Spotlight is on seniors whose spring seasons have been taken away
By Dave Boehler
of The Beacon staff
North’s softball team has spent plenty of time on its diamond this spring.
The Golden Raiders haven’t had a game, but at least the extra free time allowed them to make improvements to and around the field.
“I guess if there is a silver lining, (COVID-19) allowed us time to make all these improvements that would’ve been done a little bit at a time over the course of probably years, actually,” coach Christopher Lenz said. “We’re looking forward to everybody seeing it next spring.”
On various occasions, Lenz was joined by a few players and/or parents who painted and worked on things like the bleachers, field, batting cage and landscaping.
“There’s a laundry list, mostly aesthetics,” Lenz said.
Had there been a season, probably the only item that would have been finished was the bleachers – it had to because of safety reasons – and Drexel Building Supply even donated the wood.
“It’s done a lot nicer than we had anticipated, but it also gave us a lot more time to make the facility and the complex much nicer than it has been in years past,” Lenz said.
Not one senior helped, however, because North was not going to have any this season.
“It is quite rare, actually,” Lenz said.
Natalie Dulmes, a three-year varsity player, decided not to play this year to focus on club volleyball and school.
Coach Tim Eirich has fond memories of his five seniors that helped the team win back-to-back conference titles.
When it comes to Ashley English, who made first-team all-Fox River Classic Conference in 2019, Eirich will remember both goals she scored in a crucial 2-1 victory at Bay Port that year.
“We all knew that the conference championship rested on this game,” the coach said. “They were the No. 1-ranked team in the state and our rival. She scored on shots that were both over 45 yards away and broke their backs.”
English will attend MIT in the fall, and Eirich says he has never known anyone to attend this prestigious school.
“She not only is an outstanding athlete and soccer player, but she is a superior student,” he said.
Then there is Leah Moyer and Maggie Mueller, two girls who made all-conference second team a year ago.
Moyer, however, suffered a major knee injury in August at a showcase game in St. Louis and was not going to be able to play this spring.
Eirich says she was devastated but still remained a leader on the team and inspired younger girls to be better.
“She’s a good athlete and an outstanding role model/leader,” he said. “Leah is one of the rare athletes at North High School. She was a three-year starter on the defense that set many conference records for the least amount of goals allowed during a season.
“She is a rock that defenses are built on.”
Mueller’s desire to be the very best team player is what stands out for Eirich.
In the 2018 state semifinal victory, she injured her eye and could not return.
Eirich’s best friend, who is an eye doctor, was at the game and looked at her eye afterward.
“She told me no matter what, she was going to play on Saturday (in the title game) even if she had to wear an eye patch,” the coach said. “This is a true competitor.”
Alycia Herr was asked if she could be the emergency back-up goalkeeper as a junior but was not too interested.
No problem, Eirich said, but in the middle of the season the starter got injured and could not finish the game.
“Before I could ask her, she came running up to me and stated she would finish the game, and it wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “She made several saves in the game even though she had not played goalie in four or five years. A team player!”
And one of Lizzie Revelis’ memorable moments was when she had to come out of a game because she was crying.
“When I asked what was wrong, she stated she didn’t know why, she just got emotional,” Eirich said. “We both looked at each other and didn’t know what to say, but we started to both laugh hard over this.
“She went back in immediately.”
One of the reasons Alex Valenzuela joined the program this spring was to stay in shape in order to play soccer in college.
“It’s harder now because I have to do things on my own in order to stay fit,” the senior said. “I do a lot of running, conditioning to keep my muscular endurance up.”
After competing on the tennis team for the first time last spring – he says it’s a competitive and underrated sport – Valenzuela’s friends suggested he join track for fitness purposes.
“I thought about it and I knew it would help me stay in shape,” he said.
Track was the only spring sport to hold a week of practice and Redwings’ coach Kevin Herber said the newcomer showed major jumping ability.
According to Valenzuela, he caught on pretty easy and tried the triple jump, long jump and 400-meter run.
“I just tried out each event and they liked me,” he said.
Four senior teammates also miss out on their final year, including top returning sprinter Efren Alba Valdivia, top returning distance runner Cale Renzelman and runners Aiden Brotz and Isaac Cobos.
“When looking at this group, the times and places they took in meets might not stand out, but this is one of the hardest working groups I ever coached,” Herber said. “These guys are lead-by-example kind of guys who would do absolutely anything to help the team. They’re unselfish, gritty, classy.”
South’s girls team featured two seniors in distance runners Emily Heinemann and Madison Skaggs, who made their varsity debut last season.
“I was looking forward to their improvement and helping out on both individual and relay teams to be competitive,” Redwings’ coach Chris Korff said.
He added the pair are hard workers who came into this season with great attitudes.
Korff, in his first year as coach, saw them the last couple of years as an assistant.
So not only do they miss their final season, he has to wait for his varsity coaching debut.
“It’s been very strange and hard because they prolonged (the season) for so long that there was a possibility,” Korff said. “So sending virtual workouts and communicating with the girls, then at the end just having nothing, was kind of a letdown.”
Four seniors, including two newcomers, were hoping to contribute to the Redwings this spring.
Especially Kongmeng Yang, who was set to play No. 1 singles after competing at the third and fourth flights as a junior.
“It’s really hard for me, actually,” said Yang, who will attend the University of Wisconsin. “Because it was supposed to be like my year, trying to get all the way to state and stuff. So yeah, it was really hurtful.
“I was really looking forward to leading my team this year being one of the two seniors that’d be coming back. I really wanted to work with the team this year and see how much they would grow, along with me.”
Trenton Udovich, who will study at UW-Green Bay, also spent the previous
three seasons in the program and made some varsity appearances as a freshman and sophomore.
“Everything is just different,” he said. “There really isn’t a normal anymore and I don’t know how to feel about everything.”
Udovich was likely to remain at doubles again this year, but singles was not out of the possibility, according to coach Peter Kautzer.
“Trenton is a gamer,” he said. “He works hard and I could count on him. He filled in last year as the emergency last-minute substitute at subsectionals playing No. 4 singles. He went down battling, and I was very proud of his attitude and the effort he put forth.”
Also, Sam Scharenbroch and Austin Reynoso were ready to play varsity for the first time.
“Two great guys,” Kautzer said.
Joel Hacker’s first trip to the golf course was for lessons at Quit Qui Oc – in second grade.
Because his family knew an instructor there, his father took him and Hacker says he has enjoyed the sport ever since.
“When I’m stressed or something, I usually go out to the golf course and try to get my mind off of things,” he said.
Hacker was also a member of the junior varsity basketball team as a freshman and sophomore, but golf is his thing.
“Golf is more of an individual sport, where you have to almost work against yourself,” he said. “So that’s something I’ve always liked doing. It’s a team sport in a way, but it’s basically more you competing against yourself to stay composed and not get frustrated when you have one bad hole or something like that.”
Hacker, who will attend Concordia University Chicago, and Drake Wilcox were the only two seniors on the team this year.
The Crusaders were coming off a program-best third-place finish at WIAA Division 3 state, and Wilcox was the school’s first champion after placing second and third his first two seasons.
Hacker gives Wilcox plenty of credit after spending the previous two years as his teammate.
“He’s basically been my teacher almost through high school,” Hacker said. “He’s taught me different ways to improve my game and things like that.”
When Brett Huisman was hired to coach the squad, Jackson Edmunds and Noah Ertel were freshmen.
This would have been their final year as the only two seniors – both from Kohler – on the co-op squad.
“We’ll miss them,” Huisman said. “They’re kids I’ve coached for the last three years and I took over three years ago, so they’ve kind of been my nucleus that’s aged and came up through my program as far as trying to get things on the right path and get Koehler/Christian baseball recognition, just improve the culture there. “They’ve stuck with it and bought in to what I’ve had to say. So it’s unfortunate to not see them play as seniors.”
Edmunds spent the previous two-plus years on varsity and has worked very hard during that time to improve his pitching by playing on different summer and fall teams.
Ertel earned the job as varsity catcher as a sophomore. He split time there as a last year because other positions had to be filled.
“They would’ve been leading the charge,” Huisman said.