Preseason Minnesota Volleyball rankings are out

Here are the first Minnesota volleyball preseason rankings of the year:

Class AAA Rankings
1. Eagan (8)
2. Prior Lake
3. Lakeville North
4. Stillwater
5. Champlin Park
6. Hopkins
7. East Ridge
8. Shakopee
9. Moorhead
​10. Blaine
Class AA Rankings
1. Maple Lake (8)
2. Stewartville
3. Kasson-Mantorville
4. Southwest Christian
5. Marshall
6. North Branch
7. Sauk Centre
8. Roseau
9. Totino-Grace
​10. Concordia
Class A Rankings
1. Mayer Lutheran (8)
2. Hayfield
3. Caledonia
4. Bethlehem Academy
5. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
​6. Rush City
7. Mabel-Canton
8. Wadena-Deer Creek
9. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
10. Underwood
Minnesota volleyyball

The first Minnesota volleyball rankings are out. Lots of good volleyball teams make their home in southeast Minnesota and we’ll have coverage on our website at bluffcountrynews.com. Spread the word for family and friends that live out of town.

Southeast Minnesota has several good teams in the Class A and Class AA rankings. The first official day of practice is August 14. Fall sports is basically upon us. Can’t wait to get going on the seasons again.

We’ll have lots of sports coverage in southeast Minnesota on our website, bluffcountrynews.com.

 

 

Spring Grove Lions fall sports teams ready

Boy, it’s hard to believe that fall sports are right around the corner. What happened to summer? The first official day of fall practice for high school sports is August 14. I’m already talking to southeast Minnesota coaches about doing previews of their teams for our newspapers and online at bluffcountrynews.com. My first stop this fall is a visit with the Spring Grove Lions’ coaching staff.

For those who don’t follow southeast Minnesota sports on a regular basis, the Spring Grove high school sports teams are generally very good year after year. The football and volleyball teams recently returned from their last summer camps of the year. I talked with volleyball coach Kelsey Morken and football coach Zach Hauser.

Spring Grove Lions

The Spring Grove Lions, shown here in action from last season, are readying for fall practice, which officially starts on August 14.

The volleyball team had a very good season last year, going 17-12 overall and 10-4 in the Southeast Conference, finishing at second in the East Division. The Lion girls bring back a lot of experience from last year’s squad. The Spring Grove football team went 9-2 last year, 7-1 in the 9 Man, District 1, East Sub-District football standings.

The football team went to its summer camp without its number one quarterback, Alex Folz, who was out with a biceps injury. But, don’t worry Lions fans. He’ll be okay come fall practice. Here’s the conversations with both coaches on the chadsmithmedia.com podcast.

MN high school baseball adopts pitch count

The pitch count is making its first official appearance in the Minnesota high school baseball season this spring. New rules have officially gone into effect that will limit the number of pitches high schoolers can throw during a given time period.

Of course, the goal is to protect the health of young arms. The total amount of pitches thrown in what is now a tiered system will dictate how much subsequent time they aren’t allowed to take the mound again. The new system also means a whole lot more paperwork for head coaches and a system of punishments if the new system is not followed.

Pitch count

Spring Grove baseball coach Chris Strinmoen, pictured here, is one of many high school baseball coaches that have to contend with all-new pitch count rules in effect this season, designed to help pitchers keep their arms healthier. (Photo from Bluff Country News Group)

“It started as a nationwide push to create pitch count policies,” said Spring Grove baseball coach Chris Strinmoen, “to protect the arms of all the youth. The Minnesota State High School League has adopted a policy that’s similar to other states.”

He said it’s a tiered system. The daily maximum a pitcher can throw is 105 pitches (which would then mean three days’ rest). For 30 pitches or less, kids are eligible to pitch again the next day. However, they can’t pitch more than two days in a row, so if a pitcher throws two days in a row, they sit the next day. Any time a pitcher gets above that 30-pitch total, then he’ll be looking at mandatory days off.

The next tier is 31-50 pitches, which require one day of rest. 51-75 pitches mean two days of rest from pitching. 76-105 pitches require three days off from pitching. If a pitcher does hit that 105-pitch count and they’re in the middle of pitching to a batter, they can finish pitching to that hitter. There’s a similar list in place for JV baseball but the pitch count limits are smaller in number.

“The days off are measured in calendar days,” he said, “and not the next 24 hours after a start. It’s not a new concept for coaches to keep track of pitch counts. Any good coach will be doing that to avoid injuries to his staff. The new system requires that someone be in the dugout with the sole task of keeping track of their pitchers as well as the other teams, just to make sure the other squad isn’t bending the rules.”

Coaches are required to enter pitch counts into the high school league website within 24 hours after the end of each game.

 

Century Panthers look for two in a row Friday

The Rochester Century Panthers football teams picked up their elusive first win of the season last Friday with a 35-21 win at New Prague.

Rochester Century

Panthers coach Jon Vik said the effort has been there all season for his team, so getting the first victory wasn’t necessarily a relief, but more of a reward for his team’s hard work.

“I think the kids felt really positive because they started to do some things better than we had in the previous weeks,” said Vik. “Our issues had been not finishing games and some mental mistakes, and our kids played much better this week so I think they felt good about that.

“They’ve had a very positive attitude all year,” said Vik. “It’s one of those things where we finally get a ‘W,’ but at the same time, they felt better about how they played and that’s the most important thing.”

He said leadership has been a big key to the team staying positive in spite of not getting the results they want.

“We have some great kids in our program in grades 9-12,” said Vik. “Our numbers aren’t huge in terms of the amount of kids on the roster, but the quality of kids we have is so fun to work with. With the varsity and junior varsity working together, I think that they’ve done a really good job of staying positive and looking at the little things we need to do to improve.”

Vik added, “At the same time, they’ve done a good job finding some positives from each game and I think that’s a real tribute to the kids.”

Despite 1 win in the first 6 games, Vik said the Panthers have had several chances to add to that total:

 

 

The biggest challenge to the Panthers on offense is a lack of size on the front line.

“We’re traditionally a small program,” said Vik, “which means our kids aren’t usually large. We have had good athletes in our program, so we’ve been able to make up for some size deficiency. However, this is the smallest and youngest offensive line we’ve ever put together. We’ve got converted fullbacks who are playing guard now. We’ve got a freshman that isn’t a big, strapping 280-pound kid playing right now. He’s more of a running back kid, but he’s feisty.”

Vik added, “That inexperience and lack of size means the kids have had to scrap for everything they’ve gotten, and we haven’t been able to score as consistently as we want.”

The lack of size on the line means the Panther’s defense has to scrap for what it gets too.

“Absolutely,” said Vik, “we’re undersized on the defensive line as well. We might have one kid that’s over 200 pounds. We have a couple of kids over 250 pounds that rotate in, but they aren’t as mobile as some of the others. Otherwise, all of our kids are that light.

“For example, look at the lines from John Marshall and Mayo. They have some really big kids, plus, Red Wing has one of the biggest kids I’ve ever seen put on a high school uniform.”

Vik talked about this Friday’s homecoming game against Northfield:

 

 

He said homecoming activities are a challenge for a football coach:

 

 

Vik said the biggest key to a win Friday is to avoid mistakes.

“We can’t turn the ball over,” said Vik. “We also have to be able to capitalize on any mistakes they make too. We also need to take them out of their rhythm so they can’t drive the ball on us. I think if we can do those things, we’ll be okay.”

Here’s a few highlights from the Century game against Winona that went to double overtime, courtesy of HBCSports:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lourdes football looking for continued improvements

Rochester Lourdes

The Rochester Lourdes football team, shown here in a file photo from myfox47.com celebrating after their state title last season, are 5-0 heading into their homecoming game with LaCrescent on Friday night.

The defending Class AAA champion Rochester Lourdes football team is 5-0 on the season after a 26-7 win at Kasson-Mantorville last week.

The Eagles are averaging 32 points per game, and giving up less than 12. However, Lourdes head coach Mike Kesler said they still haven’t played the kind of consistently good football he’d like.

“No, we really haven’t played our best ball,” said Kesler. “The other night against Kasson (Mantorville) was probably the most consistent game we’ve played. Even though we only had a 6-0 lead at halftime, I felt really good about the way we played. We didn’t finish off the drives like we should have, but the effort was great and we played consistently well for 4 quarters.”

He added, “Now we have to build on that as we get nearer to the end of the season.”

The running game has been solid all season for the Eagles.

Mason Carstens, running back for Rochester Lourdes, is one of the top rushers in the state, with 1,023 rushing yards to date in the first 5 games of the season. He and the Eagles host LaCrescent on Friday night for homecoming.(Photo from the Rochester Post Bulletin)

Mason Carstens, running back for Rochester Lourdes, is one of the top rushers in the state, with 1,023 rushing yards to date in the first 5 games of the season. He and the Eagles host LaCrescent on Friday night for homecoming.(Photo from the Rochester Post Bulletin)

“When you have (one of) the state’s top rushers in Mason Carstens (1,023 yards), there are a lot of good things that need to happen, starting with the offensive line. I had some concerns about the line coming into the season, but they’ve really come together.”

The Eagles lost a lot of experience from their state championship roster, and Kesler said the seniors they did bring back have done a good job leading a young squad.

 

 

 

“We lost 23 seniors off the state championship team,” said Kesler. “We had a lot of spots to fill, and a lot of kids have stepped up. We only had about 4 starters back on each side of the ball. Guys have worked hard and we’re excited to be 5-0 right now.”

Kesler is looking for improvement in through the air on offense.

 

 

The Eagles defense is giving up an average of just under 12 points per game, and they’ve stepped up their level of play too.

“Yeah, they are,” said Kesler. “We struggled a little early in the year with a bend but don’t break style. We’ve given up some nice drives (to the other team) but ultimately we’ve kept them out of the end zone.”

Kesler added, “We do need to tackle better and create some more turnovers.”

Depth was a concern for the Lourdes defense early on, but the number of players on the field going both ways has dropped.

“Early in the season, we started 9 guys both ways,” said Kesler, “but we went away from that as only 4 guys are going both ways now. I think it’s really helped us to have more fresh guys on that side of the ball there.”

It’s homecoming night Friday for Rochester Lourdes against LaCrescent:

 

 

As an undefeated team and defending state champs, Kesler said the Eagles get everyone’s best efforts night in and night out, so his team has to come ready to play.

“I think our target’s pretty big,” said Kesler. “We get a lot of people’s A games when they play us, and that’s fine. We have a lot of high expectations around here. Anytime you’ve had success, people want to knock you off. You have to accept that, and you have to want to be a part of that too.”