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Doug Wolter: Good things are happening for WHS hockey, basketball

Worthington is a town that loves its hockey, but in recent years both the boys and the girls high school teams have taken more than their share of lumps. Each new season brings new optimism, however, and this year seems a little bit different for the boys.

Doug Wolter photo
Doug Wolter

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington is a town that loves its hockey, but in recent years both the boys and the girls high school teams have taken more than their share of lumps. Each new season brings new optimism, however, and this year seems a little bit different for the boys.

By beating Minnesota River 5-2 on Saturday the Trojan guys moved to 2-1 on the young campaign, and heading into Tuesday’s (Dec. 14) game against Windom Area, their only loss was a well-played season opener against New Ulm, 4-3.

It’s a long way yet to the finish line, but so far, so good.

“We feel good about our start,” said head coach Tyler Nienkerk on Monday. “The kids have worked hard. And that’s what we said at the beginning of the season, and that’s been the reason for our success. I think, in general, these guys, especially this senior group, they’ve played together for a long time. There’s more of a team aspect.”

Physical play has been a plus, and hockey, of course, is a physical game. Andrew Benson and Blake Ahrenstorff, both big guys, are showing how physicality can work to a team’s advantage. Others are playing tough, too, including another team leader, Konner Honius -- who’s not as big as Benson or Ahrenstorff, but also doesn’t shy away from contact.

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“We just want to be aggressive, use our speed. And when the body’s there, we just want to take away (the opponent’s) time and space,” Nienkerk said.

The Trojans are even winning when they don’t feel they’ve played particularly well. A 7-4 win over Waseca was one of those games, and winning when you’re a little off your game’s gotta feel pretty good in itself.

On Thursday, the Worthingtonians play Luverne at Luverne. The Cardinals have been a thorn in the Trojans’ side in recent years, though in six losses over the last three seasons most of the scores have been tight.

“That should be a real good game,” Nienkerk said. “A long time ago it’s been a good rivalry.”

It’s been a fairly one-sided rivalry for a while. But Worthington believes it’s got a chance this time.

“We’re not looking in the past, that we haven’t beaten these guys in a few years. We’re going in there expecting to win, that we can get a win in their place,” said the WHS coach.

Marshall looms for hoop teams

This is Marshall week for the Worthington High School girls and boys basketball teams. The Tigers have pretty much owned the Trojans in basketball for a few years (kind of like the way Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers says he owns the Chicago Bears), and Challenge No. 1 for the WHS squads is to avoid being intimidated.

Friday is the day the girls squad travels north to play the Tigers and the boys squad stays home to take the Tigers on.

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Now, there’s no reason either Trojan team needs to feel beaten before the games begin. That was last year that the Tigers posted a 17-4 record in boys basketball and a 22-1 record on the girls’ side. Sure, those teams to the north tough again this season, but the MHS girls have already taken one loss -- a 61-44 result against unbeaten St. Peter.

The WHS girls (who played Jackson County Central Tuesday night) have gotten off to a great start, and they match up with MHS as well as they have in a number of years.

The Worthington boys are young, but very talented. They’ve got nothing to lose on Friday. With each game, they have an opportunity to make something happen that can pay big dividends down the road. I hope they understand what kind of an opportunity that is for a young (and I think and up-and-coming) team like theirs, and there’s no better place to get the ball rolling than against a program like Marshall’s.

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120221 N DG Worthington Trojans vs SWC Boys Basketball S3.jpg
Worthington's Marenono Opiew (11) puts up a shot against Southwest Minnesota Christian in the team's season opener. On Friday, the WHS girls and boys face arch-rival Marshall. Tim Middagh / The Globe

Related Topics: HOCKEYBASKETBALL
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