John's Journal
An Early Hockey Challenge Is Something To Build On 11/10/2015
The high school hockey season is a long one. Girls teams began practicing on Oct. 26 and the season will culminate with the 2016 state championship games on Feb. 20. In between are 17 weeks of practices, games and lessons.

Those games at the end of the season will be played under the brightest lights and heaviest glare of attention. But the games played early on are just as vital, setting the tone for what is to come.

Case in point was Tuesday night’s game between Blake and Hill-Murray at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. This was a match between heavyweights: Hill-Murray, playing its season opener, is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and owns the last two state championships. Blake, playing its second game after beating Cretin-Derham Hall 4-1 on Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and won state championships in 2013 and 2014 before falling to Thief River Falls in last season’s title game.

The verdict Tuesday was straightforward. Hill-Murray scored power-play goals in the first and second periods and added an even-strength goal before giving up one to Blake with 14 seconds remaining in the third. The final was Pioneers 3, Bears 1 and both teams came away with lessons that can be carried forward.

“It’s kind of a typical first game of the year,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser. “It’s a little frazzled at times but there’s something to be said for learning how to win and it doesn’t have to be fancy sometimes.”

Both teams are loaded with high-end talent. Jac Kaasa had a goal and an assist for Hill-Murray, and Laura Anderson and Kate Smith also scored. Carly Bullock scored the late goal for the Bears.

Bullock will play college hockey at Princeton along with teammate Sylvie Wallin. Blake’s Lucy Burton will play at Yale, as will a teammate who has not yet made that news public.

Mekenzie Steffen, who had an assist for the Pioneers, will play at Wisconsin and fellow defender Kenzie Prater will play at Quinnipiac.

The shots-on-goal in the game were dead even at 23 apiece and both coaches came away impressed with the competition.

“I saw Hill-Murray play a very disciplined game,” said Blake coach Shawn Reid. “They are tough, they’re great defensively, they block tons of shots, it’s hard to generate any offense. And the couple times we did generate offense, they had a great goalie (senior Mari Johnson).”

Schafhauser said of the Bears, “They have great skill. Over the last couple of years they’ve beaten us in overtime in some really good games. It could have easily gone that way again. We had some really good goaltending. It’s a good start.”

Afterwards, the coaches talked to their teams about this fact: it’s a long season, one game is just one game, and there is much to learn.

“That’s exactly what we said,” Reid said. “We don’t need to overreact to this. It’s one game against a very good team and what we need to do is find lessons in that. What can we learn and how can we improve?”

Schafhauser said of his players, “They never gave up. It was frustrating at times. I know a lot of them understand the level that they’re used to and it just doesn’t happen overnight. That’s when you kind of lean on your seniors. We have kind of a new experience this year with nine seniors; we’ve never had that many. And we had some young kids today who were a little overwhelmed. But they’re good players and it’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Time? Oh, there’s plenty of time.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 234
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,665
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Hasz Sisters Finish 1-2 One More Time; Seventh-Grader Makes History11/7/2015
NORTHFIELD -- The third time was a charm for the Hasz sisters from Alexandria. Then again, the first and second times were pretty charming, too.

The 18-year-old senior twins capped their high school cross-country careers by finishing first and second Saturday in the Class 2A state meet; Bethany was first and Megan second. Last year the finish was Megan first and Bethany second, and two years ago it was Bethany first and Megan second.

“Megan could have just as easily won,” Bethany said Saturday. “It could have gone either way.”

Bethany’s winning time Saturday over 5,000 meters was 17 minutes, 32.2 seconds. Megan finished in 17:38.9 and Claire Boersma, a junior from Marshall, placed third in 17:51.1. (They are pictured here, left to right: Bethany, Megan and Claire.)

Saturday’s race, the Hasz sisters’ fifth time at the state meet, capped an illustrious autumn career that will continue on the track in the spring before they begin college at the University of Minnesota. They first went to state in 2011, when they were eighth-graders. Megan placed fourth and Bethany was fifth. As freshmen, Bethany was third and Megan sixth.

In track, Bethany won the Class 2A 1,600- and 3,200-meter state titles last spring. As sophomores the twins placed second (Megan) and third (Bethany) in the 1,600 and third (Bethany) and fourth (Megan) in the 3,200.

Megan did not run at the state track meet last spring due to a stress fracture in her left tibia. The injury resurfaced this fall after she raced in the season’s first meet, and she sat out until later in the campaign. Bethany and Megan finished 1-2 in the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8 meets, and the Alexandria team qualified for state for the first time since 2011.

“We’re just sad that it’s our senior year, “Bethany said. “We’re going to miss our coaches and our team. It’s weird that this is our last state cross-country meet.”

Boersma was all smiles after crossing the finish line behind the twins.

“This feels amazing,” she said. “It feels like a dream. Once we finished I was kind of star struck around (the Hasz sisters). They’re so amazing, they’re like celebrities. People joked around, ‘Oh, are you going to beat the Hasz sisters?’ But that wasn’t really a goal of mine this year. I was just trying to finish right behind them.”

In the team competition, Edina won the title with 68 points, followed by Marshall (76) and Willmar (119).

IN THE CLASS 1A GIRLS RACE, Winona Cotter’s Grace Ping made history by becoming the youngest state champion in history. She is a seventh-grader who turned 12 in July. No seventh-grader -- male or female, Class 1A or 2A -- had ever won a state cross-country title before Saturday.

Her time of 17:52.0 was 50 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Breck eighth-grader Morgan Richter (18:42.7). Placing third was Watertown-Mayer senior Hannah Truniger in 18:46.7.

Ping, who won the Section 1 championship with a margin of two minutes, two seconds, came into Saturday’s race as the top-ranked runner in Class 1A. Before Saturday, her watershed victory had come in September at the Roy Griak Invitational. The field in that race consisted of 419 girls from 49 teams in 10 states. The Griak was her first 5K as part of a high school team, although she has been running 5K since she was eight.

Ping’s victory Saturday gives her the possibility of becoming the first six-time state cross-country champion. The only five-time state champion is Carrie Tollefson of Dawson-Boyd, who won five titles from 1990 through 1994 and went on to become an NCAA all-American at Villanova and an Olympian.

Perham won the 1A girls team championship with a score of 74, followed by Annandale (99) and Trinity School at River Ridge (118).

BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP RACES

Wayzata senior Jaret Carpenter carried the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A into Saturday’s race and finished that way, too. His time of 18:26.5 was less than two seconds better than runner-up Micah Mather (15:28.2), a senior from St. Paul Highland Park. Stillwater senior Eli Krahn was third in 15:32.3.

Hopkins claimed the 2A boys team title with a score of 34, followed by Minneapolis Washburn (67) and Stillwater (87).

In Class 1A, La Crescent junior Zack Emery won the state title with a time of 16:07.8. Mora junior Michael Schwinghamer was second in 16:11.1 and Lake City junior Carl Kozlowski was third in 16:17.4.

Mora won the team title for the second year in a row with a score of 43, followed by Perham (94) and Annandale (166).

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 232
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,607
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Anoka Boys, Eagan Girls Repeat; Benilde And Orono Are Champs11/5/2015
ST. CLOUD – Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University has been the home of boys and girls soccer state semifinal and championship games for two years now, and Thursday’s slate of four title games wrapped up a strong run of play before the tournament returns indoors next year.

The Metrodome was the site of the games for years and Husky Stadium was selected to host until the new Vikings stadium opens in 2016. The elements are part of the game in outdoor soccer, and Thursday’s conditions were windy and cool, although not unbearable for players or fans.

Here are Thursday's results…

CLASS 1A GIRLS: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 4, Orono 2

Defense was the season-long theme for the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights, who allowed only nine goals in 22 games. The Red Knights previously won state titles in 2012 and 2013.

Orono, the defending state champions, trailed early with a credited to Benilde’s Aleksa Tataryn. The Spartans’ Claire Bash made it 1-1 with 18 minutes to go in the first half. Tataryn gave the Red Knights (20-1-1) a 2-1 lead with less than 23 minutes remaining in regulation, followed quickly by goals from Amanda Cassidy and Madison Stoks that gave Benilde-St. Margaret’s a 4-1 lead. Carla Goehring of Orono (19-3) made it 4-2 with 12:30 left.

CLASS 1A BOYS: Orono 2, Breck 1 (overtime)

Alex Kill scored on a header four minutes into overtime to give the Spartans (22-1) their first state title. Breck (14-5-4) took an early lead on a goal credited to Eric Smits with under 22 minutes left in the half and Orono answered quickly with a goal by Guyvens Mohs. That made it 1-1 and the score was unchanged through the rest of regulation time.

CLASS 2A GIRLS/ Eagan 1, Eden Prairie 0

The teams played to a scoreless tie through 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods before Eagan won a shootout with three goals to Eden Prairie’s two. The state title was the second in a row for Eagan (19-2-1). Eden Prairie finished with a record of 15-4-3.

CLASS 2A BOYS/ Anoka 2, East Ridge 1

Nathan Casas scored for East Ridge midway through the first half. Early in the second half, after a hand-ball call, Anoka’s Donnie Guimont scored on a penalty kick to make it 1-1 and Blake Doyea scored five minutes later to put Anoka (17-3-2) in front to stay over the Raptors (15-3-3). It was Anoka's second state title in a row.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A girls/ Ashlee Olson, Dover-Eyota; Desi Krueger, St. Peter; Brooke Innes, Holy Angels; Megan Cook, Sartell-St. Stephen; Hannah Sandin, McKenzie Eckert, Princeton; Finna Maixner, Mara Yapello, Michelle Austin, Mahtomedi; Lily McKown, Claire Bash, Carly Goehring, Orono; Aleksa Tataryn, Sophie Roux, Julia Stelljes, Lauren Gustafson, Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

Class 1A boys/ Esteban Bedoya, Rochester Lourdes; Ryan Yang, St. Paul Como Park; Sijilfredo Gonzalez, Hermantown; Travis Forst, Sartell-St. Stephen; Abdiwahab Abdullahi, Fabian Macias, Faribault; Charles Roberts, Amanuel Bird, Grant Dumler, St. Thomas Academy; Hudson Haecker, Garrett Opperman, Avi Eller, Breck; Spencer Overturf, Guyvens Mohs, Pierce Laing, Alex Kill, Orono.

Class 2A girls/ Mikayla Iaquinto, Centennial; Morgan Turner, Wayzata; Emily Brown, Blaine; Kate Heimer, Rogers; Emily Boyer, Rachel Boyer, Mounds View; Hannah Cade, Temi Carda, Lauren Witte, Lakeville North; Lindsay Eliasen, Kara Bean, Meghan Verkinderen, Eden Prairie; Jade King, Taylor Kenealy, Kate Woodcock, Emma Brechlin, Eagan.

Class 2A boys/ Jonathan Loera, Rochester Mayo; Avery Weaver, Minnetonka; Chad Miller, Eagan; Sam Moses, Park Center; Mohamud Aden, Khalid Gelani, St. Cloud Tech; Juan Louis, Mitchell Taylor, Hassan Adan, Minneapolis Washburn; Keelan Spencer, Jarrod Ronquillo, Ashwin Kolla, East Ridge; Connor Schaaf, Blake Neumann, Jake Peterson, Michael Talbot, Anoka.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 166
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,487
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
No Change In Plans For Minneapolis North’s Future Gopher 10/31/2015
ST. PETER—Tyler Johnson was as shocked as anyone Wednesday morning when Jerry Kill announced his immediate retirement as the University of Minnesota head football coach. Johnson, a Minneapolis North senior quarterback/safety who has committed to play for the Gophers, learned the news when other recruits began trading frenzied texts.

“There were a lot of texts,” Johnson said Saturday after leading the Polars to a 54-29 victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in the Class 1A state quarterfinals at Gustavus Adolphus College. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Johnson had a hand in seven touchdowns, throwing for six and running for one. He finished with 285 passing yards and 186 on the ground, and also had an interception on defense.

Kill’s announcement didn’t affect his college decision, Johnson said.

“I’m still going to be a Gopher either way. It’s just crazy to me, but I’d like to thank him for recruiting me and giving me a chance to play for the Gophers.”

Tracy Claeys, who has been named the Gophers interim coach, telephoned Johnson after Kill’s thunderbolt.

“I talked to coach Claeys and we had a good conversation,” Tyler said. “He called me and he kept me updated about what’s going on. He kept it pretty short and simple. He told me straight up, he’s looking forward to being the head coach over there and he doesn’t plan on changing anything. He told me any way it goes, I will still have the opportunity to play for the Gophers.

“He was there throughout the recruiting process, too. I spoke a few times with him, and I’ve got to say he’s a pretty cool guy, just like coach Kill. I’m looking forward to playing for him.”

The Polars’ victory Saturday moved their record to 11-0. They will meet Braham in the state semifinals next Saturday at St. Cloud State at 8 p.m. Braham advanced with a 44-6 victory Saturday over Mahnomen.

Johnson opened the scoring Saturday with a 68-yard touchdown run in which he scrambled in the backfield, eluded defenders to the left and then to the right as he crisscrossed his way down the field.

His scoring passes went for 37, 32, 80 and 22 yards to Isaac Johnson and 28 and 11 yards to Azerick Rodgers. Tyler Johnson displayed a strong arm when necessary and a soft touch in other situations, sending fastballs to the middle of the field as well as floaters over defenders.

Last season Minneapolis North lost to Dawson-Boyd in the state semifinals. That defeat has helped fuel the Polars this season, Johnson said.

“It was a lot of motivation, losing in the state semifinals last year. We kept that in the back of our heads. We wanted to come out and go further this year and hopefully win a state championship.”

If they win one more game, they will play at the Prep Bowl in Johnson’s future football home at the University of Stadium.

“That would definitely be fun,” he said. “That’s what I hope to do.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 158
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,311
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Doubling Down: It’s A Sister Act At State Tennis10/29/2015
The doubles bracket at the Class 2A girls state tennis tournament looks like a list of law firms: Tarrolly & Tarrolly. Kopfer & Kopfer. Schurhamer & Schurhamer. McLeod & McLeod. Riermann & Riermann. Dorr & Dorr.

Sixteen doubles teams qualify for state, and it’s not rare to see sisters playing together. Paige and Taylor McLeod of Benilde-St. Margaret’s (the only set of twins in the bracket) also played at state last year, as did Brianna and Kelsey Dorr of Princeton. This year’s bracket, however, is packed with similar surnames, sometimes extending the family theme even further into the tournament.

St. Cloud Tech sisters Taylor (a junior) and Katelyn (sophomore) Tarrolly played No. 1 and No. 2 singles most of the season but teamed up in doubles for the postseason (they are pictured here with Katelyn on the left). Both have played singles at state in previous season, but their move to doubles opened up a singles spot for their seventh-grade sister Ashley.

The move worked out nicely: Ashley qualified for state in singles and her sisters are playing doubles. Taylor and Katelyn played in the Section 8 singles championship matches the previous two years (the top two advance to state).

“It was a last-minute decision,” Taylor said Tuesday. “We just kind of wanted to see how the season would work out. And we decided that it would give each of us the best opportunity to go to state if Katelyn and I played doubles and Ashley played singles.”

Katelyn and Taylor estimated that they played 10 matches as a doubles team before the state tournament. The transition from singles to doubles was easy, Katelyn said.

“We’re really close on and off the court so I think that really helps our bond.”

The other sisters playing 2A doubles are Jordan and Taylor Kopfer of Eastview, Delaney and Mackenzie Schurhamer of Woodbury, and Maggie and Grace Rierman of Mahtomedi.

The Dorr sisters of Princeton add another element to the family storyline: their mom, Kelly, is the Tigers coach.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Brianna said Thursday. “I enjoy having her as one of our coaches.”

Brianna (a senior) and Kelsey (freshman) played singles during the season and didn’t pair up in doubles until the Section 7 tournament. Both played several doubles matches with other teammates during the season.

“The team needed one of us at No. 1 singles the whole time,” Brianna said (pictured on the right in this photo with her sister and mother).

Mahtomedi’s Riermann sisters played doubles throughout the season, with other teammates as well as each other. This is the first time they have been to state.

“I think we definitely communicate pretty well,” Grace said. “You know in certain situations where your partner will hit it. We’re comfortable, we know where to be. We can see into each other’s heads a little.”

Fittingly, Friday’s 8 a.m. doubles semifinals (and 11:30 a.m. championship match) will be family affairs: Tarrolly vs. Schurmann and McLeod vs. Riermann.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 154
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,055
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn