Large goals set
Rugby head basketball coach Mike Santjer is blunt about his team’s goals for the 2012-13 season.
“For me, I’m thinking we should be No. 1 in the district and definitely in the region championship game,” Santjer said. “Our goal is the state tournament this year. These guys have put a lot of time in and they’re talented. The ultimate goal is always the state tournament.”
The lofty goals set by the team, to reach its first state tournament since 1997, are a product of plenty of experience returning from last year, which produced a third-place finish in the Region 6 Tournament.
“We bring back five seniors and two juniors and three sophomores,” Santjer said. “Everybody we have on the varsity this year was there last year. We were pretty deep last year. A lot of the guys got quite a bit of playing time. We should be pretty experienced.”
Much of that experience will come in the five seniors that return, headed by all-region player Kyle Lovcik.
Santjer said Lovcik will combine with a pair of sophomores, 6-foot-3 Brad Heidlebaugh and 6-4 Zach Miller, to give the Panthers an inside presence they have lacked in recent years.
“In the past, we’ve been run-and-gun,” he said. “We’ve been pretty quick and athletic. This year we’ve got a mix of some height that we haven’t had in the past. I think the instinct of most of them is we’re going to push the ball up and down the floor as much as possible but we’ve got the ability to get into a half-court set and post some people up, too.”
Santjer expects, despite being sophomores, Heidlebaugh and Miller should make big contributions.
“Those two sophomores have been playing quite a bit,” he said.
Rugby should still have plenty of athleticism with seniors Josh Michels and Kyle Halvorson on the wings.
Matthew Johnson and McKenzie Koenig round out the group of seniors.
With 10 players returning from last year’s varsity team, the Panthers should have plenty of depth as well.
“I think we’ve got some pretty good young kids coming off the bench,” Halvorson said.
To reach its goal of a state berth, the Panthers will have to navigate a competitive District 11, and a region that has been dominated by Bishop Ryan and Berthold in recent years.
In the district, Santjer expects Westhope-Newburg to be tough again. He said both TGU and Drake-Anamoose return good size. He said Velva will be young but talented and Bottineau will be rebuilding after losing two of the region’s top players to graduation.
Berthold, too, will be rebuilding but Santjer said the Bombers return a lot of experience after back-to-back state tournament trips.
He expects Ryan to be an uptempo team and said Des Lacs-Burlington will be very solid, with three juniors who have been playing since their freshmen campaigns.
“It should be a fun year, there’s a lot of anticipation to get the season going,” he said.
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