VERNDALE -- After a disappointing loss in last year's Section 4, Nine-Man final, the Verndale Pirates are anxious to return to their dominance of past years.
Head coach Mike Mahlen, who starts his 32 year at Verndale, will have to replace 12 seniors from a team that went 6-2 in the Pheasant Conference and 7-3 overall.
With five returning starters, led by running back Matt Kern and 12 other returning letterwinners, the Pirates have a shot to get back to the state tournament.
Football coach -- Mike Mahlen, 32st year
Career record -- 233-73-3
1999 record -- 7-3 overall, 6-2 Pheasant Conference;
Assistant coaches -- Brad Schmidt, Tim Seaton, Jeff Moore
Volleyball coach -- Lyle Haraldson, 16th year
Career record -- 203-190-8
1999 record -- 7-16 overall, 3-6 in Park Region Conference
Assistant coaches -- Kelly Youngbauer, Jill Aanenson
Last year Kern led the team with 961 yards on 156 carries and 14 touchdowns. He also had five interceptions and an average of 23.6 yards on kickoff returns.
Steve Schmitz and Keith Radniecki return to be bookends of the offensive line. The two senior tackles will be helped by Paul Heller, Andrew Roth, Ryan Sundby, Mark Ludovissie and center Adam Richter.
Tight end Lance Edin and end Chris Bramer also return to help improve upon Mahlen's career record (233-73-3).
Seniors - Matt Kern (RB/LB), Steve Schmitz (T/DT), Lance Edin (TE/DE), Chris Bramer (SE/CB), Keith Radniecki (T/DT), Paul Heller (T/DT), Luke Breitling (SE/DB), Andrew Roth (T/LB).
Juniors - Chad Christianson (QB/DB), Jordan Hinkle (RB/S), Drew Schmidt (E/LB), Justin Rogge (RB/S), Ryan Sundby (T/DT), Adam Richter (C/LB), Mark Ludovissie (T/DE) Jeff Pankratz (TE/DE).
Sophomore - Casey Finck (RB/LB).
Junior - Dennis Lindner (T/LB), Sophomore - Kyle Ashman (RB/DB), Cody Lovelace (T/DL), George Kveton (T/DL), Eric Bramer (T/DL), Josh Richter (E/LB). Freshmen - Wyatt Carr (E/LB), Tyler Fuller (RB/DB), Spencer Greer (D/DB), Cory Umland (QB/S), Matt Desrocher (RB/LB) Jason Kneisl (T/DL), Cory Ash (T/DL), Brad Erckenbrack (D/DE).
Kayla White is the lone returnee from a team that was 3-6 in the Park Region Conference and 7-16 overall.
The 5-foot-6 junior hitter will be the cornerstone of a team that will feature five new faces that will have to replace one of the area's best in the graduated Marie Kern.
"Returning only one starter and letterwinner in Kayla from last year we're in need of setters and hitters," said Lyle Haraldson, who starts his 16th year at Verndale. "The sophomore group could supply a number of varsity players. This will be a very challenging year with only one starter back and only two other players who have much varsity experience."
Jill Trosen (5-5, setter) and Missie Tomte (5-5, utility) are two seniors who will need to step up and be productive early. Juniors Stephanie Tomte (5-8, hitter) and Jessica Desrocher (5-5, utility) will see plenty of playing time as will sophomores Melissa Stave (5-10, hitter), Raya Kern (5-10, hitter) and Beth Rogge (5-4, Utility).
Despite last year's record the Pirates were ranked second in the Section 5A tournament where they eventually lost to Nevis.
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