Adam Gregory ended the 2014 season on a nine-game hitting streak, including four hits in his first two NCAA Division III postseason contests, to help the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater win its second national baseball title.
The Edgerton High School graduate said last year’s magical finish is why he chose UW-W in the first place.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Talyn Lewis is a fan of the television show “Law and Order: SVU” and wants to study criminal psychology in college.
“Softball is a huge mental game,” the Burlington High School junior standout said. ”You have to learn to accept most of the time you are going to fail. You’re not going to get on base every at bat, you’re not going to make every play; mistakes happen.
“With how competitive I am, I forget at times that you can’t always go 3 for 3 in a game. I think I have come a long way with my mental toughness and not getting so down on myself, but it is still something I can improve on.”
JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Experience can’t be overrated, and a young Parkview High School softball team is counting on two juniors to carry it early and navigate a tough Rock Valley Conference schedule.
Ally Steinke was named the RVC South’s Coach of the Year last spring, leading the Vikings to a 10-6 record and second-place finish behind Beloit Turner in her fourth year in charge after two seasons as an assistant.
This year will be a challenge, so Steinke will rely on Madi Melms and Kortni Grenawalt, who made the league’s first team as an infielder and utility player, respectively.
STATELINE NEWS -- One doesn’t enter the Hall of Fame without knowing how to judge talent. And Beloit Turner coach Bob Sulser earned his plaque from the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association in February because he knows that great players are a big reason for his success.
The Trojans, who finished 22-5 last spring, have won three consecutive Rock Valley South titles behind the likes of pitcher Kelsie Packard, who has gained WFSCA All-State recognition all three seasons and returns for her final prep campaign.
Another topnotch performer and fellow senior is Tessa Mikkelson, who takes an occasional turn on the mound. However, her forte is getting on base as a leadoff hitter and picking it on defense at shortstop.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- They got a taste two years ago. East Troy would like to savor the entire meal this time.
The Trojans are making their third trip, joining the 1989 and 2013 squads, in this, the 100th WIAA boys basketball state tournament.
East Troy, which enters with an 18-7 record, tangles with Xavier (23-3) at about 10:45 a.m. Friday, March 20, in the second Division 3 semifinal game at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Hawks are making their second appearance, losing their lone game in 2009.
The winner faces Prescott (25-1) or defending champion Brown Deer (23-4) in the title contest at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21.
Trojans’ coach Darryl Rayfield said that this never gets old, and he knows his team will be better prepared after gaining valuable experience in 2013.
“We’re thrilled to be back,” Rayfield said during a media conference call. “We’re fortunate to have three kids who played in that game a couple years back. Connor Mitchell (14.3 points per game), a senior, leads us in scoring and had 39 in the sectional semifinal. He is our second-leading rebounder and was on that team as a starter. So was senior Will Iloncaie (11.8), our point guard, and senior Matt Kaminski (8.9), who is back and has been coming off the bench … he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four or five weeks ago and getting back into the swing of things.”
Juniors Jake Remsza (7.8) and Justin Growel (6.9), the team’s leading rebounder at 5.4 per outing, also play significant minutes. East Troy also features junior Joey Ciriacks, its top three-point artist who averages 11.3 ppg.
Iloncaie made the all-Rock Valley North squad, Mitchell the second team and Kaminski and Ciriacks the honorable mention list.
“These guys have all been around, last year getting beat by Brown Deer in the sectional semifinal in a one- or two-possession game, so these guys have been a big part of East Troy basketball,” Rayfield said. “And I feel like our strength of schedule, playing teams such as Marquette, Stoughton, Racine Case and Oconomowoc, has gotten us ready to play a team the caliber of Xavier. We’re looking forward to that.”
Eastern Valley Conference winner Xavier also features a balanced attack: junior Sam Burkart leads the way at 14.7, followed by senior Matt Kinderman (13.0), junior Zach Simons (10.8), senior Tom Johnson (8.3) and freshman Hunter Plamann (7.2).
East Troy knocked off its first three postseason foes by 15, 19 and 19 points before defeating River Valley, 42-34, at Middleton for the sectional title as Mitchell and Iloncaie combined for 31 points.
East Troy’s regular season featured losses to larger schools Case, Marquette and Stoughton by double digits and a nine-point decision to Oconomowoc along with a sweep to RVC North winner McFarland and a two-point setback at Evansville.
“I think earlier in the year, because of the way we schedule … you can’t hide from solid teams,” Rayfield said. “Our chemistry, learning how to defend as a group, sharing the basketball and believing in some of the things we were doing (got better), because we weren’t blessed with great size but are very athletic.”
“In the second game against McFarland we kinda let that slip away a little bit and finished a game out of our conference championship and felt like we were just as good or better than any of them,” he added. “So we’ve been playing pretty well. They started trusting each other a little bit more and that was a big key.”
And his two guards, Mitchell and Iloncaie, make the machine run.
“Will ended up with 146 assists and is really athletic … and he probably had 16 or 18 dunks on year,” Rayfield said. “Those two have been playing together since third or fourth grade. They know each other very well. They’re both two-sport athletes. They trust each other. They run and jump well. Those two put us on their backs in the second half of the year, and along with Matt Kaminski, are our captains.”
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Several area skiers have performed on a national stage this past week in Winter Park, Colorado, where they competed in the U14 Junior Championships.
Six members of the SWATeam Racing program -- Southeastern Wisconsin Alpine Team -- practiced Monday and Tuesday and participated in super G, giant slalom and combination events Wednesday through Friday after qualifying in Marquette, Michigan, in late February.
Walworth County area competitors were Blake Wisdom and Hans Melges of Lake Geneva, Kyle Navin and Harry Melges of Fontana and Alyssa Cunningham and Gavin Kudick of Waukesha.
STATELINE NEWS -- They are two completely different athletes, but juniors Jaliyah Elliott and Lacey Cousins are among the standouts who hope to help the Beloit Memorial girls track team compete for a Big Eight Conference championship.
Elliott, who ran the anchor leg, and her sprinting compatriots in the 400- and 800-meter relay races hope to improve on their 10th- and eighth-place finishes at last year’s WIAA Division 1 state meet performances.
And the diminutive Elliott wants to do the same in the 100-meter dash, which she ran in 12.45 seconds to earn seventh place.
Judy Harms and her Whitewater High School girls basketball team, especially the seniors, don’t have to answer the same questions again. And they don’t have to wonder why anymore.
The Whippets combined for a 64-11 record the last three seasons, and Harms said her team leaders couldn’t be blamed for feeling snake-bitten.
“When my seniors were freshmen, Reedsburg beat us and went on to state,” Harms said. “When they were sophomores, Milton beat us and went on to state. As juniors, Brodhead beat us and went on to state. Finally, the luck falls on us and it’s our turn.”
That’s for sure. Whitewater takes its 26-0 record into the WIAA Division 3 state tournament semifinal game against Kettle Moraine Lutheran at 9:05 a.m. Friday.
And Harms said she knew last year that this team could handle huge expectations and become special.
“Last season at our Whippet summer camp was the first time I ever said, “Hey, I don’t just think we can get to state, I think we can win state’ after seeing how good Rebekah Schumacher was as a freshman,” Harms said. “I knew Myriama (Smith-Traore) was going to be a special player, but wow, Rebekah caught my eye right away.
“It was evident at the start of this season that all of the returning players stepped up their game, the kids were incredibly focused and we had the nucleus to do something special,” Harms added. “Undefeated? After beating Stoughton (Jan. 2) I thought about going undefeated. Going to state? That was going to be tough with the bracket we were in. It was a tossup, and I do believe it comes down to not only talent, but also which team can stay the healthiest, and let’s face it, a bit of luck. We’ve lost plenty of games where I asked myself, ‘Why did their shot go in and not ours?’”
She doesn’t have to ask that question again either. And Harms knows why this year’s squad was able to overcome those postseason demons.
“The leadership,” she said. “The focus displayed by not only my seniors, but all of my returning players, has been tremendous. Great focus with a strong work ethic leads to quality practices.”
The bottom line: A trip to the Resch Center in Green Bay for the first time.
Whitewater’s lineup features several key role players and four main offensive producers in senior Sarah Schumacher (15.5 points per game), sophomores Smith-Traore (13.7) and Rebekah Schumacher (13.6) and senior Kailey Reynolds (8.3).
However, Harms knows the Flyway Conference titlist and defending state champion Chargers, who finished 20-6, arguably offer the Whippets’ stiffest challenge.
“Kettle Moraine Lutheran is an experienced team, and in my mind the No. 1 team to beat at state in our division,” Harms said. “They bring state experience, so they are more comfortable going into the game, but I would have to say we are most likely more hungry not being there before. We will have our hands full trying to stop Mikayla Voigt, but they also bring size, which we haven’t seen for a few games. And they are well disciplined and well coached.”
So are the Whippets. But what do they need to do to bring home the Gold Ball?
“We need to stay out of foul trouble and limit our turnovers,” Harms said. “We need balanced scoring inside and out. We are a tough, tough team to stop when things are clicking from both areas.”
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Harms knows how much her team’s ride has meant to everybody involved, as well as to those who have supported the Whippets. That’s because the program won its third conference crown in four years after not winning one since back-to-back titles in 1983-’84.
“It has brought the players, students, staff, parents, friends and the entire community together,” Harms said. “Words can’t describe how positive and thrilling the support has been, starting with our administration. I’m ecstatic with the amount of people sharing our success, and that really is what high school sports can do to an entire community.”
And it means a lot to Harms, who coaches in a city that’s become NCAA Division III’s version of Titletown with the Warhawks bringing home so many national trophies in recent years.
“It’s been a long haul, but it’s rewarding to finally see all the hard work, time and energy pay off,” she said. “It’s rewarding receiving calls, emails, text messages, etc., from many alumni over the years, and seriously, they are the ones who paved the way. Little by little our program kept raising the bar, so all my teams in the past can be proud of the role they played, and still play, forever being a Whippet.
“My family being there every step of the way is our No. 1 fan base,” Harms added. “A lot of sacrifices are made over the years in coaching, and without my husband, three kids and their friends, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do as a teacher and coach. My husband, Gary, truly is my biggest assistant in everything we do, and I want this for him just as much as I want it for the players.”
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Katrina Santos exudes talent and competitive spirit. She and coach Josh Herrell are focusing on how best to channel those attributes into bringing out even better results from the standout jumper in preparation for the track season, which officially starts Monday.
The East Troy High School junior already proved she was among the best in the state in her specialties, finishing fifth in the long and triple jumps as a freshman to help the Trojans win the WIAA Division 2 state championship with 57 points in 2013.
However, she slipped to eighth place in the triple and ninth in the long jump last spring in La Crosse, which prompted a change in strategy and approach.
STATELINE NEWS -- Justin Langley is a big-time competitor. Combine that with his 6-foot-6, 225-pound stature, and one easily sees how formidable he can be for opposing hitters to face.
The Clinton High School graduate is a sophomore pitcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who appears to be back in form after missing most of his freshman season and getting off to a slow start last year after enduring shoulder issues.
The left-hander -- who was awarded a medical redshirt because of the injury in 2013 -- suffered from glenohumeral rotation deficit, which the kinesiology major explained in layman’s terms.