It doesn't take much for Amy Solorz to have a happy birthday.
Friday is the Central Lakes College sophomore's birthday and she's looking forward to spending it in her traditional way, by winning a basketball game.
This Friday night, Solorz and her CLC Raiders women's basketball team will be playing in the first round of the Region 13B tournament at Fergus Falls. Two wins this weekend will put the team in the national community college tournament next weekend in Corning, N.Y., the same Corning that is home to the people who make the cookware.
Solorz is used to winning on her birthday. She doesn't plan to change that.
"In high school, my team always won when we played on my birthday, so hopefully, we'll do that again this time," said Solorz. "We're looking to beat the team from Wisconsin and move on against the winner of Fergus and Rainy."
The Region 13B tournament is a four-team affair that includes Central Lakes (15-11 overall record), Rainy River Community College (16-9), Fergus Falls Community College (20-7) -- all from Minnesota -- and Mid-State Technical College (11-15) from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
Fergus Falls and Rainy River will play at 6 p.m. Friday with the Raiders' game following at 8 p.m. The third place game will be played Saturday at noon with the championship game tipping off at 2 p.m.
The Raiders drew the Mid-State Cougars in the first round and that suits CLC coach Dennis Eastman just fine.
"I don't know much about Mid-State," said Eastman, "but I do know that Rainy and Fergus are going to beat on each other Friday night. So, again, this is another tournament where anything can happen."
Sophomore Raider Amy Martinson doesn't pull any punches with her predictions for the tournament.
"This weekend is going to be huge," said Martinson. "All we have to do is win two games and I know we can do it. We have some girls hurting but we'll be ready to go. We can beat any of those teams at region, I know we can."
Eastman is taking a more conservative approach. He's cautiously optimistic about his team being able to do the things necessary to advance to the national tournament.
"We're playing really well right now," said Eastman. "Offensively, I'm not worried. Defensively, I have been. Earlier in the year, we weren't moving our feet quickly enough and we were doing a lot of reaching and fouling. But, through the state tournament, defense-wise, we're playing better now than we've played all year."
Eastman will keep practice and other routines as normal as possible for his Raiders prior to their appearance in the regional tournament.
"We"ll prepare just like it's a regular-game week," said Eastman. "We won't try to change the routine. We'll want to keep things as normal as possible and not put any extra pressure on the kids.
"That means going as hard as possible Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday will be a time to ease up and go over the scouting reports one more time. Friday, we'll travel and see what happens."
Monday was a day off for Raiders players, after they won the consolation championship at the state tournament last weekend at CLC. For Eastman, however, Monday meant basketball as usual.
"I spent Monday calling around, trying to find out something about Mid-State, trying to see what they're like, what they can and can not do," said Eastman.
Key to what Eastman discovered, was that Mid-State has at least two inside starters who have given other teams fits. Teri Karlen has averaged 16 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game while her Cougar teammate, Katie Shufelt, has averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds over the course of the season.
Neutralizing that inside presence for the Raiders will be a task assigned primarily to Martinson and Anna Struss. Whoever dominates those inside matchups will go a long way toward deciding who advances to the region final against the Rainy River-Fergus Falls winner.
It will also decide whether Solorz gets to continue her happy birthday tradition.
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