Osakis ready for rematch with Sauk Centre

The Osakis girls know that a talented team looking for revenge awaits them in the Section 6AA North semifinals at St. John’s University Saturday afternoon.

Fifth-ranked Sauk Centre has lost just two games this season, but one of those was a coming out party for the Silverstreaks on January 8. Osakis held the Mainstreeters to 21 points below their season average that night in a 49-40 win.

That let the rest of the section know there could be another contender in the 6AA field come tournament time. There’s no doubt that Sauk Centre will have that game in the back of its mind when the two teams step on the court for a 3:30 tip on Saturday afternoon.

“They’re going to want to win really bad because we’re one of their two losses,” Osakis junior guard Annalise Savageau said after leading her team to a 65-41 win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle on Tuesday night. “They’re going to want to beat us. We just have to play good defense like we did last time. We have a pretty good defensive team, and we always work hard. That usually helps.”

Junior Brooke Sorenson looked for an open teammate early in the first half on Tuesday. Sorenson was one of six players for Osakis that had at least five points against LPGE. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

The Silverstreaks know it will take their best effort to beat Sauk Centre for a second time, and it’s a group that seems ready to lay it all on the line. Osakis played loose and confident in running past LPGE in the tournament opener last night. The Silverstreaks once again used a balanced attack and their pressure defense to run away with things against the Thunder.

The first half belonged to junior forward Madi Forsell as she finished with 11 of her 13 points in the opening 18 minutes. Savageau took over from there, scoring 14 of her team-high 18 in the second half. Sprinkle in 14 points from freshman Brittney Sadlemyer and you had the makings of another typical night for this team.

“In our big games, it’s been like that all year long,” head coach Pat Kalpin said of the balance. “Somebody has always stepped up. Everybody knows Annalise is our leading scorer. That’s not a secret for anybody, but you never know which one of these other girls will step up. That’s a great luxury to have for us right now.”

They will likely need that kind of balance again in order to get past Sauk Centre. The Mainstreeters are plenty used to these kind of big games in March. They are coming off three straight trips to the Class AA state tournament, including a second-place finish last season.

The Mainstreeters lost some great talent off that team like all-state guard Kali Peschel, who is in her freshman season at the University of Iowa. They still have plenty of weapons, though. That includes senior Macy Weller, who was one of three Sauk Centre players named to last year’s Class AA all-tournament team.

“We’ve got to be ready for a war against them,” Kalpin said. “You know they’re going to give you every ounce of effort that they have. We’ve got to be ready to do the same. If we don’t, it’s going to be tough on us.”

Kalpin said he expects another low-scoring, defensive game like these two teams played the first time around. Both programs have been in every game this season by using defense as the backbone of their success. Osakis and Sauk Centre are each holding opponents to an impressive 39 points per game.

“We’ve got to be ready to play defense,” Kalpin said. “That’s the bottom line. They’re as good of a defensive team as there is out there. They help well, and they make you work for every shot you have. I think last time we only took about 40 shots to their 44-45 shots. It was a really, slow it down, defensive game, and I don’t expect anything different.”

That means this could come down to which team can take advantage of some of the little things – scoring a couple easy buckets in transition, making free throws. This is the time of year where every team knows it needs to be at its best if it wants to survive and advance.

“Kalpin just told us that every game we have to come out and play our best,” Forsell said. “We have to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. If we just go out and play our game and do that, I think we can go pretty far, even in this tough section.”

All Kalpin is asking of his girls is that they give every bit of effort they have on Saturday. Even at 22-3, Osakis knows what team is expected to win this weekend. But the Silverstreaks weren’t expected to win the first time these two teams faced each other, either.

“We’re the underdogs,” Kalpin said. “To me, there was more pressure on [the LPGE] game than on Saturday. Today, we weren’t the underdogs. Saturday, we are. On paper, we’re not supposed to win that game in a lot of people’s eyes. But Sauk knows we can beat them because we’ve obviously done that.”

Freshman Brittney Sadlemyer scored over the defense of LPGE’s Samantha Zastrow on Tuesday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Extras * A player to watch on this Osakis team over the next few years is definitely Brittney Sadlemyer. The 5’10” freshman hardly played like a timid, young player off the bench on her way to 14 points on Tuesday night.

Sadlemyer is impressive in the way she carries herself on the court for such a young player. She already shows off a variety of post moves and welcomes the contact that comes with playing in the post. She has a knack for finishing strong around the basket.

“She’s that strong girl that’s not afraid to initiate contact,” Kalpin said. “She’s not afraid to run through somebody. You have to have kids like that on your team. Regardless of how rough she looks at times. It’s not cheap, but she’s a physical player. She gets a rebound and they don’t take it away from her very often.”

* It really is amazing to see how loaded the Section 6AA bracket is. For proof, look no further than Albany being the fourth seed in the North subsection. The Huskies are 24-3 and ranked seventh in the latest Class AA polls.

The four teams left from the North (Osakis 22-3; Staples-Motley 20-5; Sauk Centre 24-2 and Albany) are a combined 90-13 this year. Whoever makes it out of that will likely have a 22-4 New London-Spicer team or a 21-4 Eden Valley-Watkins team waiting for them in the section finals next Friday.

“I’m not going to make a case and say it’s the best subsection in the state,” Kalpin said. “But if you look at it on paper, it looks pretty tough. Four teams in our section, four out of 16 teams, are ranked in the top 10. Three in our half. Then we’re right behind them with 22 wins.”

Whichever team makes it through will definitely have earned its ticket to Minneapolis.

Osakis boys needed a win like they got over Brandon-Evansville

The Osakis boys’ basketball team needed to prove to itself that it could win the kind of game it ended up winning last night.

The Silverstreaks have seen a lot of games get away from them in the second half this season and almost saw that same outcome against Brandon-Evansville on Tuesday. Osakis took a 37-26 lead after going on a 12-1 run out of the half.

Slowly but surely, the Chargers started to chip away. Blake Satterlie and Patrick Schaffer hit a couple big threes to get Brandon-Evansville back in it. Freshman Skyler Quinn then completed the comeback by scoring six straight points to give his team a 45-44 lead with 20 seconds left.

Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher talked things over with junior guard Hunter Scherr before the start of the second half on Tuesday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Osakis hasn’t been in too many late-game situations like this during the course of the season, but on this night, they made a series of plays that made the difference between a win and a loss in a 48-45 game.

“It’s nice for our guys to play in games like this because they learn how to play,” Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher said. “They know that every possession counts. A little turnover when we’re up eight with four minutes to play is still big. A missed free throw, missed offensive rebound; guys are learning. They‘re learning and they’re playing together as a team.”

Drew Fearing started that stretch by being aggressive off the dribble instead of settling for a jump shot with his team down by one. He drove the lane and was fouled with around three seconds left. Fearing calmly drained the first free throw of a one-and-one situation before missing the second.

The Chargers got the rebound and called a timeout. At worst, they thought they were heading to overtime. Brandon-Evansville designed a play to hit John Haseman on a deep pass as he broke to the other end of the court. The ball never got there, though.

Hoelscher brought in 6’3″ senior John Piekarski off the bench to guard the inbounds pass. He hadn’t been used much that night, but he ended up making one of the biggest plays by tipping the pass.

That allowed Hunter Scherr to play the role of hero. The junior guard gathered the ball between the three-point line and mid-court. He took a couple quick dribbles before shooting a running three that twirled around the rim and hit off the backboard before falling through after the buzzer sounded.

“Before, when I was on the bench, I was thinking the whole time that it was going to come down to that,” Scherr said of the last-second shot. “It flew by pretty fast. I was hoping it was dropping, but when it dropped, it was probably one of the greatest moments ever.”

Junior guard Hunter Scherr looked for an opening against Brandon-Evansville’s Patrick Schaffer on Tuesday night. Scherr hit the game-winning three as the buzzer sounded to give his team its third win of the season. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Scherr’s teammates tackled him near the three-point line to celebrate a win they hope can do wonders for their confidence. This is a team that hasn’t had a lot to cheer about this season after winning one of its first 17 games. The Silverstreaks have now won two of their last three, but it’s how they won that had their head coach excited after the game.

“It all starts with a chain of events,” Hoelscher said. “With Drew making that first big free throw. He misses the first one, it’s a whole different ballgame. He makes that, we get John Piekarski, sub him in, and he gets the tip. That gives Hunter a chance and it’s awesome. Those are things that our guys need to get this program going.”

The Silverstreaks looked a lot better than the first time I saw them in a loss to Bertha-Hewitt on December 20. It started on defense for them last night, where they held Haseman to just 14 points and eight rebounds. Haseman is one of the better posts players in the area, and the Silverstreaks used a box-and-one to keep him from getting the ball in great scoring positions most of the night.

“With him, we knew we couldn’t stop him,” Hoelscher said. “We just hoped that he wasn’t hitting shots…we just said that someone else has to beat us. We know Haseman is going to get his points, some points, but we want him to take 20-30 shots. We did a good job of keeping it away from him. Kilar [Zimmel] and Drew did a heck of a job dogging him all night.”

Those are signs that this team is making progress as it reaches the final month of the season. The Silverstreaks might not have been able to bounce back from losing a late lead earlier this year. On Tuesday, they proved to themselves that they can win these kinds of games by fighting until the final buzzer.

“Usually in our games, we’ll play good one half and we’re down the next,” Scherr said. “This game, we played good throughout the whole game. It’s taken a little while, but we’re getting way better as we go on.”

Osakis doesn’t deny the importance of beating Upsala

Sometimes head coaches and even players themselves will downplay a big win during the course of a regular season. The standard message is that it means nothing if they don’t carry it over into the next game.

Osakis players and head coach Pat Kalpin said things along those same lines after last night’s 72-62 win over conference foe Upsala. But they didn’t shy away from exactly how much this meant to them after snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Cardinals.

“This was one of my goals for the season was just to beat Upsala,” junior guard Annalise Savageau said. “We have lost to them the past three or four years, and we wanted it super bad. I think this helps us because Upsala, they’re a class lower, but they’re still in the top-10.”

Upsala (17-2, 10-1) came into the night ranked seventh in the latest Class A polls and sporting a 56-game winning streak against Prairie Conference opponents. Osakis (17-2, 10-1) never looked intimidated by any of that.

Osakis head coach Pat Kalpin drew up a play during a second-half timeout with his team holding a double-digit lead over Upsala on Monday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

The Silverstreaks were dead set on playing their best game of the season from the very beginning. Brooke Sorenson set the tone with two quick three-pointers that led to a 10-0 lead before Upsala had to burn its first timeout. The Cardinals battled back behind 10 quick points from star guard Aimee Pelzer. They took their only lead of the night at 21-19 before Osakis’ sophomore guard Mackenzie Staloch flipped the momentum by scoring all eight of her points late in the half. Savageau added a late three-pointer right before the buzzer to give the Silverstreaks a 35-31 lead at the break.

“It was a big relief,” Sorenson said. “When you come out making shots, it kind of gets things rolling. We have to get out early and you can’t really have any stretches where you stop working hard.”

Kalpin challenged his girls, and junior forward Madi Forsell in particular, at halftime. Forsell was instrumental in helping Osakis to a win over Sauk Centre earlier this season, and Kalpin didn’t feel she was being aggressive enough on offense in the first half.

“I was pretty stern with her,” Kalpin said. “She’s a great shooter. She is just kind of a hidden talent that we have…They were not respecting her shot, and I just felt that for us to win, she needs to start shooting the basketball. I know she can get on a roll and knock them down. When you get one kid like that doing that, it’s just amazing what it does for the morale of your basketball team.”

Junior forward Madi Forsell looked for an open teammate during the second half. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Forsell responded to her coach’s challenge in a big way. She hit from inside and out on her way to leading Osakis to its biggest lead of the night at 57-41 with 10:17 left in the game. The Cardinals focused their attention on Savageau and Sorenson after they scored 11 and 10, respectively, in the opening half. That opened the door for Forsell over the final 18 minutes as she finished with a team-high 20 points.

“We knew we had to come out with our best game all year,” Forsell said. “I was just trying to be confident. We were able to execute when we needed to and everyone just knew what they were doing, so we were able to mesh together.”

The Silverstreaks were efficient on offense all night. They shot 54 percent overall (25-of-46), went 5-of-11 from the three-point line and 17-of-23 on free throws. Savageau finished with 16 points, Sorenson added 14, while Staloch and freshman forward Brittney Sadlemyer each added eight.

That depth is a testament to the growth of this team. These are the kind of players Kalpin thought many of these girls would turn into, even as they took their lumps as 8th and 9th graders getting their feet wet at the varsity level a few years ago.

Junior forward Brooke Sorenson looked for an open teammate from the top of the key during the first half on Monday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I envisioned this,” he said. “I thought coming into the year, we could be a really, really good basketball team. What I think and what actually happens is sometimes two different things, but I see the talent in this group, and it seems like it’s been a different girl stepping up game in and game out.”

Kalpin saw the potential in his team even if the rest of the state didn’t really see it coming. Osakis hasn’t been in the Class AA state rankings all season despite an impressive 17-2 record and a nice win over a now 16-1 Sauk Centre team. The only two losses for the Silverstreaks came against Upsala on December 20 and against undefeated and Class A’s third ranked team Parkers Prairie.

“I knew we were going to be good this year because we have a lot of varsity experience,” Savageau said. “We know what to expect and we have played a lot of good teams. I thought we could beat teams like this.”

The rest of the Section 6AA field has no choice but to start taking notice as well. This team has proven through this point in the season that it should be considered a serious threat come tournament time.

“I think knocking off Sauk was the first step,” Kalpin said. “That proved to them that we could play with some of the best teams in the state. Our two losses are to Upsala and Parkers Prairie, two high ranked and good basketball teams. I think those losses, especially against Parkers Prairie, has probably done more for us than any other game. Since that game, the whole team has had a different mindset it seems.”

The win over Upsala last night was this team’s seventh straight since that loss to Parkers Prairie on January 15. The victory over the Cardinals was the biggest of the bunch. The Silverstreaks now control their own destiny to capture at least a share of the Prairie Conference title for the first time since 2009. Couple that with a perfect 8-0 record against section opponents this season, and this team’s confidence is as high as it’s been coming down the stretch.

“It’s through the roof,” Forsell said. “[Coach] always says he wants us to be playing our best at the end and to improve throughout the year. I think we’re just getting stronger and stronger with each practice and each game.”

Osakis boys to play at Target Center on Saturday

The Osakis boys’ basketball team will take advantage of an opportunity to play at the Target Center in Minneapolis this Saturday when the Silverstreaks meet up with Minnewaska.

Lakers’ head coach Todd Beecher first got a hold of Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher to talk about the possibility of moving the game to the NBA venue. Hoelscher said every high school coach receives an e-mail from the Timberwolves organization about the possibility of playing a game there.

Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher watched from the sidelines during a game against Bertha-Hewitt earlier this season. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Both coaches are in the early stages of building their programs as first-year head coaches. The Silverstreaks are currently 1-14 and the Lakers are 5-10, but both coaches are enthusiastic about trying to turn their programs into winners. An opportunity to play a game at the Target Center and catch a Timberwolves game afterwards can be a part of that process.

” I thought this would be a great time to get some excitement in our program by playing on that court,” Hoelscher said. “We get to watch the T-wolves afterwards too. Most of our guys have never been to a T-wolves game, so this will be a great experience for them and a good team building day.”

The two teams will tip off at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Timberwolves game against New Orleans will tip at around seven that night.

Parkers Prairie and Osakis girls will both benefit from last night’s clash

Last night’s 48-39 win for the Parkers Prairie girls’ basketball team at Osakis was the kind of game that should benefit both teams in the long run.

For 28 minutes on Tuesday night, it looked like Osakis might hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. The Silverstreaks were limiting transition opportunities for Parkers Prairie and the Panthers were struggling to convert in their half court offense.

A few Osakis turnovers changed the tide midway through the second half. Junior forward Ally Taylor culminated that stretch with a steal and lay-up that gave Parkers Prairie a 32-31 lead with 7:12 left. The Panthers never trailed again as Taylor drained a three the next time down the court to help keep the Silverstreaks at an arm’s length the rest of the way.

“They were playing really hard defense on all of us, but especially Micaela [Noga] and Madi [Dorn],” Taylor said after scoring all seven of her points late in the second half. “I just felt they needed me in the game, and I had to step up.”

Senior forward Ally Taylor got Osakis’ Annalise Savageau in the air before going up for a shot in the second half on Tuesday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

With the emergence of Taylor this year, the Panthers now have three players who head coach John Noga feels are capable of taking over a game at important times. Dorn and Noga are two of the best Class A players in the area and have been for a long time. They have proven their ability to run all over most teams on their schedule over recent years. On Tuesday, the Panthers showed they can win the type of half court game that they will likely have to play come tournament time.

“We know that we want to control the [tempo] of the game,” M. Noga said. “But we also know that it comes down to half-court offense and half-court defense. It doesn’t matter if we can press a team. When it boils down to playoffs it boils down to the best teams in the state. We gotta be able to play our best half-court offense and defense at that time.”

Even in a loss, Osakis now has an idea of where it needs to improve in that aspect. The Silverstreaks have already shown they can beat the kind of teams they will face in the playoffs with their win over Sauk Centre last Tuesday.

Osakis executed well down the stretch that night to hold off a late charge by the Mainstreeters and win 49-40. That same execution wasn’t there against the Panthers.

“We were just out of sync for about three or four minutes,” Osakis head coach Pat Kalpin said. “Those are the things that we’ve just got to get better at. We’ve played against good defensive teams for crying out loud. It’s not that we haven’t seen that pressure before. We just played against one last Tuesday (Sauk Centre) that was probably better than that as far as defense goes. We got into the mode where we just kind of got stagnant for a while, and they made us pay for it.”

Micaela Noga pressured Osakis’ Annalise Savageau during the first half on Tuesday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Noga said she spent much of the first half trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of Osakis’ star guard Annalise Savageau. Savageau had 10 points in the first half as she connected from the free throw line and on a few mid-range jumpers. Noga extended her defense on her in the second half to force a couple turnovers and held her scoreless until a five-point spurt by Savageau in the closing minutes of the game.

“I’ve actually never really played against her and never really seen her play before,” Noga said of the match-up of top area point guards. “So I was trying to figure her out in the first half. The second half it was, ‘OK, I can really pressure her more because she’s an OK ball handler and maybe I can get in her head a little more.”

Those are the kind of adjustments good teams and good players make during the course of a game. That’s why the Silverstreaks were so eager to take on the Panthers with 12 games left in the regular season. Parkers Prairie found out it can win close games by closing well down the stretch, and Osakis has a better idea of what it needs to improve on to get there.

“It has no bearing on where we’re going to end up at the end of the year or anything,” Kalpin said. “It’s a game that’s going to prepare us to get better. The good teams, they really show your weaknesses. They expose your weaknesses. Tonight, they exposed a few things, and we’ll just work on them. That’s all we can do.”

Osakis boys in “dire need” of a win

The Osakis boys’ basketball team had an opportunity awaiting them with a 1-5 Bertha-Hewitt team coming to town on Thursday night.

The Silverstreaks were trying to get first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher the first win of his career and end a five-game losing streak in the process. Instead, the same problems that have hurt this team during that stretch showed up again as the Bears pulled away in the second half on their way to a 57-45 win.

Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher (middle) talks to his team during a timeout in the first half on Thursday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I think we got a little tentative,” Hoelscher said of watching a halftime lead disappear. “That’s kind of been our thing this year. When things are close, we’re kind of in a game, we just find a way to turn the ball over, not get back defensively, just doing uncharacteristic things right now that are kind of hurting us.”

The prospects of a win looked good through 18 minutes as Osakis took a 25-22 lead into the break. Senior Doug Zimmel and junior Drew Fearing both hit two threes during that stretch as Osakis’ offense started to click after a slow start. Zimmel already had 10 points by the half. The problem is, he finished with 12.

Zimmel spent much of the second half on the bench after picking up his fourth foul early. The Silverstreaks had a hard time finding any scoring without one of their seniors leaders on the court. Bertha-Hewitt went on a 13-2 run after halftime that made it a 35-27 game with 9:55 left. The Bears never trailed again after that.

“We get in a lull when Doug’s out of the game,” Hoelscher said. “Just about every game this year, he’s had some foul issues where he has to come out. When he’s off the floor, we’re not as good of a basketball team. Obviously, he’s one of our go-to guys, and we look for him to be a scorer. When he’s not there, our offense does take a little stagnant lull.”

Fellow senior Kilar Zimmel tried to get his team back into it with five straight points late in the second half. The Bears were able to put the game away, though, behind the strong play of senior Michael Grewe and sophomore Preston Riewer. Grewe finished with a game-high 19 points and Riewer added 13, 11 of which came in the second half.

“Riewer is tough,” Hoelscher said. “He doesn’t lose the basketball very much. He attacks the rim. He sees the floor very well.”

Osakis finished with three players in double figures on a night when the Silverstreaks shot 40 percent from the field (17-of-42). Kilar Zimmel finished with 11, while Fearing added 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. That wasn’t enough as Osakis was left searching to find a way to put an entire 36 minutes together.

“We’re in dire need of a win,” Hoelscher said. “It’s never easy going [0-6]. We have quotes every day and one of them recently was, ‘It’s easy to steer the ship when the sea is calm.’ When everything is going great, you’re winning, you can have turnovers here and there, but when you’re losing, turning the ball over as much as we are, we’ve got to find a way to get out of it.”

Things won’t get any easier for Osakis after the Christmas break. The Silverstreaks will play a 5-2 Battle Lake team on December 29 and a 4-0 Upsala team on January 3. They also welcome in the defending Class A state champions in Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on January 14.

“For the most part, they’re pretty positive,” Hoelscher said. “We just got to build off that. It’s a long season. We’ve got a lot more games to go and we have to forget about this one and move on.”



Osakis win over Melrose is another step in the growing process

Consider last night’s win over Melrose a stepping stone for an Osakis girls’ basketball team that gains a little more confidence with every victory.

The Silverstreaks, now 6-0 after a 52-22 win over the Dutchmen, lost to Melrose twice last season. The most difficult of those coming in a 52-51 overtime game that knocked Osakis out of the playoffs.

The Dutchmen, now 1-4, are a different team after losing some players to graduation, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a significant win for a Silverstreaks team that believes this is the year they could make some noise in conference and section play.

“We were super excited,” senior Becka Sadlemyer said of playing Melrose after she scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds last night. “It was like payback for us for them knocking us out, I guess. I’m pretty sure they graduated two of their best athletes. That helped us a lot, and we’ve just gotten better. That’s big too. We’re just gelling so much better.”

Junior forward Madi Forsell boxed out Melrose’s Emily Goerdt before grabbing a loose ball along the endline last night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

That process of gaining confidence with each other on the court didn’t come without its lumps. Many of these girls have been playing with each other on varsity for almost three years now. They’ve had their growing pains, like going 7-19 in 2009-2010.

Every year, though, they’ve progressed. Osakis followed that 7-19 season with a 12-16 mark two years ago before moving above the .500 mark with a 16-10 record last winter.

Through it all, Osakis head coach Pat Kalpin preached patience with this group. He told them that if they continued to work hard, they would eventually be rewarded with wins. So far this season, he has made good on that promise.

“I just kept telling them, ‘It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in two weeks,’ ” Kalpin said. “It’s going to take a few years. We’re playing good teams and we’re in 2A basketball, which is a totally different entity. It really is. I think they’ve come a long ways. Some kids might have given up through those tough times that we went through. I tell you what, they’ve gelled, and I think they’re buying in.”

Junior guard Annalise Savageau exemplifies that determination as much as anyone on this team. She has grown into the potential that she showed even as she took her lumps as an 8th grader at the varsity level.

Savageau has turned herself into one of the best Class A players in the area since then. She passed the 1,000 point mark in her career as just a sophomore and continues to put up big numbers as a junior. Savageau finished with a game-high 19 points against Melrose. She hit two of her three threes during a 12-0 run that turned a two-point game into a 27-13 lead for Osakis at the half.

“She’s been through some tough times,” Kalpin said. “I kept telling her, ‘You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn.’ She’s getting there. I’ve been fortunate to have a few girls like her in the last 15 years of coaching, and it makes your job a lot easier. I’ll tell you that.”

Junior Annalise Savageau led the break for Osakis during the first half of the Silverstreaks’ 52-22 win over Melrose on Thursday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Savageau says that growth just comes with getting more comfortable on the court. She knows she needs to be a scorer for this team and doesn’t shy away from that. The player who was understandably overwhelmed trying to play guard against girls three and four years older than her a couple seasons ago is now the one overwhelming opponents with her ability to drive and shoot. In turn, this whole team is starting to believe in its ability to compete in any game.

“We’ve gotten used to what everybody’s going to do,” Savageau said. “We’re just a lot more comfortable with each other. I think it helps a lot because if you just put five new people with each other, it’s hard to play well. We’ve had close to three years now with each other. That helps a lot.”

That’s why Kalpin felt good about this team’s potential coming into the season. The Silverstreaks feel better prepared to compete against a strong conference team like Upsala for a league title. Those are the kind of goals this team has set for itself this season. And a 30-point win over Melrose to get to 6-0 has done nothing to dampen those expectations.

“That’s the goal. You want to win the conference,” Kalpin said. “We want to compete with [Upsala]. The last couple years, we’ve had good games with them. We just could never get over that hump. This team needs a win like that. Last year, Melrose had beaten us a couple times, then beat us in the playoffs. For them to beat a team that we haven’t beaten in a couple years, I think is just a big step for them.”

Osakis tennis becoming consistent top-10 team in state

The Osakis tennis team has developed a reputation over the past few years as one of the top area programs in Class A.

The Silverstreaks’ record all but speaks for itself. They have gone 100-9 over the past five seasons with four of those losses coming in section title or state tournament matches. Osakis has been able to replace five seniors off of last year’s state tournament team and is off to a 16-0 start and ranked seventh in the latest Class A state polls. They will enter the Section 6A tournament as the favorites and have high hopes of making their second straight trip to state.

Melrose is one of the teams trying to stand in their way. I was in Osakis last Thursday as the Silverstreaks upended the Dutchmen 6-1 to halt an 18-match winning streak for Melrose. Afterwards, I caught up with junior first singles player Taylor Kraemer and senior second singles player Lauren Silbernick, along with head coach Ryan Maddock for a story in today’s Osakis Review. Here is more from our conversation that I wasn’t able to get into the print edition.

Taylor Kraemer

EM: Melrose came in as a team on a roll here. How much do you expect the Dutchmen to be the team that pushes you the most come section tournament time?

Junior Taylor Kraemer followed through on her backhand shot at first singles against Melrose last Thursday. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

TK: We’re both very competitive, as you can see. I think in the end, it’s going to be very close. Hopefully we come out on the right side. They’re definitely a team right there with us in the section.

EM: How much did that state tournament appearance help this team coming into the season? Just knowing what it’s like to play on that stage.

TK: I think it was an awesome experience. We definitely grew as a team, just having that behind our backs, and going in there and being able to say we’ve been to state. It’s definitely a goal of ours again this year to get that.

EM: What has been some of the keys to sustaining your success as a program over the years?

TK: It definitely helps to have good leaders. I have had a lot of really good leaders when I was going through the tennis season [as a younger player.]

Lauren Silbernick

Senior Lauren Silbernick watched the ball on a return against Melrose last Thursday. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

EM: In years past when Staples-Motley was in the Section 6A field, they were kind of the team that everyone was shooting for in this section. Do you feel like you girls have established yourselves as that team in this section after the Cardinals move to Section 8A?

LS: I think we definitely have the biggest target on our back. But we’re able to go out there and prove ourselves. It’s not like we luckily get wins here or there.

Head coach Ryan Maddock

Head Coach Ryan Maddock talked things over with Alexa Hoffarth (middle) and Silbernick in between sets during Osakis’ season opener against Melrose on August 20. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

EM: I know you thought the Melrose match would be close at almost every spot. How impressed are you with the girls’ ability to get six of the seven wins against them?

RM:  I was very impressed with our play versus Melrose. I thought we would have a chance in all seven matches, but to end up with six was impressive. Our girls have consistently shown this year that they are mentally tough and if there is at all a way for them to win, they will figure it out.

EM: What has impressed you most about the team’s 16-0 start to the season?

RM: I have been impressed with how hard they work and how much confidence they have in themselves and their team. I’m impressed with how much they trust their coaches. There is no second guessing to what we are trying to do.

EM: What do you think has been some of the most important factors in your team’s ability to maintain a strong program year in and year out?

RM: Our girls have always been mentally tough and never get too high or too low with their emotions. That mentality has been huge for us. We don’t really see ourselves as being as good as we probably are. I think that has helped guard against being overconfident. The girls value the team victory more than individual glory, which can be tough to do in a sport like tennis.

EM: Winning can get a lot of younger players excited as well. How much do you think the constant success of the team has helped get younger girls involved in tennis in Osakis?

RM: The success of the team only helps with the interest that younger kids may have in the sport. The girls in Osakis love to play sports. It’s not just tennis, but all of our girl sports have very good programs.

Former Cardinal Matt Hoelscher gets his first head coaching job in Osakis

Alexandria’s Matt Hoelscher said he wants to be a head coach until he’s retired from teaching some day.

If that’s the case, the former Cardinal three-sport athlete will have a lot of years under his belt when he’s done after accepting his first head coaching position at the age of 31 with the Osakis boys’ basketball team.

Matt Hoelscher

Hoelscher turned down an opportunity to coach the Parkers Prairie boys program a couple years ago because of the commute and his desire to coach in the school he taught in. Ten-year head coach Chris Stroup’s resignation after this past season opened that door for Hoelscher, and it was one he was happy to walk through.

“Extremely excited,” he said of getting this opportunity. “I told the kids the other day, Stroup gave me some of last year’s game film. I was watching Eden Valley-Watkins. That’s our first game of the year, I think it’s at the end of November. I was already watching their film, just looking for tendencies and scouting…I’m just extremely excited.”

Hoelscher is a 2000 graduated of Jefferson High School where he played basketball, football and baseball. He spent a year trying to walk on to the men’s basketball team at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall before transferring to St. Cloud State to play baseball for the Huskies.

Hoelscher will be entering his fifth year teaching U.S. and world history in the Osakis School District this fall. He has had assistant coaching jobs with the Silverstreaks football and baseball teams, while also coaching the Osakis boys and girls 7th-grade basketball teams last winter.

Hoelscher also spent six seasons as an assistant coach for the Melrose boys basketball program under head coach Ryan Dusha. All of his time spent as an assistant was done with the hopes of someday soon getting an opportunity to lead his own program.

“My last couple years in Melrose, Dusha was grooming me to be a head coach someday,” Hoelscher said. “He knew that was my goal. [Osakis activities director] Brad Hoffarth, Chris Stroup, they all knew that was my plan.”

Hoelscher said he wants his teams to play an uptempo style on offense and to pressure teams in the full court on defense. He also knows the team’s ability to do that will have a lot to do with the personnel he has at his disposal.

Hoelscher will be taking over an Osakis roster that returns Doug and Ky Zimmel as the only two players with previous varsity experience. That is a hurdle to overcome in his first season, but he liked the energy his players showed in a recent three-day camp he held in Osakis.

“Game-time situations, no timeouts left, I’m expecting there’s going to be some hiccups,” he said. “But what I’ve seen so far, we’ve scrimmaged a lot of teams this summer, and I know when I have more than those three days, there’s a lot of things I saw on film when we scrimmaged Henning, I know once we work on them, we’re going to get some good looks.”

It’s an Osakis team that is coming off a 7-19 season after winning just two games in 2010-2011. The Silverstreaks had won seven straight Prairie Conference titles before that. That’s exactly where Hoelscher hopes to get them back to in the future.

“First year, I’m not expecting to go to the state tournament and win it,” he said. “Just kind of build off of each year. We want to get back to competing for the conference championship. When Stroup won it all those years in a row. That’s our goal, get up there and try to compete.”


Stroup stepping down as Osakis boys basketball coach

Osakis boys basketball coach Chris Stroup handed in his resignation recently after leading the Silverstreaks’ program for the past 10 seasons.

Games, practice time and scouting trips don’t leave a lot of time for other things in a coach’s life, and that’s ultimately what led to Stroup stepping away. He felt it was time to devote more time to his family, specifically his daughters, Abby, 8th grade, and Jordyn, 5th grade, as they become more active in sports themselves.

Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press: Osakis head coach Chris Stroup talked with his team during a timeout in the second half of a game in Ashby earlier this season.

“I’ve always put other people’s kids first,” Stroup said on Tuesday. “It’s time for me to step to the side and put my kids first, at least for these winter months. This year, I got to see my 8th grader play twice, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Stroup said it was a move he was thinking about coming into the season and one he was at peace with after it ended. Osakis struggled through a 2-24 season in 2010-2011. He admitted it was a year full of frustration as he tried to get players to coexist. He didn’t want to leave coaching after a season like that.

This season, with most of those same players back, the team unity started to come together. The Silverstreaks won just seven games, but it was the way they carried themselves that made this year much more enjoyable than the last.

“Last year, there was no team cohesion,” Stroup said. “This year, there was. Kids got along well. That makes a huge difference. Even if last year we don’t win anymore, if the kids are sacrificing for each other and doing things for the betterment of the team, then two wins is two wins. It’s not like we’re playing a lazy schedule. But this year we had really good team cohesion. The six, seven guys we played on a regular basis, they all got along.”

Watching that transformation with this group of players was one of the highlights of his coaching career he said. Right up there with his only state tournament appearance in 2005-06 when his team finished 31-1 and third in the Class A tournament.

“I don’t think people believe me,” Stroup said. “I had a lot of fun this year. These kids were really responsive with everything we had them do. Then certainly going to state and going 31-1 is going to be a highlight.”

Stroup said his time away from coaching will only be temporary. He plans on getting back into it when his daughters are through school and he can devote more of his time to basketball. He leaves with a 165-102 overall record as the Silverstreaks’ head coach. His teams won seven straight Prairie Conference titles from 2004-2010.