Three-time defending champion Orono heads the list of teams that have qualified for the Class 2A state tournament Wednesday and Thursday at the Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.
Academy of Holy Angels (fourth place in 2010) and Detroit Lakes (fifth) also return to state but don’t forget about the Staples-Motley Cardinals.
“Certainly, there are any number of good teams playing in the tournament,” Cardinals coach Glen Hasselberg said. “I would say Orono, being the defending champion ... I always believe until someone beats you, you’re the champ. Hermantown is a very good team, Detroit Lakes is a very good team, but we feel we’re right in there with all of them.”
The Cardinals are led by Section 6-2A medalist Nick Forsberg, Zach Israelson and Michael Strain. Israelson shot 71 and tied for third place in last year’s rain-shortened 18-hole state tournament. Strain and Forsberg shot 78s and tied for 34th.
Tanner Roberts and Mitch and Trent Hagenson complete the S-M squad that won the section by nine shots.
“The Hagenson twins and Tanner had shining moments at some point and time in the season,” said Hasselberg, who thanked Cragun’s for hosting the team and S-M girls qualifier Emily Israelson for a practice round Monday. “Obviously, with those three guns (Forsberg, Israelson, Strain) we’ve still got to have a fourth score. We’re certainly looking for those three to step up.
“Tanner had a couple big, big tournaments for us. At Sauk Centre when we played there he had a 76. He came up big when Nick and Zach both shot 79. Those three, we’re looking for solid performances to cover that fourth score and keep us in hunt.
“As the old saying goes, ‘You can’t win the tournament the first day but you can lose it.’ That’s going to be our motto going in there. Play hard the first day because you never know if there will be a second.”
Senior Levi Espeseth of Pequot Lakes is the lakes area’s only individual boys qualifier. He shot 77-78 in the section tournament qualify for state.
“My hope is he can finish in the top 25,” Pequot coach Steve Stoxen said. “He strikes the ball really well off the tee. He has plenty of distance, and an excellent short game. If he can limit a big-number hole to bogey or double-bogey at the worst he has a chance to show very well at state.
“He has a good head on his shoulders, and generally does extremely well with the putter. Basically, he has a very good, calm demeanor on the course that helps him with getting out of tough situations.”
Four of the top five ranked teams are in the field. Detroit Lakes is ranked No. 1, Orono No. 2, Hermantown No. 3 and Byron No. 5. S-M is ranked ninth.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.