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Doug Wolter: In local sports, celebrate even small successes

Here in southwest Minnesota, we have lots of high school sports teams with active, caring fan bases. I'm glad. It's because so many people care that makes it fun to write about the teams.

Here in southwest Minnesota, we have lots of high school sports teams with active, caring fan bases. I’m glad. It’s because so many people care that makes it fun to write about the teams.

But of course, not every program wins all the time. In fact, some of them go through a fairly lengthy time of losing.

Probably the hardest thing to do as a sports writer is to find positive things to say about a team that loses regularly. When the players are high school age, you just can’t be brutally honest in most cases. That would be cruel. If I had no heart, I’d get nasty letters from parents. And I’d probably deserve them.

Am I a fan of the local teams? Well, yes. But I still strive for fairness. I’ve got my journalistic integrity to protect, you know.

That being said, I had a really enjoyable time on Monday covering the Worthington Trojans volleyball team, which looked very impressive in a 3-0 victory at home against the Fairmont Cardinals. I especially enjoyed the match because only four days earlier the Trojans -- who’ve been losing a whole lot more than they’ve been winning this year -- didn’t look particularly good in a 3-0 loss to Luverne.

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I covered that match, too. It becomes difficult to write positive stories when there’s little positive to report. I did the best I could, but I can’t make stuff up.

The thing is, there are many good athletes on the WHS volleyball team. But volleyball is a team sport with a capital “T,” and when things aren’t clicking, teams lose. Head coach Jessica Hogan has told me repeatedly this year that she’s proud of her players; they continue to work very hard at practice, and they’re not giving up, she said.

Monday’s 3-0 win seemed to vindicate her optimism. I was happy. So were the players. I asked Jessica if she would ask two of the stars, Sophie Wietzema and Brianna Veen, to emerge from the locker room when they’re ready so that I could talk to them.

So several minutes later they appeared, side by side, with huge, bright smiles on their faces. I grinned happily -- pleased as punch to be able to share in the cheer.

There have been other local teams going through challenging times this season.

The Minnesota West football team comes to mind. The Bluejays’ 2018 campaign began brightly, but the unexpected season-ending injury to quarterback Andrew Ortiz was a big blow. The Jays haven’t quite recovered yet, and there’s only one more regular season game remaining (Oct. 19 at home against Vermilion) for them to regain their mojo.

I’ve spent a lot of time this fall covering and contemplating the Worthington High School girls soccer team, which had gone through two winless seasons before posting a 2-12-2 year in 2018. Head coach Emily Ahlquist is the very definition of the long-suffering yet optimistic coach who always knows how to look at the bright side under any circumstance. I found myself rooting for her as much as the kids.

Well, those two wins are big for the program. The team improved this year. It really did, and I think everyone associated with the team should count this a successful season.

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Of course, it ended suddenly last Saturday, on a shootout with Glencoe-Silver Lake in a Section 2A playoff game.

A victory for the Trojans would have been occasion for more huge, bright smiles. But in sports, you don’t get to write your own script.

Well, OK. But there’s always next year.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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