Tigers primed for another run at state Tigers shooting for bounce-back year

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff
by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

BRITTANY SCHALLER, shown scoring on a header last season, is one of many key players returning for the Howards Grove girls soccer team. Schaller, a sophomore forward, was an All- CLC first-team pick in 2014. Sophomore Kaitlynn Near, also pictured, is another key player returning. – Review file photo BRITTANY SCHALLER, shown scoring on a header last season, is one of many key players returning for the Howards Grove girls soccer team. Schaller, a sophomore forward, was an All- CLC first-team pick in 2014. Sophomore Kaitlynn Near, also pictured, is another key player returning. – Review file photo HOWARDS GROVE – An experienced, talented Howards Grove girls soccer team has very high expectations this year, coming off an outstanding 2014 season.

The Tigers have six starters and five other players who saw signifi- cant playing time returning from a team which came within one win of earning a Division 4 state tournament berth last season. HGHS is the defending Central Lakeshore Conference champion and finished 11-2-1 in league play and 18-4-2 overall.

The Tigers lost to New Holstein in the sectional finals, 1-0, in double overtime. The Huskies went on to finish second at state.

The Tigers’ starters back are senior defender Carlie Stauss, junior defender-midfielder Zyta Mueller, sophomore forward Brittany Schaller, senior midfielder Morgan Edge, sophomore defender-midfielder Kaitlynn Near and sophomore goalkeeper Olivia Stauss. HGHS has 16 letter winners on the roster.

Schaller earned All-CLC firstteam honors and was the Tigers’ Offensive Player of the Year in 2014. She led HGHS in CLC goals with 16. Edge and Near were all-league honorable mention last season. Near and Edge scored six goals each in league play last year.

“I’m very optimistic. I have seen hard work, determination and the willingness to adapt quickly to a new coach,” said Kasey Smith who took over as the Tigers’ head coach for Todd Fischer.

“I see speed and solid passing skills that may allow us to possess the ball in a way that will help us find the success the girls expect for our team.”

LYNDSAY PETERSON returns this season as the Howards Grove softball team’s No. 1 pitcher. Peterson will also be a key hitter in the Tigers’ attack. – Review file photo LYNDSAY PETERSON returns this season as the Howards Grove softball team’s No. 1 pitcher. Peterson will also be a key hitter in the Tigers’ attack. – Review file photo Smith, a business education teacher at HGHS, has a very successful soccer coaching background. In his nine seasons as the Appleton Xavier head boys coach, he guided the Hawks to state titles in 2006 and 2012. His 2014 Xavier girls team made a state appearance. He was named the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Private School Coach of the Year in 2012.

“The returning players that were nonstarters [in 2014] who will have a large impact this season are Ashley Reinemann, Emily Schmid, Morgan Wittman and Malayna McDaniel. All of these ladies saw significant playing time as freshmen last season.”

Smith pointed out the team’s other strengths.

“We bring back dynamic scorers with Brittany Schaller, Morgan Edge and Kaitlynn Near. However, to be successful we need to have everyone on the team finding opportunities to score. So that means we need to see assists from Schaller, Edge and Near when other teams decide to focus on them defensively,” he said.

“The varsity lineup will be a work in progress as myself and my coaching staff determine where girls bring the most benefit to the team. This means some change for some players. However, I expect they are up to the challenge.

“The girls are all keenly aware that they may play new positions or may stay right where they are accustomed,” Smith pointed out.

The coach mentioned the keys for the team to have success:

“Possess the ball as much as possible and reduce the scoring chances for our opponents dramatically. Finding a strong defensive attitude will be what we work on the first part of the season before we worry about scoring chances,” he said.

Smith pointed out the team’s top goals.

“The girls said they want to go to state. I love for this to be their goal,” he said.

“Success will be defined by many factors and whether or not we reach state I will not define our success this season. But, not reaching and working for a state appearance would be a failure on their part and mine.”

Smith is reserving his assessment of the CLC competition until he sees the other teams in action.

“My biggest factor would be to see what schools play strong defense and I have not had an opportunity to witness that,” he said.

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers will be aiming to bounce back this season in the Central Lakeshore Conference softball race after a disappointing fifth-place finish in 2014.

HGHS finished only 6-9 in the CLC and 10-16 overall last year but battled several injuries which forced the team to use 20 different starting lineups. The Tigers had won three straight league titles before 2014. The rash of injuries may have been a blessing in disguise because several young players then had opportunities to see playing time.

“We should be competitive and possibly very good, depending on my health of my team,” said Tiger head coach Tom Heier who is in his sixth season at the helm.

“I am extremely optimistic as I have my top-three pitchers back, and can actually go 12 deep [with the lineup] with very few weaknesses. The injuries last year were actually a benefit to this year.”

The Tigers lost three All-CLC players (two on the first team) but return 11 letter winners, including six starters. Heading the group of returning starters is senior Lyndsay Peterson who was All-CLC honorable mention at the utility position last season. Peterson was the Tigers’ No. 1 pitcher last year when she won six games and had 10 complete games.

Peterson will be a key hitter for the HGHS attack, coming off a season in which she batted .360 with 12 RBIs and two doubles. She will pitch and play shortstop.

The other starters back include seniors Sidney Handel (outfielder) and Kara Bell (outfielder-third baseman), junior Alyssa Herwig (outfielder) and sophomores Sarah Gardner (second baseman-shortstop) and Taylor Bubolz (shortstopfirst baseman-pitcher).

“I expect my returning seniors – Lyndsay Peterson at pitcher to be one of my best batters and for Kara Bell and Sydney Handel to supply me with two quality outfielders who can also play infield in a pinch,” said Heier.

“I expect three of my sophomores to be key hitters as Taylor Bubolz is healthy this year. Paige Splittgerber and Sarah Gardner should enter the starting lineups on the infield and be key hitters in my lineup.”

Heier pointed out three players who have impressed him among the varsity newcomers.

“Zaylie Kleinman should be a positive addition at first base. She is a transfer student from California,” said the coach.

“Freshman Katy Berg looks to be very athletic and who will start probably at an outfield position but has the ability to play first base and third base. Sierra Wildman [freshman] should add a lot more speed to my team.

“I expect Lyndsay Peterson to start at pitcher and share duties at shortstop with Taylor Bubolz. Taylor is healthy and will be able to pitch again as well as sophomore Paige Splittgerber,” said Heier.

“Senior Sydney Handel, senior Kara Bell, and junior Alyssa Herwig will start in the outfield with Katy Berg [freshman] getting a bunch of playing time as well.”

Heier pointed out the team’s strengths.

“Howards will have some depth at all positions this year due to all the playing time due to injuries last year. We are looking for some stability,” he said.

“We should have quality at each position but we should be really young in our starting lineup. At times last year we started four freshmen and two sophomores.

“We return our starting pitching staff [Peterson, Bubolz, Splittgerber and Corra Gumm] and have increased our team speed with our freshman additions.”

How well the Tigers’ pitching holds up this season will be crucial.

“We will go as far as our pitching takes us. We will have a strong hitting team and need to find a first baseman and third baseman,” said the coach.

“We may have first base covered with Zaylie. We should be able to play and continue good defense as we ended last season. We have no returning All-Conference players [on first or second team], so we need some of our young talent to step up and perform.

“My younger players have really aggressively adapted new hitting approaches. We should have a lot of power but also be able to play the bunting game,” Heier said.

The coach expects a very competitive conference. This is the final CLC season as the league will join the Olympian Conference this fall to form the new CLC/Olympian Conference.

“Howards Grove should be an underdog in the CLC this year. Oostburg won the conference last year with Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah. Both teams lost a considerable amount of all-conference players,” Heier noted.

“My favorite to win the CLC would have to be Random Lake who will be returning their entire lineup or defending champion Oostburg. Many of the teams should be very competitive this year in what should be a fight-to- the-last-day conference winner.”

Heier pointed out his top goals for the season.

“Our goals as a team are to play solid fundamental softball. We do not want to make errors and want to be a very aggressive hitting team,” he said.

“After taking fifth in the conference last year we are looking to have a bounce-back year. I believe we may have become a stronger team because of all the innings the younger kids earned last year due to all of our injuries.”

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