by Trevor Hass
All season long, the Northwest Diamonds tier 1 12U softball team dominated in various tournaments.
The team, which features five players from Zimmerman, three from Rogers, two from Otsego, one from Elk River and one from St. Michael, finished 35-3-1 and captured the first state championship in team history Sunday afternoon.
The Diamonds even beat 14U teams in tournaments in Coon Rapids and Buffalo, only losing to a 14U team from Minnesota and elite teams from South Dakota and Nebraska all year. Northwest beat Eagan 8-2 in the championship game, cementing a stellar season.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the year to win state our first team meeting,” head coach Paul Volkers said. “The girls did it.”
Volkers and assistant coaches Chad Hills and Amy Kimbler have enjoyed coaching this group of players: Annabelle Volkers, April Volkers, Ella Haas, Madisyn Hayes and McKenzie Olene, from Zimmerman; Breanna Hetchler, Emma Rooks and Kalista Kragt, from Rogers; Grace Mammen and Raegan Kimbler, from Otsego; Avery Hills, from Elk River; and Kylie Elert, from St. Michael.
Volkers said he’s coached seven of the players for four seasons, but now it’s time for those players to move on to a new team of their choosing. He said he’s thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to coach the team, and it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to his players after they won a championship.
“It was a little tough that last inning as the outs went, knowing it’s done,” Volkers said. “It was a good goal, and they did it.”
He said his players have benefited from winter clinics put on by Elk River coach Stacey Sheetz and Rogers coach Jerry Bruns. They’ve had the chance to learn from some of ISD 728’s premier players, including Rogers’ Katelyn Kemmetmueller and Elk River’s Olivia Wolters.
This championship is sweet as is, but it also signifies that the future of ISD 728 softball is bright.
Though the girls will find new teams and play at different high schools, they can always say they were part of the Northwest Diamonds 12U team that won state.
“The program itself is strong,” Volkers said. “It’s starting to show.”