Coaches — Steve Hamilton … Offensive staff: Mike Breyen (coordinator), John Pink (quarterbacks), Ben Gustafson and Hamilton (line) … Defensive staff: Chad Baldwin (coordinator), Ben Sepulveda and John Boudreau (line), Jeremy DiGiovanni (linebackers), Todd Western and Mike Olson (defensive backs)
Last year — 3-5 conf., 6-6 overall, won section
Returning starters — Austin Larson (sr QB-RB-PK-LB), Denis Bardashevskiy (sr RB), Christian Tobin (sr G), Garrett Van Eps (sr C), Kevin Boser (sr OT), Zach Jensen (sr OT-DT)
Offensive candidates — Nolan Dwyer (jr QB), Alec Hills (jr QB), Trent Pink (so QB), Zach Ernst (jr RB), Grant Bunker (sr RB), Josh Henkemeyer (sr RB), Will Hoff (sr RB), Ryan Osberg (sr RB), Jensen (TE), Wyatt Schuster (sr TE), A.J. Hannan (sr TE), Josh Wiczek (sr TE), Zach Syverson (jr TE), Cody Raduenz (sr C), Dylan Schoolmeesters (sr C), Joe Gonrowski (sr G), Ben Allen (jr G), John Niska (jr G), Tanner Straus (sr T), Dakota Pauly (sr T), Weston Kolles (jr T), Connor Knutson (jr T)
Defensive candidates — Syverson (line), Pauly (line), Tobin (line), Van Eps (line), Boser (line), Raduenz (line), Gonrowski (LB), Peter Jones (sr LB), Henkemeyer (LB), Bunker (LB), Hannan (LB), Bardashevski (CB), Brad Yankowiak (sr CB), Mike Dahlson (jr CB), Jake Buhl (jr CB), Ernst (S), Devell Miller (jr S), Dwyer (S), Hoff (S)
Captains — Bardashevskiy, Larson, Jensen, Boser
Worth noting — Bardashevskiy set team records of 1,938 yards rushing and 18 TD last year; Larson ran for 608 yards, 8 TD.
Coach says — “We are very happy where our offensive line is at. Most are third-year starters. We bring back a very good running back and quarterback, but have good depth at those positions, too. We could have 10 seniors starting on offense. We have a talented team and extremely high goals.”
Outlook — Should be another running juggernaut. The defensive side more of a question mark with almost all new starters after some excellent athletes graduated. Schedule includes two reigning and perennial state champions, Eden Prairie and Totino-Grace.
ELK BOYS SOCCER
Coaches — Aaron Lindquist … Assistants Bill Stefano, Derrick Dorholt, Todd Dusasky
Last year — 2-6-2 conference, 8-8-2 overall
Returning starters — Joey Benz (sr F), Storm Heyer (sr F), Grant Tesdahl (sr M), Ryan Stefano (sr M), Cody Christ (sr G), Trevor Riebel (sr D), Rob Burger (sr D)
Other lettermen — Brandon Griffin (sr M), Jordan Griffin (sr M), Tanner Beckerleg (jr D), Emmanuel Kai (sr D, transfer from Armstrong)
Should also help — Colin Bowe (jr M), Andy Vail (jr D), Mitch Weege (jr M), Joe Marsh (so M), Protus Babaya (fr F), Thomas Heyer (fr M)
Captains — Christ, Stefano, Tesdahl
Worth noting — Lindquist co-coached last two years with Tom Olson, who resigned … Christ was all-NWSC last year … Top scorers return: Benz (seven goals) and Heyer (five goals, and missed seven games with injury).
Coach says — “We are very quick, but not the biggest team. We have 11 players with varsity experience. We have more positional flexibility than any team I have coached. We have a group that’s going to push themselves, and we expect a trip to state if we control the things that we can control.”
Outlook — Big senior group has played together for the most part since age 12, so Elks feel this is their year to put up. Coach says Elks need to develop youngsters as quickly as possible for much-needed depth.
ELK GIRLS SOCCER
Coach — Brian Steuter … Assistants Jess Brown, Nathan Cairns (JV), Nico Valezquez (B), Julie Steuter (9th)
Last year —2-6-2 conference, 6-8-4 overall
Returning starters — Logan Daulton (sr F), Erin Ness (sr M), Rachel Mynahan (sr M), Jenna Kivley (sr D), Emily Tritten (jr D), Lizzy Holien (so D)
Other lettermen — Madyson St. Germain (jr F), Monet Cairns (jr F), Toni Bailey (so M), Briana Anderson (so M), Sydney Olson (jr D), Kalen Wiedenbach (so D), Meagan Marsh (sr G)
Should help — Sabrina Silver (sr F), Mallory Adams (sr M), Lexi Dietl (sr M), Shayne Schoenfelder (8th M), Shayla Curtis (jr M), Shelby Paaverud (jr D), Alysse Grunewald (so G)
Captains — Daulton, Kively, Mynahan
Worth noting — Daulton (11 goals, 7 assists) was top scorer and all-NWSC
Coach says — “We will work hard to possess the ball and try to be dangerous around the net. We have a lot of players with varsity experience. Like all teams, we have to come together to find a consistent style that will work best.”
Outlook — First scrimmage showed some good depth with last year’s backups and JV’s ready to augment six returning starters.
ELK GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Coaches — Mike Niziolek … Assistants Brian Gilbertson, Jill Varty
Last year — 1st in conference, 2nd in section, 16th in state
Returning lettermen — Kailey Erdahl (sr), Gabby Jung (jr), Ali Manthey (jr), Rachel Ness (so), Gracie Scheid (so), Maria Brown (fr), Kennedy Warner (8th)
Should also help — Kari Radke (sr), Steph Hanowski (jr), Sadie Elsenpeter (so), possibly other young runners
Captains — none chosen
Worth noting — Ness won conference, 2nd in section, 26th at state last year … Warner and Jung also all-conference.
Coach says — “We have a front-runner in Rachel, and if we can get 10 other runners within a minute of her, we can be a very good team.”
Outlook — With all but one runner back from a conference champ and section runner-up team, the Elks should be strong again.
ELK BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Coach — Mike Niziolek … Assistants Brian Gilbertson, Jill Varty
Last year — 6th in conference, 1st in section, 14th at state
Returning lettermen — Joey Martin (sr), Breck Hickman (sr), Lucas Trapp (so)
Should help — Jeremy Hanson (sr), Dan Janasz (jr), Alex Holm (jr), Zach Glasgow (jr), Cory Warner (so)
Worth noting — Trapp 5th in conference, 4th in section, 30th at state last year
Captains — none chosen
Coach says — “We have a front runner in Lucas, which is important, and he’s come into the season more serious than ever. Main concern is depth; I wish we had more seniors. We hope to be up there in conference and section.”
Outlook — Elks probably mid-pack again in very competitive NWSC. Surprise section winner last year faces uphill battle again.
Coach —Theresa Brummer … Assistants Amy Kahl, Erika Kelly (B), Rick Michalak (9A), Brenda Holmgren (9B)
Last year — 5-5 conference, 17-12 overall
Returning starter — Kennedy Strain (jr MH)
Other lettermen — Becca Brummer (sr L), Kelsey Owens (sr S), Kelly Kolles (sr OH), Kayla Grimm (sr D), Alix Zierden (sr D), Kaitlyn Pearson (jr D), Sidney Wentlund (fr MH)
Should help — Geneva Kachinske (jr OH), Gina Honek (jr RH), Abi Scheid (so MH), Ellie Engstrom (so S), Nissa Johnson (fr MH)
Captains — Brummer, Owens
New coach — Brummer is first-year head coach; was assistant to Pam Gothe, who resigned. She formerly coached Rogers.
Worth noting — Strain (6-foot-2) led team with 67 blocks last year and was 4th with 78 kills … Kolles led team with .949 serving.
Coach says — “Although we return only one true starter, we have a wealth of knowledge, court awareness and athleticism. This group loves to compete. There is an abundance of talent to choose from, and I think you will see a variety of mixes on the floor. I believe our stronghold is the chemistry. Most of all, they are all committed to putting their best game on the floor for the sake of the team.”
Outlook — Big rebuilding job, with most of last year’s firepower gone, but good athletes stepping in, including some nice height.
Coach — Luke Johnson … Assistants Liz Johnson, Jaime Larson (diving)
Last year — 5-2 duals, 3rd in section, 11th at state
Returning letter winners — Alli Sterneman (sr, distance), Marin Hayes (sr, distance), McKenna Holien (sr, sprints), Brittany DeValk (sr, IM, breaststroke), Samantha Hendricks (jr mid distance, breaststroke), Hannah Johnson (jr, sprints), Lia Maegi (jr, IM, 500), Taylor Odegard (jr, sprints), Jessica Young (jr, distance, fly), Anya Larson (so, IM, butterfly), Maggie Schuster (so, mid distance), Alaina Sylvester (so, IM, breastroke), Maggie Teschendorf (so, IM), Kaylee Benson (fr, backstroke), Emma Johnson (fr, backstroke), Marisa Kranitz (fr, IM, backstroke), Alli O’Mara (fr, butterfly, breaststroke), Elizabeth Kelzer (8th IM, backstroke)
Should help — Claire Lerud (jr, fly, breaststroke), Danica Mitchell (jr, IM, 500), Hailey Odegard (8th, breaststroke/ sprints), Jinnae Koop (8th, mid distance, breassttroke), Lauren Rishovd (8th, mid distance)
Captains — Hayes, Holien, Sterneman, DeValk
New coach — Johnson, former Elk, succeeds Colleen Killpatrick, who coached 19 winning teams and dozens of state medalists She got married and moved to Lakeville … Boys coach Denise Eidem, parents and alumni have run practices in pre-season.
Worth noting — Odegard, Hendricks and Young were all-conference all qualified for state, as did Sylvester.
Coach says — Not available for comment. Luke and assistant Liz are honeymooning.
Outlook — Elks have been high in conference and section for two decades and should continue to be. They’ve got 80 girls. New leadership must emerge after graduation of longtime stars Courtney Grunewald and Allison Schwab.
Coaches — LeRoyce Chapman … Assistant Terry Grzybowski
Last year — 8-2 conference, 19-6 overall, section champs
Returning starters — Hadley Purdy (sr), Becca O’Connell (sr), Lauren Brayden (jr), Erin Reiner (jr), Brooke Burns (so), Annika Teske (so), Jen Koehler (so)
Should help — Meagan Brown (8th), Emma Hannegraaf (jr), Danielle Dokken (fr), Reagan Mathis (fr), Rebecca Morrison (fr)
Worth noting — Purdy, Koehler and Teske were all-conference last year … Teske had 21 wins, Koehler 18, O’Connell 15, Purdy 15, and Brayden 14.
Captains — Purdy, O’Connell
Coach says — “We’ve got a shot at (conference and section) again. We have so much young talent to fill in the spots, and they work so hard. They want to keep it going, because they have seen the tradition we have. We definitely have to come ready to play because everybody wants to beat Elk River.”
Outlook — Elks have seven consecutive state trips but Forest Lake is probably section favorite this year. Elks have been conference runner-up to Centennial last three years. After eight years of almost automatic 1-singles points (Katie Jesperson, Michaela Schulz), they’ll be young at top spot with either Teske or Brown, first-year Elk who’s done well in USTA.