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Danecdotes: A fall to remember

Well, that was fun.

The 2017 fall sports season was one of the most eventful seasons I've experienced in my admittedly not-very-many years as a sports writer.

The season was capped off by a few state appearances, but each team had points of pride from August to November.

Let's run through a few of those points, shall we?

The Tiger football team had some excitement from the start, but it wasn't necessarily positive. At the beginning of the season, the team was made up of just 16 players - eight of whom were seniors. After a number of injuries, the team decided to forfeit its third game of the year.

Things turned around a bit from there for the Tigers. A few new players joined the team - bringing the total above 20 - and the team picked up two victories in its final four regular-season games, including decisive victory over Cass Lake-Bena on homecoming night. The Tigers season came to an end in the first round of the postseason against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. Throughout the season, coach Tom Demars was impressed with his team's perseverance and refusal to quit in tough situations.

The Patriot tennis team exceeded expectations throughout the season. After parting with several seniors from the year before, most players were either new to varsity competition or were playing up several positions, including senior Alexis Lueck who moved from No. 4 singles to No. 1 singles.

Despite this, the team racked up a number of victories, including a 13-match winning streak. Morgan Mudgett and Courtney Boller shined for the team, finishing with regular-season records of 21-6 and 24-3, respectively. Likewise, the doubles team of Elli Saxerud and Madeline Sherman finished with a record of 22-3 in the regular season.

The Patriot volleyball team played strong throughout the season, finishing with a record of 21-9 and rattling off a six-game winning streak in late October. Ultimately, the team fell to Park Rapids in the subsection title game.

Clare Ganley and Karli Skog both earned all-conference honors for the Patriots, while Britt Kratochvil, Sannah Lohmiller and Mariah Rickard earned honorable mentions.

The Tiger cross country team were somewhat inexperienced this season - particularly on the girls side - but saw times improve over the course of the season. At the section meet, the Tiger boys finished 15th and the girls finished 16th.

The Patriot cross country team remained consistent throughout the season. Ultimately, the boys team finished with a third-place finish in the conference meet, while the girls finished fourth. At the section meet, they finished fifth and sixth respectively.

The team's only state appearance came from senior runner Reid Pierzinski. After missing a portion of the season with an injury, Pierzinski returned to qualify for the state meet in Northfield, where he finished 76th with a time of 17:24.6.

Of course, the big moments of the fall came from the area's two state tournament-qualifying teams: the Patriot football team and the Tiger volleyball team.

The Patriots won their first game of the season but lost the next two - no one's idea of a stellar start to the year. However, they then rattled off eight consecutive victories - winning by an average of 28.1 points in those games.

Their next and only other defeat came in the State Class 3A semifinals at the hands of the St. Croix Lutheran Academy Crusaders in a 45-7 effort.

"We set a standard here," Patriot coach Chip Lohmiller said in a press conference after the team's final game. "The guys set that goal (of making it to state) in fourth or fifth grade and have been talking about it ever since. They did that. They had a great season. Going to the section championship in seven of the last nine years is kind of a big thing. I think this sets a pretty good standard for Pequot football."

The Tiger volleyball team also struggled out of the gate, winning three of their first eight games, but they followed a slow start with 13 consecutive victories - all but two of them by shutout. After their streak ended in a 2-0 loss to Mabel-Canton in the opening round of the Brainerd Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 14, they responded with another eight straight wins. Their season came to an end at the State Class A tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. They fell to Bethlehem Academy 3-1 in the opening round of the tournament, then lost to the New Life Academy Eagles 3-1 in the consolation bracket.

"When we were 3-5, I don't think there were many people predicting that we would end up 24-6 and be heading to the state tournament," head coach Josh Hirschey said in an email at the end of the season. "The kids kept believing and just kept working through all the noise. I think those early season trials helped make us tougher as a group and led to our overall success by playoff time."

All of that makes for a sports season that was interesting, to say the very least.

Personally, I would like to thank the coaches, athletes and administration for their help as I covered the events. I can't wait to see what next fall looks like.

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879