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Here we go: Fall prep sports practice is under way

Minnesota high school fall sports teams began organized practices Monday, including those in Worthington

Worthington football head coach Geno Lais (on left) watches with the coaching staff as the Trojans' offenses and defenses scrimmage during a Monday morning practice.
Worthington football head coach Geno Lais (on left) watches with the coaching staff as the Trojans' offenses and defenses scrimmage during a Monday morning practice.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- The weather was gray and crisp Monday morning when Minnesota high school athletic teams opened the 2022 fall practice season. Temperatures hovered in the low 60s and though it was technically still a summer day, it felt like late September.

Because of the coolness, Worthington High School soccer, football and tennis participants had to go hard in order to work up a sweat.

Worthington Trojans volleyball team practice their serve during a Monday morning practice.
Worthington High School volleyball players practice their serving technique Monday morning in the WHS gymnasium.

“The first day is all about getting them back into the swing of things,” said first-year WHS girls soccer head coach Anne Greenway. Just minutes before she put her Trojans through stretching drills, she revealed her plan for the first day.

“We’ll do some running,” she said, smiling.

At Worthington, two of the fall sports head coaches are beginning their first year at the helm of their programs. Greenway takes over for Emily Ahlquist, who retired after many years running the girls soccer team. Courtney Opdahl is the new head girls volleyball coach, taking up the reins after Jessica Hogan made the switch to girls basketball.

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The first morning of fall practice saw athletic director Josh Dale making all the rounds -- to the high school gym for volleyball, to the middle school tennis courts for girls tennis, to the grass football practice field next to Trojan Field, and to Prairie View elementary where both the boys and girls soccer teams kicked off the year.

Worthington Trojans Taya Oberloh returns a volley during tennis practice Monday morning.
Worthington tennis player Taya Oberloh returns a volley Monday.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

He was at a white desk on the Prairie View practice field checking paperwork with several girls soccer recruits when Greenway told a reporter her plans for the first day.

“The first day is all about getting them back into the swing of things,” she said.

On the south facing of the high school building, veteran cross country coach Cory Smidt looked over his athletes and said he felt good about what might come later. He was reminded that the Trojans are coming off an outstanding boys season.

“We’ve had a good four seasons,” he pointed out.

But, of course, there are no predictions at this early stage.

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“I never make predictions about kids who are less than 18 years old,” he said. “But I can tell you this: The kids have run a lot this summer. The ones that have been successful have run a lot.”

On the practice grass of the football complex, head coach Gene Lais had all his athletes and his coaches in place. They practiced in stations, all over the field. And the familiar voice of defensive coordinator Scott Barber cut through the morning air as he called out plays.

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“Black one! Black one! Lucky, lucky, lucky,” he barked.

Opdahl, who was a WHS volleyball assistant coach for four years and a volunteer assistant a year before that, now is in charge of the Trojans. And she started practice on Monday sounding a commonplace volleyball theme.

“We’re building chemistry and getting our baseline fundamentals set up,” she said while hitting balls to recruits lining up one by one to practice bumping. Many of them seemed anxious to please as they inched up the starting line anticipating having to scrape the volleyball off their shoelaces.

“Back up,” Opdahl said.

“Stay behind that line,” she announced.

Although the various fall teams practiced in different places and learned at the feet of different coaches on Monday, essentially the themes were similar. They’re all building chemistry and touching upon fundamentals now, hoping that it all becomes automatic in time for the regular season.

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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Thursday night high school sports roundup:
The Worthington Trojans girls’ and boy’s hockey teams both played home games on Thursday night. The girls’ team celebrated Senior Night and played the non-conference Austin Packers. Austin beat Worthington 6-1.
Trailing at halftime, the Worthington High School girls basketball team outscored Albert Lea 49-27 in the second half Thursday night in Worthington
The Minnesota West men's basketball team was defeated by conference opponent Rochester Wednesday night. Bie Ruei had a big night with 26 points and four assists.