MINSTER — Minster will be young this season. The Wildcats return three starters from last season’s 14-11 squad, which struggled to a 2-7 finish in the stacked MAC.
Cami Garman returns for her eighth season as Minster’s coach.
“Our biggest goal for this upcoming season is to enjoy the process,” Garman said. “The girls understand that they have to push through every aspect of the process to get the end product that they strive for.
“Our motto this year is ‘we will get what we tolerate.’ We are focusing on team accountability and pushing each other to be the best that we can be.”
Senior outside hitter Danielle Barhorst, senior setter Brooke Wolf and junior libero Emily Stubbs return for the Wildcats.
“With only returning three starters, we really lost a lot in our senior leadership, but those three starters bring back some great experience and really grew a ton through last season,” Garman said. “They’ve worked really hard in the offseason.”
Barhorst had 135 kills and 291 digs last year, while Stubbs had 336 digs and Wolf had 147 digs.
“Danielle really brings in another level of play,” Garman said. “She’s really consistent and a really good six-rotation player. I look forward to her being that calm in the storm. That’s the kind of player she is. For Emily, this is her third year playing varsity, and she really brings a lot of experience in the back row.
“She’s really kind of struggled with confidence the last couple of years, but you can tell she’s really grown to understand her body more and the game more and take more of a leadership role in the back row. Brooke, too, has been working on her different levels of play. She’s just trying to add another aspect to herself.”
Garman said key newcomers include junior setter Kaitlyn Wolf, sophomore outside hitters Ava Sharp and Ivy Wolf, junior opposite hitters Averi Wolf and Josie Winner and sophomore middle blockers Brynn Oldiges and Macy Gehret.
“The team is driven to go back to the basics. We have a very athletic group of players this year and we look forward to having multiple girls contributing on a nightly basis. They really have a team-first attitude and will do anything to compete.”
Girls cross country
She encourages her team to keep moving forward, but every so often Minster girls cross country coach Jessie Magoto reflects back on last season’s Division III state championship.
“When I still think of those results,” Magoto said, “it’s like, ‘Wow, that was quite a race.’”
It was Minster’s 11th overall and second straight state championship. But here’s how dominant the Wildcats were at National Trail Raceway in Hebron — the ‘Cats top five runners all finished among the top 25 overall to earn all-Ohio honors. Most schools would be thrilled to get one runner in the top 25.
Minster’s girls return another powerful lineup, starting with defending D-III state champion Emma Watcke. The junior won state in 18:38.4 for a 14-second victory and became Minster’s first individual state champion since Sunni Olding won her third and final title in 2003.
“She loves to train. She loves to race,” Magoto said. “Just another opportunity as a junior. She’s in a really good situation to see how fast she can get. Just get out there and enjoy racing and competing.”
Watcke is joined by returning state participants junior Gwendolyn Meiring (fourth at state), senior Kaitlynn Albers (ninth), junior Mackenzie Bohman (13th), sophomore Ella Boate (22nd) and junior Madeline Magoto (50th). Those six are looking strong again, while coach Magoto said sophomores Mason Pohl and Kate Larger have had solid summers in their efforts to join the top seven.
Minster has won five straight Midwest Athletic Conference championships — and 30 of the 36 league titles contested since 1982 — but titles are not the main focus for the Wildcats.
“Our (team) word this year is ‘Purpose.’ Everyone and every run has a purpose,” Magoto said. “Just making sure they keep things in check. We want them to be competitive and we want them to fight for spots but all in the nature of team and what’s best for the team.
“Get out there, run your best and leave it on the course. How you placed is not equal to who you are as a person or your self-worth. That’s one thing I really try to preach to take that pressure away. You work hard and you want it. But in the end that does not equate to who you are. I think that lets them just let go and race.”
Boys cross country
Minster has a lot of experienced upperclassmen to lead their quest at returning to the state meet.
The Wildcats return five letterwinners, four of which have lettered for two or more years. Junior Luke Barga was the team’s No. 2 runner last year, while senior Jon Albers was the No. 3. Senior Aaron Huwer and junior Austin Felice are two-year letterwinners, while junior Jacob Salazar earned his first letter last year.
“We lost three great leaders to graduation (Carter Pohl, Ryan Cavanaugh and Andrew Broering) from last year’s team, with them we also lost a lot of our leadership,” Minster coach Larry Topp said. The seniors are now accepting their new rolls as leaders and the team is starting to work hard toward their goals.”
Barga and Albers ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the MAC last season.
Another key returnee is sophomore Brocke Schulte, who ran last year as a freshman but did not letter. Sophomores Joel Berelsman and Mathew Droesch are key newcomers, as is freshman Alex Albers, who ranked first among league athletes as an eighth grader.
“The boys are looking to build on the success from last year’s season,” Topp said. “The team has high expectations for this season and with the hard work that they have been putting in, they just might reach their goals. There will be many obstacles in their way but we hope to see them through to the team’s goals.”
Topp, who is entering his 33rd year at Minster, said the MAC title race should be close.
“As always, this year’s league looks to very competitive with Parkway, St. Henry and Versailles looking to be at the top of the league and Parkway is the early favorite, with a big chunk of their roster returning,” Topp said. “We will be working hard and hope to overcome the losses to graduation to be in the league mix this year, but it looks to be a dogfight again.”
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Freelance writer Greg Billing contributed to this article.