2010-11 Fall Sports Preview: The 'Pack holding hope for successful season2010-11 Fall Previews for the Park boys and girls soccer teams, the volleyball team, the boys and girls cross country team and the girls swimming and diving team.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
PARK BOYS SOCCER
Focus needed as expectations are high
On the heels of a promising 11-5-4 season the Park boys soccer team has high expectations for this season.
Head coach Jason Arnebeck, who is in his fourth year at the helm of the Wolfpack, said the team has many players with varsity experience returning to the team this season.
Led by All-State Honorable Mention attacker Ebenezer Mengistu and All-Conference Honorable Mention defender Cole Rhein, state 300-meter hurdles champion R.J. Alowonle and goaltender Nick Lenertz, along with Zach Wilmes and Zach Newell, Park will look to improve upon last year’s fifth place conference finish and hope to advance to the state tournament out of a tough Section 3AA. At last year’s sections, Park fell 3-2 to Eagan in overtime in the 3AA semifinals.
The team will need to replace key graduates Dalton Vance, Michael Bailey and Michael Ward from last year’s club.
Arnebeck said he believes Woodbury, Stillwater and White Bear Lake will be Park’s main competition in the Suburban East Conference and that perennial powers Apple Valley, Eagan and Burnsville will be the toughest teams to beat in Section 3AA.
Key games this season will come on Aug. 31 when Park hosts Eagan, Sept. 11, at home against Apple Valley and Sept. 15 at Woodbury.
“There is a lot of excitement surrounding this year’s team, but it’s a grinding season and our character as well as mental toughness will be tested in the final weeks of September,” Arnebeck said. “We lost our focus in 2009 during those weeks and fell short of team goals we had set at the beginning of the season. As a coaching staff we do not want to let that happen again.”
— Patrick Johnson
PARK GIRLS SOCCER
Challenges await talented Wolfpack
Almost every year, the Park girls soccer team returns a talented team to the field, but it won’t be easy this season in a difficult Section 3AA and a downright nasty Suburban East Conference.
Last year, the Wolfpack finished 10-6-3 overall, but was 3-4-2 and in sixth place in the SEC.
This year, as in most, Park won’t be able to avoid going up against the top-ranked teams in the state. The SEC has three teams ranked in the top 10 of Class 2A, with Woodbury ranked second, Stillwater ranked sixth and White Bear Lake ranked 10th. Additionally, Mounds View and East Ridge are ranked 11th and 12th, respectively. In Section 3AA, Eagan is ranked seventh and Eastview is ranked eighth, with Apple Valley, Rosemount and the Wolfpack also among the top 20 in Class 2A.
Park had to say goodbye to 15 seniors on last year’s roster, including team captains Hannah Davy and Wunmi Alowonle, but the team returns a strong core from 2009-10 season.
Park will be led by senior keeper Karalyn Leetz, a University of Minnesota recruit, who was All-State Honorable Mention last year and a trio of All-Conference players — senior defender Sara Wenner, junior attacker Rachel Kothe and senior midfielder Brittany Cincoski.
“We will need to find consistent ways to get the ball in the back of the net,” Juba said. “Hopefully, we will be able to create more dead-ball opportunities and score off them. Defensively, we will need to get our inexperienced defenders to work together to shut down our opponents.”
Park begins the season on Friday, Aug. 17, at Lakeville North and hosts its home opener against Tartan on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The Wolfpack travels to Woodbury on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and to East Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 30, before hosting White Bear Lake at Park on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
“Staying healthy will be a key for us,” Juba said. “If we can do so, we should be a difficult matchup in the sections.”
— Patrick Johnson
Wolfpack are ‘fighters’
After battling to an 0-26 overall record last year, the Park volleyball team has nowhere to go but up. Amy Johnson, in her sixth year as head coach of the Wolfpack, said the team returns the majority of its starting lineup from the 2009-10 season.
“There will be a few additions and changes, but the core is back,” Johnson said. “The defense is improved from last season. The girls are fighters and that will show from match to match this coming season.”
Key returning players include middle hitter Jenna Joswiak, setter Lauren Olson and team co-captains Katie Ubl and Jackie Andrus, along with Erin Melson, Ashley Sutton and Ericka Thomas, with outside hitter Alex Kelly and defensive specialist Cassie Meyer as up-and-comers.
Johnson said she expects District 833 rivals Woodbury and East Ridge, along with Forest Lake to be the teams to beat in the Suburban East Conference, while Eastview, Apple Valley, Lakeville North and Lakeville South are the teams to watch in the section.
Some key games this season include when Park hosts Roseville on Sept. 23 and Stillwater on Oct. 12 and when the Wolfpack travels to White Bear Lake on Oct. 5 and Hastings on Oct. 14.
Additionally, Park will hold its Park of Cottage Grove Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 2, and will take part in its annual Dig Pink fundraiser to help fight breast cancer.
“I am very excited to start another season with the Wolfpack,” Johnson said. “In just the first few days of the season, I already see some very special things developing.”
— Patrick Johnson
PARK BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Core group, key addition running with ‘Pack
Even with the losses of four of its best runners and with only three seniors expected to be among its top 10 runners, Park head boys cross country coach Mike Moran said he feels the Wolfpack may be better than it was last year.
Last year, the Park boys runners finished in ninth place at the Suburban East Conference championships and in 12th at the Section 3AA meet.
This year, Park will be without its top two runners from those races — Matt Pitoscia and Dallas Campbell — who were 2010 graduates, along with key grads Joe Dahlen and Bryan Tate.
But, the team returns seniors Kevin Isely, Eric Schwen and Ben Gallogly, who were among the team’s top-seven runners last year, along with junior Joe Pierre, who was the Wolfpack’s third-best finisher at the conference and section races.
Additionally, the Wolfpack has added Park junior Robert Briggs — one of the track team’s top distance runners and the winner of this summer’s Strawberry Fest 5K in Cottage Grove. Moran said Briggs has a chance to be the best runner on the team this year.
Moran, who is in his 19th year as coach of the Park cross country teams, said he expects Stillwater and White Bear Lake to be the class of the Suburban East Conference this season and for Eastview, St. Thomas Academy and Rosemount to be the top teams in Section 3AA.
The team kicks off the season on Friday, Sept. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, where it will see intra-district rival East Ridge for the first time this season. Other big meets will be in Red Wing on Friday, Oct. 1, and a new event for the Wolfpack at Francis Gross Golf Course in Minneapolis on Thursday, Oct. 17 — just prior to the conference and section championships.
— Patrick Johnson
PARK GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Wolfpack looking to replace five top runners
With the loss of five of its best runners, the Park girls cross country team may not be quite as strong as it was last year, according to head coach Mike Moran, but the Wolfpack has high hopes for the future as the team will not have one senior on its roster for the 2010-11 season.
Last year, the Wolfpack girls runners finished in ninth place at the Suburban East Conference championships and took 13th at the Section 3AA meet.
This year, the team will be without its top three finishers from both of those races in 2010 graduates Gracie Dwyer and Amanda Snyder and eighth-grader Lindsay Kothe, who is playing soccer. Also gone from last season’s top seven are 2010 graduate Kate Black and eighth-grader Maggie Oppold.
However, returning to this year’s squad will be sophomores Angela Holtquist and Brooke Anderson, who were the Wolfpack’s fourth and sixth-best finishers at last season’s conference and section meets, respectively.
Additionally, Park has added junior Alli Filipovich — who is one of Park’s better distance runners and cross country skiers — and up-and-comer Natalie Sutliffe to this year’s roster.
Moran, in his 19th year as coach of the Park cross country teams, said he expects Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Mounds View to be the class of the Suburban East Conference this season and for Eastview, Rosemount, Prior Lake and Burnsville to be the top teams in Section 3AA.
The team kicks off the season on Friday, Sept. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, where it will see intra-district rival East Ridge for the first time this season. Other big meets will be in Red Wing on Friday, Oct. 1, and a new event for the Wolfpack at Francis Gross Golf Course in Minneapolis on Thursday, Oct. 17 — the final meet before the conference and section championships.
— Patrick Johnson
PARK GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING
Wolfpack looking to replace 10 graduates in 2010-11
This season, the Park girls swimming and diving team is looking to replace 10 seniors who graduated from last year’s squad, which finished 1-9 overall, but third-year head coach Amanda Johnson said the Wolfpack returns many key swimmers and divers.
Park will be led by senior captains Stacey Strickland, Julia Dudley and Emily Oswald.
Strickland, Emily Frazer, Jenny Breault, Lissy Dorsch and Gabby Niewind return for the butterfly and sprinting events, Oswald is back in the backstroke and Marit Christianson and Alexandra Burd return for distance events.
Additionally, Ali Ramey is the team’s top returning diver, and Johnson said it looks like a very promising year for her. Last year, 2010 graduate Kelby Land was the Wolfpack’s lone state qualifier — in diving.
The top teams in the Suburban East Conference are expected to be Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall, Hastings, Mounds View and Woodbury.
In Section 3AA, Park’s toughest competition will come from Woodbury, Hastings, Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge and Rosemount.
Park hit the pool for the first time this year on Thursday, Aug. 26, with the conference relays. The Wolfpack hosts intra-district rivals East Ridge on Thursday, Sept. 30, and Woodbury on Thursday, Oct. 14, at Cottage Grove Middle School. Other big meets for Park are against White Bear Lake on Sept. 16 and against Tartan on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Cottage Grove Middle School.
“This year should be a great building year,” Johnson said. “We have many girls that have worked extra hard in the off season to keep their times down. It should be fun to see who steps up into the roles that we have lost from the seniors last year.”
— Patrick Johnson