LITTLE FALLS -- The newest additions to the Little Falls high school sports scene are full of optimism as the kickoff to their inaugural soccer season draws near.
At this time last year, girls' and boys' soccer were club sports in Little Falls. Today, they're varsity sports with coach Nadine Wangerin at the girls' helm and Julie Bell head coach of the boys' squad.
LITTLE FALLS FLYERS
Football coach -- Jack Marmon, 2nd year
1999 record -- 1-6 in CLC, 2-7 overall
Assistant coaches -- Shawn Alholm, Rod Miller, Pat Cory, Jeremy Stadum, Carl Larson, Tom Riitters
Volleyball coach -- Kevin Hoskins, 2nd year
1999 record -- 1-23 overall
Assistant coach -- Sara Pohlman (varsity), Mike Conley (JV)
Girls' tennis coach -- Greg Emerson, 3rd year
Career record -- 2-35
1999 record -- 2-18
Assistant coach -- Anita Larsen
Boys' cross country coach -- Jeff Massmann, 4th year
Assistant coach -- Tony Kula, 3rd year
Girls' cross country coach -- Jacki Devine, 2nd year
1999 finish -- sixth at Section 8AA meet
Girls' Soccer coach -- Nadine Wangerin, 1st year
1999 record -- Club team
Girls' swimming coach -- Sarah Filippi, 5th year
1999 record -- 3-4 in CLC, 8-4 overall
Assistant coach -- Joel Holey, Missy Bengston (diving)
Wangerin's Flyers are more ready than one might think to take on their first conference challenge.
"We're excited to be a part of the conference and we feel our team will be competitive with the rest of the conference teams," said Wangerin.
Labeling this first conference entry a team of veterans may seem like a contradiction but nearly 90 percent of the roster played for the club team last year. That should be an important edge when conference play begins.
"We only lost four seniors from last year," said Wangerin. "A majority of the girls play summer soccer so they're used to playing with one another."
While the Little Falls boys' soccer coach Julie Bell hopes the team will earn its share of wins, clearly she is counting on this year to lay a foundation for future seasons.
"This is going to be a learning year," Bell explained. "We're going out there for experience. I'm hoping to see improvement througout the year."
Nearly 30 players turned out for an opportunity to play on the first Flyers boys soccer varsity team.
"I was hoping to see about 30 kids come out and that's what we got," said Bell. "I'm real happy with the turnout."
Members of the Flyers squad include:
Seniors: Christopher Bell, John Smieja, Kyle Nyugen, Dustin Seward, Ed Pietron, Kerry Herdegan, Jesse Larson, Kent Binger.
Juniors: Matt Parins, Eric Rakow, Joe Handeland, Mark Sahr, Luke Godzala, Josh Gosiak, John Patterson, Jason Cash, Phil Weiss, Ian Bakke, Josh Anderson, George Fortier, Andy Pietron, Zach Skoglund, Brett Fortier.
Sophomores: Ben Jorgenson, Cory Fink, John Nieman, Paul Flahve, Brock Clough, Crain Nyugen, Todd Anderson
Swimming and Diving
Experience runs deep for a quietly confident Little Falls girls' swimming and diving team that looks toward to another fine season.
The Flyers return all but one of their veteran swimmers and, according to coach Sarah Filippi, have a promising crop of freshman ready to hit the water.
"Our goals include our first winning record in the conference, along with a run at the Section 3A championship," said Filippi. "All three relays have hopes for state, as well as many individuals.
"The team has set some lofty goals, but they definitely have the talent to make it happen. They simply need to stay focused and healthy."
Among the divers are senior Nicole McCoy and sophomores Jodi Tonsager and Ashley Thompson.
The swimming squad includes:
Seniors Kayla Emblom (sprint free), Kristina Flahave (fly and individual medley), Lauren Heise (200 and 500 free), Dana Middendorf (back and individual medley), Monica Mogg (200 and 500 free-fly), Melissa Feiler (breaststroke), and Kelly Schmiedt (sprint free-fly).
Juniors include Julie Carlson (back, individual medley, free), Kari Carlson (200, 500 free), Cassie Goldenstein (free, individual medley), Rachael Greene (200, 500 free), Maggie Neudecker (fly, breaststroke, individual medley), Brianne Simonson (back, 200 free), Emily Tschida (breaststroke, fly, individual medley), and Jessie Ylitalo (sprint free).
Sophomores are Allison Zak (breaststroke, fly, free) and Jenni Ashwill (fly, free). Brittney Corrow (fly, free) is an eighth-grader.
Little Falls Flyers' tennis coach Greg Emerson is hoping that quality goes with quantity as he fields his largest squad ever and tries to improve on a 1999 record of 0-14.
"We have 25 girls out this year, which is the most since I have been involved with the program," said Emerson, who is beginning his third year as head coach.
"Our prognosis for the season rides on the shoulders of our older players. If they go out and play hard every match, it will hopefully elevate the performance of the younger girls. We have 12 ninth-graders in our program this year. This bodes well for the future of our program."
Returning starters and letterwinners are seniors Heidi Leisenheimer, Alexis Sand and captains Stephanie Turk and Jessica Waltman. Returning juniors are Shanna Bach, Kate Fogle and Rachel Loscheider. Sophomores are Nicki Olson and Shelby Swenson.
Other players vying for varsity positions include freshmen Heather Rakow, Elizabeth Brisk and Maggie Cotton as well as junior Christina Saari.
'The way the Little Falls volleyball team sees things, there's no place to bounce but up as the Flyers seek to build on last year's 1-23 record.
Head coach Kevin Hoskins has reason to expect improvement.
"By all indicators," Hoskins said, "the team will improve a great deal this year. The determined and dedicated seniors have worked for the past three years to improve and win. This is the tallest and most talented group of juniors to play in Little Falls in a few years.
"Combining the experience and attitude of our seniors with the skill of the juniors will lead to success."
The five seniors who Hoskins is counting on to provide the drive and experience to improve the team's performance are Sara Fedor, Ashley Dolney, Allyson Norwood, Brenda Hoskins and Amanda Klein.
Among those ready to step up to a varsity position are seniors Erin Mrozek and Sheri Sullivan and juniors Rachel Davich, Erica Baros, Sam Parker and Jennifer Oldakowski.
Other potential candidates to fill the 12th position include Lacey Bachan, Cassandra Osberg, Rachel Grams, Melissa Plakut, Mandy Morgan and Mary Moore.
The key to the Flyers' football season may well be whether athleticism can overcome lack of experience. At least, that's how second-year Little Falls head coach Jack Marmon reads his team's prospects.
"We will be young," Marmon said, "both up front and in the backfield. Injuries and graduation robbed us of much experience. We expect this to be offset by athleticism, which our sophomores, juniors and seniors possess. Our goal is to be playing our best football by October, so our learning curve has to be steep, especially if we want to survive in the CLC."
Marmon looks to a core of returning senior starters to set the pattern for his otherwise youthful team. This group includes Jamie Bates, defensive tackle; Adam Birr, noseguard; Justin Graff, defensive tackle; Justin Kofoed, defensive back/wide receiver; Nate Miller, defensive back/quarterback; and Mike Billstrom, linebacker.
Other returning seniors include Jon Larson, tackle, and Josh Kliber, linebacker/tight end. Returning juniors are Mark Kasella, tight end/defensive end and tailback Ryan Olson.
Players new to the squad are seniors Jon Larson and Alex Rouland; juniors Paul Hochsprung, Nate Doucette, Matte Preble, Jeremy Doroff, Joe Parker, Mitch Johnson, Matt Wenz and Dax Stark. Sophomore strong safety Blake Smith also joins the team.
Boys' cross country
The Flyers boys' cross country team turned in a successful 1999 season, considering the level of competition in the Central Lakes Conference. The team finished third in the conference and fourth in Section 8AA.
This year the Flyers will once again be running against a strong field.
Jason Thielen was a state qualifier for the Flyers last year and finished in 30th place at the state meet. He was the top finishing freshman in the state. Thomas Hansen was all-conference as a junior and will also be back this year.
Other returning starters include senior Jared Odendahl, junior Mark Hartwig and sophomores Andrew Feia and Mike Ashby.
Girls' cross country
The Little Falls girls' cross country team raced to a fourth-place finish in the Central Lakes Conference and a sixth-place finish in the section last year.
This season, second-year head coach Jackie Devine is looking to build off that performance.
"It looks like our first two runners, Becky Anderson and Emily Gustafson, will be pretty strong and the rest of the team not too far behind," said Devine.
Returning letterwinners include juniors Becky Anderson (15th in the section last year), Sara Marotte and Emily Gustafson; sophomores Melissa Posterick, Angela Bratch, and Genevieve Johnson; and freshman Susan Sawtell.
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