MCC, JCC, WHS prep teams angling for more success this fall
The cycles of up years and down years hits just about every high school sports team, and those who achieve excellence one year might be rebuilding the next.
But as the 2022 fall season approaches, there are at least three successful teams in the corner of southwest Minnesota that believe they haven’t moved off that “up” curve -- at least not yet.
The Murray County Central football team posted an 11-1 record in 2021, losing only in the Class A state tournament. The Jackson County Central volleyball team went 29-7, winning two matches in the state Class AA tournament before falling to Sauk Centre in the championship. The Worthington High School boys soccer team, coming off a 19-1 season, surprised no one by also qualifying for state, where the Trojans lost a heartbreaking overtime shootout to Willmar in the first round.
Look out, rivals. The Rebels, Huskies and Trojans figure to be hard to beat again this year.
Optimism reigns for Murray County Central in football. The Rebels’ strength resides in their skill positions, and although several important players have graduated in the offensive and defensive lines, head coach Patrick Freeman is hoping for continued success.
The Rebels have lost three of five starters on the offensive line and all of their starters on the defensive line. But some good athletes are coming up, and they like to use the weight room.
“As long as we can keep focused and keep getting better, I think all the goals we had last year we can shoot for again,” Freeman said on Monday, looking ahead to the start of organized practice next week.
No need to worry about the skill players, for sure.
Carter Benda, who rushed for 1,800 yards a year ago, is back to headline a program that likes the running game. Tough and physical, but also very quick, he runs bigger than his 5-8, 160-pound frame implies.
Christian Tentinger, at 6-6 and 200 pounds, is a proven receiver and linebacker. Quarterback Abe Paulzine returns with experience. Freeman says he’s likely to throw more often than he did last season.
Offensive lineman Dylan Doeden is another player worth noting. He’ll also play on the defensive line.
Year in and year out, Jackson County Central volleyball emerges as one of southwest Minnesota’s most successful programs. It’s only because of the hard work the volleyball-loving Huskies put in, says head coach Deidre Wierson.
“We put a lot of time into the game and I would say they deserve that recognition for being as good as they are,” Wierson said this week.
Despite graduating stars Sadie Voss and Georgianna Wenzel from the 2021 squad, many talented players return for 2022. There are seven seniors on the team.
Maci Farmer, a setter, is an outstanding athlete who can fulfill any role. The 5-11 Peyton Hanson is a strong middle hitter and an outstanding blocker. Libero Alexis O’Reilly will be starting for her second year. And outside hitter Andrea Benson gives JCC another solid hitter.
Expect a big year from junior hitter Emma Haren, who Wierson describes as a “go-to” player who competed successfully in summer volleyball.
Wierson aims high, but she knows there are many other fine southwest Minnesota teams, too.
“Our goal is to really be disciplined after proving ourselves and going to state and being runners-up. We really need to be disciplined,” she said.
It seems that every year, an outstanding WHS boys soccer team ends its year in bitter disappointment. Last year, the Trojans were five seconds away from advancing to the second round of the state Class AA tournament. But they had it taken away from them in an overtime loss to Willmar.
But before any team can be disappointed like that, it’s got to win big games, too. Worthington has certainly won its share.
Head coach Juan Flores describes the 2022 team as young. The pre-season goal is to try to win the Big South Conference championship and then to make a run in the section tourney.
“With the class of seniors that we lost, it’s definitely going to be a huge loss for us. But I think we’ve got the talent with the experience our younger kids have,” Flores said.
Senior goalkeeper Osmin Pineda, senior right-back defender Oscar Galvez and junior scoring whiz Jonathan Banegas are the key players at this point. Pineda is a strong defender and a vocal team leader. Galvez is a proven defender on a team that graduated many fine defenders.
Banegas was the top scorer in the state last year as a sophomore and Flores said he’ll have to become a leader this fall.
“What makes him a great goal scorer, when he wants to put the ball in the back of the net, he picks out a corner and does it,” said the coach.