Coach: Joelle Grimsley
Assistant coach: Jill Hahn
Conf: Minnesota River
Section: 4A – 26 teams including Southwest Christian, St. Croix Lutheran, PACT, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, and Bethany Academy
2012 finish: Last season ended in heartbreak, as the Crusaders lost the Section 4A title game to Southwest Christian and fell just short of a return trip to the state tournament.
Leading up to the section finals, the Crusaders had a 24-8 season overall, with an unblemished 7-0 MRC record, which awarded them the conference title. In the early season, Mayer Lutheran won nine straight matches, and later breezed through the first rounds of section action.
Key returnees: All-Conference player Rachel Schmidt and varsity regular Maria Kuntz return to lead the Crusaders this season as the only two returning members with significant varsity time in 2012. Seniors Lauren Schroeder, Jessi Grimsley, Sam Bartz, and Shelby Sicheneder also return and hope to make a splash on the floor this season.
Key newcomers: Below the seniors and Kuntz, there are two juniors and four sophomores joining the squad, none of whom have ever logged varsity minutes. Coach Joelle Grimsley said it will take the team awhile to find the chemistry, but the talent and dedication are there.
“I have a lot of energy and willingness to work and learn,” she said. “They’re very raw, but they want to learn and the seniors are doing a great job.”
Teams to beat: As defending conference champions, the Crusaders are sure to be on everyone’s list to defeat, and every team on the schedule is a ‘team to beat’ for Mayer Lutheran if the team hopes to return to state.
“We play a tough schedule and I do that so we’re ready for playoffs,” Grimsley said.
Goals: One goal is at the forefront of the Crusaders thinking this season.
“Our goal is to be at the state tournament this year,” Grimsley said.
To do so, Grimsley will train her players to peak at the right point in the season and said there is a lot to teach the relatively inexperienced squad this season. In return, Grimsley said she’s sure to learn a lot from the players as well.
“I’m really excited, it’s a fun group,” she said.
The team’s theme this year is “Prepared to Shine” and Grimsley said the goal is to have each player shine in their own way, as individuals that are members of a team.
First match: The Crusaders begin the season Monday at New Prague and will host their first home match of the regular season on Tuesday, Aug. 27 against St. Croix Lutheran at 7 p.m.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]