on Thursday, November 30. The Jaguars basketball team will travel to Kerkhoven on Friday, December 1st, to participate in the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg tournament. They play in the first game of the double-header at 6:00. They also play on Saturday in Round 2, time to be announced later this week.

The Jaguars wrestling team will host their annual Jaguar Invite, starting at 3:30 at the High School gymnasium. They will host seven area wrestling teams and look for a big crowd to help them kick off another successful season on the mats.

More information will be posted about new coaches for the boys basketball and wrestling teams, as well as results from the events scheduled for the week.

**In my Lady Jaguar basketball preview, a big item was left out inadvertently about one of the three returning starters, Katie Gruber. She averaged 11 points per game last season, meaning that their team returns 39 points per game in three starters, April Hansen (16 ppg), Emily Roelike (12 ppg), and Gruber (11 ppg). That is a very strong nucleus to build on for what should be a very exciting season for the Lady Jaguars.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lady Jaguar Volleyball- 2006 Wrapup

I may sound like I'm beating a dead horse but I wanted to repeat my assertion about the difficulty of "repeating"...that goes for anything, whether it's being conference champs or section champs. Going into this season, I honestly had no idea how it would go. How would everyone mesh, with a new setter and different girls coming in off the bench, compared to 2005?

Then after seeing them play in the first two weeks, I boldly said to Tina Lensing at the Howard Lake Tournament: "I don't see anyone on their schedule that can beat them." That was right as the team was warming up to play Melrose, who gave them their first loss. So yep that one was my fault for opening my mouth.

The Eden Valley loss was a numbing shocker, no doubt...but they regrouped and played excellent volleyball after that and gave us a team to be proud of in the playoffs.

That's what we all want, a team to do well in playoffs, and that's what we had. I'm sure everyone knows of Jaguar teams in the past who have had a hard time repeating anything, which can be from a variety of reasons, mainly just by having a target on your back (possibly the biggest source of motivation to your opponents). I don't know any magic formula for "repeating" success...but for our girls to go 28-4 two seasons in a row is something to be proud of.

2006 Lady Jaguar Volleyball Wrapup

In a signal of respect and deference to the talent the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Lady Jaguar volleyball team had this season, conference coaches named all six starters the All-Central Minnesota Conference squad. The Lady Jaguar's trio of hard-swinging hitters, April Hansen, Ashley Lensing, and Heidi Lensing, all made the first team, with Emily Roelike, Katie Gruber, and Sarah Gruber making spots on the second team. They tied Maple Lake for the CMC championship, their fourth conference title since 2000.

Senior hitters April Hansen and Ashley Lensing made All-State or All-Area teams, with Hansen
being named to the Associated Press All-State team, and her and Lensing being named to the West Central Tribune All-Area squad.

This year's Most Valuable Player award went to April Hansen, and the Most Improved Player award was earned by Lindsay Goodwin. The Hustle award went to the team's leading defensive player, Emily Roelike, who played most of the season at the Libero position.

Other team awards, voted on by the coaches and players, were as follows: Rookie of the Year: Sarah Gruber, Jag Spirit award: Katie Gruber, Total Team Player: Ashley Lensing.

A highly coveted award that all players on the squad should relish in was the selection of April Hansen as the CMC Player of the Year. As the smallest school in the CMC, everyone can be proud of that accomplishment.

Captains for 2007 will be Sarah Gruber, their seasoned returning setter, and Heidi Lensing, a player whose hitting skills grew leaps and bounds and who will be heavily relied upon next season. Emily Roelike, Jena Schroeder, Lindsay Goodwin, and Jenny Hieserich are the other returning varsity players who look to the off-season as their stepping stone to another successful volleyball season next fall.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lady Jaguar Volleyball - "House of Horrors" Lives up to its billing: Heartbreaking 3-1 loss in Section Final

The Lady Jaguars huddle up before starting game one against Montevideo in the section final. After a fast-paced four-game match, the smiles were quickly erased when the Lady Jaguars fell 3-1 to the Thunderhawks.

Here are a few underclassmen on this year's Lady Jaguar team, preparing for warmup drills prior to the Section 6AA championship match.

What should be most remembered of this season is how the Lady Jaguars hung together through success and losses, improving as the season endured, brushing off the pressure all the way.

The Lady Jaguar Volleyball team visited the University of Minnesota-Morris fieldhouse for the second time in three seasons for the Section 6AA final, their third straight trip to the section final and fourth since 2002. They dropped the match 3-1 to the Montevideo Thunderhawks, who will take a 26-1-2 record into the Class AA tournament next weekend in St.Paul. It certainly was not for a lack of effort, as they simply did not have enough gas in the tank after an emotional drubbing of rival Sauk Centre in the district final two nights previous.

It was the fourth trip for a Jaguar team to UM-Morris for a championship event since 1997, and fourth loss in such games. No one saw this coming.

Every player on the court for the Lady Jaguars displayed great heart and talent but ended up playing at about 80% of their potential. In reality, they have nothing to hang their heads about as they played through immense pressure over their heads all season long, never slowing their strive to become a better team. They finish 28-4, identical in record to 2005, an outstanding achievement in itself. They earned the Central Minnesota Conference championship, two regular-season tournament championships, as well as their third straight Sub-Section 6AA-17 championship.

It was our school's 14th trip to a Section Final game, where we now have a record of 1-13 since 1995. Thirteen Jaguar teams have fallen one win from "state" in that time.

The girls should keep in mind that no Jaguar team returning a large nucleus of its players from a banner season has ever lived up to the expectations of how far they would go in playoffs. Most noteably are previous boys and girls basketball teams in the late 1990s and the 2002-2003, and 2004-2005 seasons, as well as wrestling teams in the late 1990s, who all fell in section tournament play even though they all had strong chances of advancing to "state".
It truly is very, very difficult to repeat when you have a target on your back the entire season.
Expectations never win games, and it is much easier to get motivated to defeat someone when you go in as underdogs. (Prime example: the Lady Jaguars being seeded #2 behind Sauk in the sub-section this season.)

As tough as the loss was, they also must never lose sight of continuing a strong and proud tradition of volleyball excellence for their school and community, while giving 100% sportsmanship in all 32 matches they played.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lady Jaguar Volleyball - Step 3, Sub-Section Championship Win: "HOW SWEET IT IS!"

The Paynesville Area High School's roof was raised by the excitement level of these Lady Jaguars, shown moments after achieving match point in Game Four against Sauk Centre tonight, winning 3-1 over the neighboring rival Mainstreeters and earning their third straight Sub-Section 6AA-17 crown and fourth since 2002.

Our high-powered Lady Jaguar volleyball team dismantled the 27-5-1 Sauk Centre Mainstreeters tonight in thunderous fashion, pounding on them through four hard-hitting games and showing they are on an unstoppable mission to return to the Class AA state tournament for the second straight season.

Their level of play tonight was nothing less than stellar, using a high level of excitement and self-motivation to overpower a very good Sauk Centre squad. In the process, they raised their overall record to 28-3, tying the school record for wins set in 2005. They also showed how they indeed can play through pressure, shaking it off and giving Jaguar fans the most exciting show on a volleyball court we could ask for.

The teamwork displayed tonight was nothing less than amazing, with every player on the court crashing the floor, diving for digs, dishing out wonderful passes, and converting excellent sets into booming, untouchable kills.

An unbelievably loud and proud Jaguar section was out in full force tonight as well, getting a most welcome and uplifting boost from Paynesville and Albany fans (it was something special to see). Their support will be most needed at the large and spacious environment at the University of Minnesota-Morris fieldhouse (capacity 3,000) on Saturday, November 4th, as the Lady Jaguars will work to complete step four during the Section 6AA Championship and advance to the State Tournament for the second straight season.

The match begins at 7:00. Montevideo, the Lady Jaguars' opponent, will no doubt bring a large following themselves. Their 10-12th enrollment is 341, compared to our Jaguars' 181. (Strange how we are stuck in Class 2A, is it not?) Their overall record is 24-1-1, winning their school's first-ever sub-section volleyball title tonight over Maccray 3-1. They have one quality win over state-ranked St.Cloud Cathedral, although playing it at their high school had a big part of that win. Other than Cathedral, they have not played any strong teams this season, so their one-loss record is most certainly nothing to fear, just something to respect. They have regularly choked during playoffs in recent memory, bringing numerous number-one seeded teams to the sub-sections since 1997 and never getting out, sometimes losing in the second round. This season, though, they are senior-dominated, anxious to make it to state, showing no signs whatsoever of choking...but they have not played a team like our Lady Jaguars this season.

Saturday night's volleyball match will be a truly electrifying event to witness, so call up your friends, family, and neighbors...anyone close enough to Morris to make it there on Saturday. We've sent three exciting and talented teams to that fieldhouse before, first in 1997 with a record-breaking 20-5 boys basketball team, second in 2002 with another record-breaking 23-3 boys basketball team, and last in 2004 with a 23-5 volleyball team. All three times our teams were soundly defeated by a faster, better opponent (54-32 to eventual state champion Hancock in 1997, 65-41 in 2002 against Ortonville, and 3-0 in 2004 in volleyball against Maccray).

This time, however, our Lady Jaguars are without a doubt the better team, and they will "bring it" Saturday night...this is the last event you would want to miss.

It should be noted as well that the current seniors on the 2006 team played in that Section 6AA final in 2004 against Maccray, and they no doubt remember the thumping they endured and will use that as one more motivational tool to come out strong and show West Central Minnesota that we have the best volleyball team around.

An elated team of Sub-Section 6AA-17 Lady Jaguars poses with their trophy after trouncing rival Sauk Centre 3-1 at the Paynesville Area High School.

Now this was classy - here's the sign that the Albany varsity volleyball team was holding throughout the entire match. After being beaten by our Lady Jaguars in the semi-final they came out in full force supporting them against Sauk Centre.

An update regarding talented, winning teams in the Central Minnesota Conference teams that are in Section 5AA (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Pierz, and Maple Lake): Pierz had a huge upset in the 5AA-20 semi-final against Maple Lake, winning a 3-2 match that put them in the sub-section championship against St.Cloud Cathedral. Tonight, Cathedral soundly defeated the Pioneers 25-21,25-16, 25-12, and will play the 5AA-18 champion on Saturday night for "State". The Lakers of Howard Lake actually put up a better game against Cathedral in the semi-final match against the Crusaders, losing 3-0 in closer games (25-22, 25-13, 25-16). The CMC has very good volleyball teams in their top-four. Pierz finished 19-10-2, Howard Lake finished 14-12, and Maple Lake finished 21-7 (breaking their school record for wins, but not getting a bit of playoff hardware).

Maple Lake was gunning to advance to the state tournament for the first time in their school history, and no doubt are still stunned after their loss to Pierz in the sub-section semi-final. They had a very talented team in 2006, tying our Lady Jaguars for the CMC championship. It shows how playoff pressure can get the best of teams, meaning our area should be thankful that our girls were up to the challenge tonight.