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Battling through mid-40s temperatures, 15-to-25 MPH winds and a little drizzle, the BOLD girls were able to come out on top of the competition. Playing in the Willmar Invitational Monday at Eagle Creek Golf Club, the Warriors had a team score of 366, beating defending Class A champs Lac qui Parle Valley's 371 for first place. Sartell finished third with 387, followed by Willmar's 390 and Litchfield's 397.
Last spring, two teams — Willmar and Paynesville — extended their seasons into the early part of the summer. For the Cardinals, it was the first time in 31 years that the team had made it to the state tournament. And for the Bulldogs, it was a continuation of their recent success with a second state berth in three years. But make no mistake: after those two teams, there was still plenty of quality baseball in West Central Minnesota.
GROVE CITY — Minnewaska managed to strike early on Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, grabbing a 3-0 lead through two innings. That cushion is exactly what the Lakers needed to hold off the Falcons in a 3-2 West Central Conference win Tuesday at ACGC High School. Darion Alexander had a two-out triple in the top of the first for Minnewaska, eventually reaching home on a wild pitch. Then in the second, the Lakers tacked on two more runs when Ryan Amundson hit a two-out, two-run double that scored Dylan Jergenson and Isaiah Testa.
A warm-up this week has fanned hopes eternal that there will, indeed, be a spring prep sports season in winter-beaten west central Minnesota in 2019. While that eventuality may still be realized later than sooner, here's a look at Tribune-area schools and their scheduled—tentatively maybe—start dates for spring sports. Willmar Baseball: April 9 vs. Apollo Softball: April 4 vs. Big Lake Track: April 6 at St. John's Boys Golf: April 8 at Becker Girls Golf: April 15 at Cold Spring Boys Tennis: April 9 vs St. Cloud Tech
MARSHALL — Down six at halftime, Dawson-Boyd finally had something going. Starting with a Colton Husby jumper, the Blackjacks opened the second half on an 8-2 run that tied Friday's Section 3A championship with Westbrook-Walnut Grove at 40-all. But any momentum the Blackjacks could muster, the Chargers were quick to take away. Led by a 28-point effort from Ethan Mischke and 20 from Andrew Quade, WWG earned its first state trip since 1994 with an 80-72 victory at the R/A Facility. Dawson-Boyd is still looking for its first state trip since 1991.
Five different players from five different teams. Through the differences, all five All-Area first teamers had one goal in common: reaching uncharted territory. A first-team staple, Makenna Steffel pushed BOLD back into the state playoffs for the first time in six years to help cement her place in the school record book.
MARSHALL — Perhaps a clean slate is all Dawson-Boyd needed to be one of Section 3A's best. With a 12-9 regular-season record and the fifth seed in the North sub-section, the Blackjacks figured they had nothing to lose. "We've lost a ton of close games; You have to give those teams that beat us some credit for making plays in those games," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "You get to the playoffs, you reset. We kind of liked the position we were in. We felt like there wasn't any pressure on us." But, the players didn't lose hope.
MANKATO — On March 8, 2013, BOLD girls basketball made school history by making the state tournament for the first time. Six years later to the day, the Warriors were on the cusp of doing it again. "My sister (Mallarie) was actually on the team," said senior forward Makenna Steffel. Makenna added, "Now it's kind of cool that she's a coach and now we're going to state." On Friday, BOLD put an emphatic stamp on a second-ever state trip, rolling St. Clair in the Section 2A championship game, 63-41.
BUFFALO — From the first game of the season on Nov. 27 to the Section 5AAA championship Thursday, Willmar got to see Becker's transformation first-hand. In the opening game of the 2018-19 season, the Cardinals left Becker with a 69-63 victory. Twenty-seven games later, Becker turned into a section champion-caliber squad.
WILLMAR — Willmar wanted to get Ryan Slette involved early. So to open the game, the Cardinals ran a set play for the 6-foot-6 senior forward. The ball fell through the hoop for a 3-pointer. The Cardinals now had someone to stretch the floor. "It went in and you could see his eyes get big," said Willmar head coach Matt Williams. "Next thing you know, he's hunting his shots. When he can hunt shots like that, it's really good for us." Against a cagey Zimmerman squad looking to play spoiler, that was the kind of X-factor the Cardinals needed.