2022 Fall sports recap: Wins, losses, and teamwork
October 27, 2022
Cross Country wins IMAC conference
Winning. A word synonymous with competitive sports that undermines a more meaningful value: improvement.
This word drove the cross-country team to new heights throughout all levels of competition.
Despite individual achievements, including beating his own personal record for the five-kilometer race four times, junior Ford Reedy’s favorite memory pertained to junior varsity.
“We had a meet that only our JV team was running and every single member achieved a new personal record. It was awesome for them but also awesome for the varsity team to cheer them on,” he said.
The girl’s achieved an outstanding feat: winning the Independent Metro Athletic Conference Championship.
For sophomore Taylor Barkwell, this milestone was a result of a season of discipline.
She said cross country is about finding “the discipline to put in the work when it’s not easy. To show up every day and give it your all. To continue to improve upon yourself.”
Along with setting records, the team adopted traditions to encourage runners to improve their times.
For captain Violet Benson, this came in the form of a pun: personal record tiaras, or P-R-aras.
“This season, I wanted to find a fun way to recognize and celebrate when people got personal records. Then one day, I saw these cheap little tiaras and with a little bit of glitter glue, I made the P-R-aras. The practice after a meet, the people who ran PRs got to wear their crowns,” Benson said.
Cross-country exhibited the will to improve and progress, whether racing against their own time or for the championship.
Volleyball “grit” is ageless trait
“Grit” is the word volleyball captains Riley Erben and Natalie Vogenthaler used to sum up the season.
After overcoming an unprecedented age gap between the younger and older members of the team, they rose to the challenge and ended the regular season with a respectable 6-8 record. Instead of taking the easy route and forming two separate groups, the team capitalized on activities around town and built a unique culture.
“At the beginning of the season, it was difficult to mend the gap, because the [age difference] was so large,” Erben said.
One frequent tradition they started was going to Baker’s Square after practices or games.
“We went there so often that most of the team had the entire menu memorized and all the servers knew our names,” Erben said.
“While this season brought adversity, the upper schoolers still prioritized the future of the volleyball program.ards the next play,” she said.
Mahoney learned a lot from her captains who pushed her to stay positive.
“Especially as a younger player, you’re going to have ups and downs, but you just have to look forward,” she said.
For Mahoney, one specific moment stood out. In one of the first games of the season, the team trailed 2-0 to South Saint Paul. “We came back to win 3-2. I think this helped us as a team on and off the court because a close game like that requires a lot of teamwork and patience,” she said.
Despite the age gap, the team built trust with one another and most importantly, they remained ‘gritty.’
SMB Wolfpack finds camaraderie with rival schools
The SMB Wolfpack is celebrating victories both big and small this season.
With a 4-3 season record, a definitive victory over a difficult opponent from last year, and enjoyable team bonding experiences, players and fans alike are feeling good about the direction the season has been going.
Defensive back Connor Overgaard has state championship ambitions for the Wolfpack: “The first round of the playoffs is [Oct. 25], and we hope to make it back to the Bank this year,” Overgaard said.
To do this, linebacker and captain Joey Stolpestad noted a few points the team had to work through; he said they need to “play well on both sides of the ball and get first downs.”
Both the state semifinals and the 4A State Championship are held at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The year hasn’t been without challenges: “We’ve been overcoming a few injuries to key players,” Overgaard said.
Despite this, “the season has been good so far,” Stolpestad said. He’s glad the team won against Park Center High School this year.
“Last season they destroyed us during our senior night,” he said.
Their game score this year was 24-14.
When the team is off the field, their bond remains strong. As a co-op with three other schools—Blake, Minnehaha Academy and SPA—the Wolfpack’s cohesion is a finely crafted thing, and players appreciate the connections they’ve made.
“Its nice to have a bigger team,” Overgaard said. “It makes the rivalries in other sports more fun when you’ve been on a team with the players on the other team.”
Sparks Swim and Dive captains focused on support
The SPARKS Swim and Dive team, a co-op with Highland Park Senior High, has had a strong season this year with a record of 3-1 going into conference.
Junior Ayla Rivers swims the 50 and 100 freestyle races for the team. According to Rivers, the team’s biggest obstacle has been adjusting to a new coaching staff.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge with the new coaches,” Rivers said. “They’re still figuring out how to give us good sets and how to do meet entries.”
Captain Linnea Cooley also found this change challenging: “It’s been difficult being a captain during coaching turnover because we had to figure out a lot of stuff for ourselves over the summer and during our preseason.”
Cooley mainly swims sprint freestyle events.
Rivers appreciates the culture of swim and dive.
“The SPARKS swim team has a really good sense of community. I think the captains put in a lot of effort to try to make the team fun,” she said. “We cheer a lot for each other at meets and having that constant positive energy while you’re doing something difficult is very helpful.”
Dive team captain Elena Sjaastad finds culture to be an important part of her experience, too. She describes the divers as “chaotic and supportive,” she said. “There’s always a lot going on, but we always have a good time.”
Though the diving and swimming teams are technically separate, they compete at the same meets and practices occasionally overlap, so interaction is not uncommon. “I’ve really liked getting to work with the swimmers more because that’s something I haven’t been able to do in the past,” Sjaastad said, “given the pandemic and separation and everything.”
As for her own team, she said, “I’ve really liked working with the middle schoolers… helping them learn and grow.”
“It’s been a really great season,” Cooley said. “We love each other and we have a lot of team traditions which make it fun. We support each other.”
Spartan Soccer girls approached season with flexibility
Spartan Girls Varsity soccer has held their own within the IMAC conference with a record of 6-5-3. With tough games against Minnehaha, Providence Academy and Breck, and clear wins like the game against St. Agnes, the team has maintained a strong balance going into upcoming section matches.
The main obstacle the team faced this year was the number of injuries sustained.
Captain Lindsay Browne said, “We have had…to adjust our lineup and strategy a little bit, but I think the team is doing well at adapting to the changes.”
Switching coaches also required the girls to learn a new program approach. “Everyone is being very flexible, which I think is great and really helps us move past any difficulties,” Browne said.
For Browne, who described her experience as a senior feeling the shortness of the season, a highlight from the year was the 3-2 win against Breck.
“It is always a super competitive game against them, so it was really exciting to get the win,” she said.
Attacking mid and forward Clare Ryan-Bradley agreed that the game with Breck was a high point of the season, as well as the team’s efforts to play each game better than the last. “I think we improved over the season, like from the first time we played Minnehaha to the second,” she said.
Overcoming struggles also brought members of the team together to support each other. Midfielder Lucia Gonzalez appreciated the upperclassmen’s encouragement throughout the season: “I think I learned that it’s really helpful that upperclassmen say hi and talk to the underclassmen.”
As a new freshman at the school, “it was really nice to know that I had people to go to if I needed help,” Gonzalez said.
With team bonding activities like an overnight trip to St. Cloud, midfielder Sonia Kharbanda felt the connections between the team were crucial to their experiences playing.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot closer… I also think that closeness has helped us improve as a team,” Kharbanda said.
Tennis seniors focus on team unity
Spartan tennis made it through several switched lineups with a record of 8-3. After their last game against Mounds Park Academy in sections, the season ended on a heart-breaker; however, Georgia Ross continued onto individual sections, and the duo of Nellie Larson and Autumn Spaulding played in doubles.
Although difficult past years cast doubts on the potential for success at season start, the team grew closer and kept up a high winning streak.
Senior Anna Nowakowski said, “Coming into this season was hard because the year before, we weren’t super successful as a team […] ” something we did really well this year was working together.”
The team maintained traditions to encourage connection.
Junior Audrey Senaratna said, “The juniors traditionally plan senior night and this year, we had seven seniors – over half the team – so it was an exciting day. We all decorated the courts before the match and everything turned out really cute.”
She expressed gratitude for the seniors’ help throughout the season. “They were such a big part of my tennis experience […] I will always cherish the time I got to play with them,” Senaratna said.
As a new student at SPA, freshman Nellie Larson appreciated the welcoming environment of the team created by the upperclassmen.
“They made sure that you knew you were a part of a team,” Larson said.
After several difficult seasons of readjusting to what’s normal, girls tennis proved to themselves and their competitors that they were a force to be reckoned with.
Soccer sees no “I” in “team”
Spartan boys entered sections as the #1 seed after placing second in conference with an overall record of 10-3-3.The team had a lot of away games, something captain Yash Kshirsagar thought was especially challenging.
“After our first few games of the season, we played like six away games in a row. It can be pretty brutal with all the schoolwork and time driving. Everyone was mentally exhausted and that took a toll that showed in our results,” he said. “Playing away versus home really does have a big difference.”
Senior George Peltier found that dealing with injury had a big impact on the team. “We had a couple of injuries and…people got sick,” he said. “That can be a challenge for any team.”
BVS did not win the conference, but that didn’t stop them from remaining competitive heading into sections.
“We were still able to take the first seed spot in sections, which was a pretty big win for us,” junior Humza Murad said.
He appreciated the strength of the team’s culture. “I really like how connected everyone is and how we are able to both be a friendly team and a serious one on the pitch.”
Kshirsagar and Peltier attributed much of the team’s success to its camaraderie. The team initiates many outside-of-practice activities that “Allow for team bonding and really bridge the grade disparity in the team. I think that makes the team more united and makes everyone feel like they’re included and welcome,” Kshirsagar said.
“Everybody just wants to play for each other, win for each other. […] I think that contributes a lot to our success,” Peltier added. “No matter what the result of each game is, I look forward to coming back to practice, to play with the guys and I look forward to the next game because we’re competitive against any team.”
Fall sailing club wins regattas through communication
The sailing club has managed to have an enjoyable (and successful) season, qualifying for regionals in Chicago this fall.
In contrast to how other sports compete, the club goes to regattas, which are sailing events made up of separate races. Each race has multiple teams competing in it, and doing well in the races helps a school do better in the regatta overall.
Races can be cold and frustrating at times, but also serve as great team bonding opportunities.
Rower Evan Holmes enjoys the collaborative aspects of sailing most of all.
“Verbal and non-verbal communication is essential [in sailing], and as a result, you have to be pretty close with who you’re sailing with,” Holmes said.
During a particularly windy practice, Holmes recalled finding retroactive joy in the way he worked together with his teammate after their boat capsized: “Having to right the boat upwards, while hyperventilating from the cold, was definitely not enjoyable at the time, but convinced me that Paul [my teammate] and I could work quickly and effectively together in difficult situations… it also felt great sitting in front of the heater back on shore.”
Although in years past the club has struggled with membership, team captain Wyatt Tait said that there have been more sailors recently.
“We… now have a few middle schoolers on the team, which gives me hope for longevity after I graduate,” he said.
Tait said his favorite team memory is yet to come because he “hop[es] to prolong the season and do as many big regattas as [the team] can.”
With the Great Lakes Championship coming up in Chicago Nov. 11-13, the sailing club will have one more opportunity this fall to make some amazing memories before the season begins again in the spring.
In one word? The season has been “a whirlwind,” Holmes said.