Top southeastern Miinnesota sports stories of 2015
RCTC REACHES NATIONAL FOOTBALL TITLE GAME
Rochester Community and Technical College has long been a power in Minnesota junior college football circles. The Yellowjackets took it to the next level in 2015, going unbeaten (behind first-team JC all-America quarterback Nick Rooney – 57 TDs, over 4,400 yards), winning another state title and landing a spot in the Mississippi Bowl, the NJCAA's national championship game. They lost big to Northwest Mississippi, which can mete out athletic scholarships (RCTC, in Division III, can't).
RCTC WINS NATIONAL TITLE IN VOLLEYBALL
Where the RCTC football team came up just a bit short in its bid for a national championship, the women's volleyball team got it done, winning in the national tournament (held in Rochester). NJCAA divides volleyball into three classes; Rochester won the title for Division III (non-scholarship) programs.
MORE KASSON-MANTORVILLE DOMINANCE
Kasson-Mantorville, behind Maddie Damon, won its second straight Class AA high school softball state championship . Damon, a senior pitcher headed for a scholarship at Purdue, blew away the state career strikeout record. Head coach Jeff Fague announced his resignation this fall.
JACOBS TAKE SUCCESS TO NATIONAL LEVEL
Andrianna Jacobs of Rochester cleared 13 feet, 7 ¼ inches to win the USATF national pole vault title over the summer. Jacobs also won the state pole vault title for the third straight time in June. In her spare time, Jacobs -- now a senior at Century High School -- does gymnastics (placing seventh in the Class AA all-around, sixth in uneven bars) and diving (where she took second at state). Her well-rounded year of high achievements earned her the honor of P-B Sports Person of the Year.
K-M WRESTLER HAS ANOTHER PERFECT SEASON
Kasson-Mantorville's Brady Berge keeps his 2013 state tournament third-place medal in his wrestling bag as a reminder to keep up his incredible work ethic. After winning a state title in 2012 as a seventh-grader, Berge took third in 2013. Since then he has gone unbeaten in both 2014 and 2015 (of course, winning state championships ) and is currently unbeaten again as a junior.
BEAT GOES ON FOR STEWARTVILLE VOLLEYBALL
Perennial volleyball power Stewartville returned to the Class AA state tournament despite a huge distraction. In June, veteran head coach John Dzubay was sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League for several rules violations. Dzubay was prohibited from coaching the first five matches of the 2015 season and suspended for the 2015 postseason. Which meant he was not able to even attend the state tournament matches the Tigers played with interim coach Scott Willenborg in charge. They took third place .
2 FOOTBALL DYNASTIES CONTINUE
Southeastern Minnesota teams have been dominant at the state level in their classes of high school football. Grand Meadow won its third consecutive Nine-Man championship, shaking off Underwood 34-20 in the title game for its closest win of the season -- and its 36th straight win dating back to 2013. In Class AA, Caledonia -- which hadn't won a state title since 2012 -- won its six in nine years, taking the title game 40-0 over No. 2-ranked Pipestone. The Warriors outscored foes 667-69 and did not allow a first-half point all season.
RUSHFORD-PETERSON NOT A BRIDESMAID THIS TIME
Rushford-Peterson entered the 2014 boys basketball state tournament with a 29-1 record and came home in second place. The 2015 had the same record, but sealed the deal, beating Maranatha Christian Academy 51-44 in the final. In Tom Vix's 29 seasons as head coach at R-P (or Rushford), the Trojans have been to state 15 times, with three championships.
DOVER-EYOTA GIRLS BASKETBALL MAKES HISTORY
After a decade of good teams, the Dover-Eyota girls basketball program broke through to the state tournament for the first time and made the most of it, winning three games by a total of 55 points and taking the Class AA championship . It was the school's first state title in a team sport.
TWO GIRLS TENNIS SUPERSTARS IN SPOTLIGHT
The whole state took note when Jessica Aney -- state singles champion in the fall of 2011 and doubles champion in 2012 in GIRLS tennis -- opted to go out for the BOYS tennis team at Rochester Century in the spring of 2015. She reached the quarterfinals .
Meanwhile 17-year-old Ingrid Neel -- who played boys tennis two seasons in Rochester before moving to Florida to attend a tennis academy -- received the opportunity to play in the main draw of the U.S. Open . She played in the U.S. Open Junior Championships in 2014 and 2015.
LEAF STORY GOES NATIONAL
Winona State University men's basketball coach Mike Leaf abruptly resigned in late June after 28 years with the program, 17 as the head coach, with two national titles, a 57-game winning streak and four appearances in the Elite Eight on his resume. A few weeks later, a current WSU basketball player told the Winona Daily News that Leaf made unwanted drunken sexual advances toward the player after a day of drinking at Leaf's home on June 20. The story went national. WSU continued to investigate the complaint even after Leaf resigned, and the probe (now in the hands of an independent investigator) is still ongoing.
HALF-MILLION VIEWS FOR AUSTIN BUZZER-BEATER
The Austin boys basketball teams was trailing by two points with 1.6 seconds left in the Dec. 8 game at Northfield, and the Raiders were at the free throw line. The shot missed, and the Packers' Oman Oman grabbed the rebound, spun and sailed the ball 85 feet. Miraculously, it swished through the net at the far end of the floor, leaving Austin a 56-55 winner. Thirty-six hours later, Oman's shot passed 500,000 views on YouTube. The P-B website has links to two different views.