The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

November 7, 2012

Rueda: Fall sports season chock full of memorable performances

MANKATO — The fall sports season is drawing to a close and, while there are still significant games to be played, it’s worth looking back.

The football team has had an improbable season up at Minnesota State. Head coach Todd Hoffner was suspended before the first game but the Mavericks have rallied around interim coach Aaron Keen and put together a perfect 10-0 year.

They still have to beat Upper Iowa on Saturday but there’s a good chance they can finish the regular season unbeaten and enter the playoffs as the top seed in the region. The result could be two home playoff games, which has never happened before for MSU in the NCAA D-II football tournament.

The MSU women’s soccer team has also had an amazing run, getting ranked No. 1 in the nation at one point and going unbeaten in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play. The Mavericks host a central region semifinal game on Sunday.

Mankato West’s football team has also had an excellent year, overcoming a big bump along the way to the state tournament.

The Scarlets had to forfeit four games due to the use of an ineligible player but survived that punishment to win the Section 2AAAAA championship. West will play unbeaten Owatonna Friday night at Lakeville North High School in the first round of the state tourney.

Three other area football teams are still playing as well. Blue Earth Area is in the Class AAA tournament, Sibley East is in the Class AA bracket and a surprising St. Clair squad is in the Class A tourney.

St. Clair was forced to cancel its varsity season at the last minute due to lack of numbers in the fall of 2011. The Cyclones wound up playing an abbreviated junior varsity schedule. Now, a year later, they are appearing in the state tournament for the first time in 20 years.

In volleyball, traditional powers Le Sueur-Henderson and Belle Plaine were ranked among the top teams in Class AA all season. Both lived up to that reputation by meeting in the finals of the Section 2AA tournament.

I was at the section finale and watched as Belle Plaine overcame an injury to middle hitter Kirsten Johnson to survive a five-set match. The Tigers play in the state tourney at 5 p.m. tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

In cross country, Waseca again had a banner season in Class A. The Bluejays, who have been legitimate state-meet contenders over the last few years, wound up with a third-place finish in the Class A boys meet and a fourth-place finish in the Class A girls competition.

Mankato Loyola did not have the depth to qualify for state as a team but the Crusaders may have surprised even themselves by qualifying two individual runners to the Class A meet. Junior Wyatt Elmer ran his season-best time at Northfield last Saturday and seventh-grader Kyla Haas burst onto the cross country scene by placing 44th at state.

Waseca sophomore Shane Streich and United South Central senior Emily Mantor were the area’s top two runners. Streich finished third and Mantor was fourth.

In girls tennis, perennial southern Minnesota powers Waseca and St. James both finished strong. The Jays wound up third in Class A while St. James was fifth. Saints’ senior Aryn Eckstrom had the best individual finish, winning the consolation singles title.

In swimming, the Danielle Nack-led West team finds out Friday night how many swimmers it will advance to the Class A meet. The Scarlets finished eighth out of 42 teams last season and could be poised for another Top-10 finish. Nack is the reigning state champion in both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-butterfly.

All in all, the fall sports scene has been marked by some first-rate team and individual efforts. It was fun to watch a lot of them first hand.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Courrier: There are no winners in MSU football saga Where to start? In 28 years in the business, there has never been a more odd, twisted, rollercoaster story than the Todd Hoffner saga. And that was before he came back to the Minnesota State campus this week, when strange became tragic and the chance

    April 17, 2014

  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014

Free Press news updates
Seasonal Content
Featured Ads
AP Video
Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Holder: Americans Stand With KC Mourners Obama Greets Wounded Warriors Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing