Top 10 SPORTS Stories of 2018
Editor’s note: The following is a compilation of the top Minot area sports stories of 2018 as voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff. But first, some honorable mentions in no particular order.
The Minot State women’s soccer team reaches the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in program history before bowing out in a first round game against Bemidji State.
Minot High junior golfer Becca Tschetter competes in the final group at the Class A NDHSAA State Tournament and finishes third overall. The Majettes took second place as a team behind Bismarck Century.
Majettes soccer defeats Bismarck St. Mary’s, 1-0, on a free kick goal by Allison Lepp to claim the first-ever girls soccer West Region Tournament championship.
The Our Redeemer’s volleyball team sweeps Lewis & Clark-Berthold for its fifth straight state tournament appearance.
The Minot State women’s hockey team travels to Columbus, Ohio, and comes a win short of winning the program’s first ACHA Division II national championship.
A desperation last-second 3-pointer by Minnesota State’s Kevin Krieger forces overtime and ultimately ends the Minot State men’s basketball 2017-18 season in the quarterfinals of the NSIC Tournament.
Tyler Rudolph breaks the Minot State men’s basketball career scoring record and goes on to finish with 1,987 points in his accolade-filled career with the Beavers.
The Minot High boys basketball team breaks three school records in one game — most career 3-pointers (Peyton Lamoureux), team 3-pointers in a game (18) and points in a game (118).
Stanley’s highlight reel showman Wyatt Hanson was named North Dakota’s Mr. Basketball.
The Des Lacs-Burlington/Lewis & Clark softball team charges to the Class B state championship game, but gets mercied by Central Cass, 11-0.
Signing Day: An abundance of local student-athletes pursue collegiate athletics.
New Town boys cross country dynasty continues with a seventh straight Class B state title.
Numerous local track and field state champions: Minot High’s Adrian Davis-Aguilar (long jump), DLB’s Joshua Knutson (110- and 300-meter hurdles), Kenmare’s Jacob Rodin (400), New Town’s 4×800 relay (Robert White, Jalen Chase, Jaiven Hale and Colby Antell), DLB’s Caitlyn Vogel (long jump) and Rugby’s Maria Blessum (pole vault).
10. Top-seeded Beavers hockey stopped in the national semifinals
The “championship or bust” mantra for the No. 1-seeded Minot State men’s hockey team carried them all the way to ACHA Division I national semifinals in Columbus, Ohio.
The Beavers (38-3-1), gunning for their first national title since 2013, held the lead twice against the No. 5-seeded University of Illinois in the semifinals before giving up three unanswered goals to fall 4-2. It marked the second season in a row that MSU had bowed out in the penultimate game at the national tournament.
The Beavers’ senior class finished with a dominating record of 133-21-6 over four seasons, but couldn’t quite capture the second national title in program history. The single-game elimination national tournament proved to be too unforgiving.
9. Inaugural season for the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs
Newly turfed Corbett Field welcomed a new resident this past summer: the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs. The collegiate wood bat baseball team brought a revitalized and energetic atmosphere to the renovated, historic ballpark.
Playing in the startup eight-team Expedition League, the Sabre Dogs used a 13-game winning streak early into the season to take control of the Lewis Division. From there, they coasted to a regular season divisional title with a 40-25 overall record.
Sabre Dogs outfielder EJ Ranel dazzled and won Expedition League Player of the Year honors after hitting for the Triple Crown with a .458 batting average, 20 home runs and 71 RBIs.
All the regular season excitement, however, was diminish in a one-game divisional playoff contest against the Badlands Big Sticks. The Sabre Dogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead in front of a raucous crowd at Corbett Field, but the Big Sticks flipped the deficit for a stunning 12-9 road victory to end the Sabre Dogs’ inaugural season.
8. DJ Schneibel: Rugby’s first wrestling state champion since 2001
DJ Schneibel was running the final countdown in his head after peeking over at the clock and seeing that there were only 10 seconds left. When the final whistle blew, top-seeded Schneibel had defeated No. 2-seeded Riley Molter from South Border, 5-0.
After his arm was raised to the rafters of the Fargodome, Schneibel ran over and jumped into the arms of his coaches. It was a bear hug to behold, as the 285-pound junior wrestler had become the first individual state champion from Rugby High School since David Folden in 2001.
The heavyweight was floating on cloud nine, breaking a 17-year drought.
“It’s the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced,” Schneibel said after the match. “I just want to thank the coaches for preparing me for this. It’s been a long process, but it’s been well worth it.”
7. Majettes tennis captures first state title in 27 years
The Minot High girls tennis team showed up to the team state tournament as the threat from the West and did not fail to impress.
They took over what was typically an East-dominated tournament and came out on top for the first time in 27 years. The Majettes were the first WDA team to win the tournament since 2001.
“They earned it,” head coach Scott DeLorme said after the final win against West Fargo Sheyenne.
On the way to the title, the Majettes defeated Fargo Davies, 5-0, and Grand Forks Red River, 4-1.
Sophomore Haya Dodin, who has since moved to Wisconsin, secured the final match win for a 3-2 team win over Sheyenne for the state title.
“We all knew it was going to be a tight match from the beginning,” Dodin said. “We knew we were the better team, we just had to go out and give it our all and we did.”
Seniors Kali Askvig, Alyssa Henson and Gwen Matthews anchored the doubles with help from junior Joelle Fettig. In the singles were underclassmen Dodin and Eden Olson plus upperclassman Raquel Egge.
“I’m happy we could come out and prove that Minot is the best team in North Dakota,” Dodin said.
6. The MSU baseball turnaround into NSIC champions
When Scott Eul was hired in June 2016, the Minot State baseball team was coming off a more than forgettable campaign in which the Beavers finished with a 10-33 overall record.
In two short seasons, the second-worst team in the NSIC went from being the bottom feeders to reaching unforeseen heights with its new head coach at the helm.
In 2017, MSU won 19 more games to finish above .500 at 29-22 overall. In 2018, the Beavers put all the pieces together for the best season in the program’s 60-year history.
Headlined by four players making the All-NSIC Team (Celestino Rodriguez, Justin Demary, Wyatt Schlosser and Michael Borst) and the NSIC Newcomer of the Year Darrel Doll, MSU set a new school record for most wins in a season (34-16 overall record) and capture the program’s first-ever NSIC regular season championship with a 29-6 conference record.
Eul was named NSIC Coach of the Year.
The Beavers’ memorable season, however, came to a crashing halt at the NSIC Tournament after they had won three straight elimination games to stay alive.
Much to their dismay, the Beavers weren’t granted a bid into the NCAA Tournament. Even worse, conference foes Augustana went on to win the national championship.
5. Magi swimming and diving knocks off five-time defending champs
The depth of the Minot High swimming and diving team was unmatched at the 2018 NDHSAA State Championship Meet. The team flexed its muscle and took home first place, defeating five-time defending champions Bismarck Century.
Minot High won with 344 points, followed by Century (333) and Mandan (227) placing on the podium.
The meet came down to the very last event – the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“The meet was tight enough to where if one of our guys was called for an early start on the relay, we would’ve been out of it, but we really didn’t know until the final scores were posted,” MHS head coach Jake Solper said.
None of the Minot High athletes took first place, showcasing that the state title truly was a total team effort by having a high number of athletes qualify and advance to the finals.
“There isn’t one event that really put us out on top, but if I had to pick one, it was our divers,” Solper said. “We were only projected to score seven points in diving, but we ended up scoring 24 points.”
Divers Reece Pederson and Layton King, who finished sixth and eighth respectively, gave the Magi the edge they needed to overcome Century with support from their teammates in the lanes.
“This is one of the greatest team wins that I’ve seen in my coaching tenure,” a bewildered Solper said after the meet. “It was all twelve events and all the athletes in those events that made the title possible.”
4. Minotauros memorable run to the Robertson Cup final
The Minotauros were an afterthought. The 2016-17 Central Division regular season champions sneaked into the 2017-18 NAHL playoffs with 62 points (the fewest points for any playoff team).
In a first round rematch against the team that had knocked them out of the playoffs last season, the Aberdeen Wings, the Minotauros recovered from a 2-1 series deficit to advance. Goaltender Samu Lonkila played lights out with a 39-save shutout performance in the series-clinching Game 5 win on the road.
The now-surging Minotauros made quick work of the Austin Bruins with a three-game sweep to win the franchise’s first Central Division Cup. Defenseman Nolan Sawchuk etched his name into Minotauros’ folklore with a double overtime knockout goal in Game 3 at Maysa Arena.
Surrendering three first period goals in Game 1 of a Robertson Cup semifinal series against the top-seeded Fairbanks Ice Dogs had the Minotauros on the brink of elimination once again. However, Miroslav Mucha delivered a third period game winner in Game 2.
In a winner-take-all Game 3, the Minotauros scored three goals in the final seven minutes to force overtime. Ondrej Pavel pushed the Minotauros into the championship game with a breakaway goal seven minutes and 40 seconds into overtime.
Pavel skated off the ice in disbelief.
“Guys,” he said as the Minotauros celebrated and headed back to the locker room. “Did we just win that game?”
The following night, the Shreveport Mudbugs ended Minot’s unbelievable run. Playing four playoff games in four days had finally caught up to Minotauros. They led 1-0 after the first period, but the Mudbugs eventually took advantage of Minot’s sluggish legs to claim a 2-1 victory.
Shreveport lifted the Robertson Cup. The Minotauros watched on in heartbreak and were left to ponder what could have been.
3. Minot High softball rises up for first state championship
The West Fargo Packers had dominated the Class A high school softball landscape in North Dakota with an overwhelming dynasty of 20 straight state championships – 11 of them coming even before the sport was sanctioned by the North Dakota High School Activities Association in 2009.
Then came along the Minot High Majettes.
The underdogs who were so desperate just to reach the state tournament a few years prior, eventually breaking a seven-year state tournament drought in 2017, went from being overlooked to state champions over the course of a bizarre spring season that kept getting pushed back due to snow and freezing temperatures.
When the Majettes finally got to escape the Minot State air-supported dome and run around their newly turfed field at the South Hill Softball Complex, they wrapped up the regular season with a modest 17-7 overall record and were even swept by Dickinson heading into the postseason.
Led by the All-State pitcher Marisa Andrysiak and catcher Jaycie Rostad, Minot High fought off elimination at the West Region Tournament and reached the state tournament as the fourth and final team out of the West Region.
The Majettes, with a stroke of magic and determination, shocked the state with three wins in three days at the state tournament. They took down East Region No. 1-seeded Valley City (4-3), Bismarck Century (8-6) – the team that had beat them in the West Region Tournament – and toppled Dickinson (4-2) in a grudge match to claim the program’s first state championship.
2. State titles for Minot High’s Armstrong brothers
The Armstrong family went into the state wrestling tournament at the Fargodome hoping to make history. It got that and then some.
Minot High senior Brody Armstrong joined one of the most exclusive Magician clubs with a 5-0 victory over Bismarck High’s Adam DeBoer in the 132-pound finals match.
The dominant display marked his third individual state championship, joining the likes of Tom Lowe (1967-69), Josh Krebs (1994-96) and Derek Bischof (1996-97, 1999) for the most in Magi wrestling history.
As one Armstrong legacy came to a close, another was born. Younger brother Kelby Armstrong, a sophomore, also had a day to remember.
In a run that was far more dramatic than that of his brother, Kelby found himself in the 106-pound championship match after earning a 5-4 decision in the semifinals. Then, surviving another scare on the big stage, top-seeded Kelby narrowly besting Fargo South’s Jacob Thomas by the same score of 5-4.
For Kelby, the nail-biting victory marked his first individual state championship.
And, with two more seasons of high school wrestling left to go, the younger Armstrong brother is on pace to try and join his older brother in the coveted three-time state champion club.
1. The B delivers an encore performance
A year removed from a dramatic buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer to win the Class B boys basketball state championship, Hillsboro/Central Valley did the unthinkable again.
The victim this time were the resilient Bishop Ryan Lions.
The Burros buried another corner 3-pointer in the final seconds – this one by Ryan Troftgruben – to stun Ryan in overtime, 73-71.
The déjà vu moment, however, should have never happened. HCV led by 10 points, 61-51, with 70 seconds remaining. People were already starting to file out of the Bismarck Event Center to beat the traffic. The Burros weren’t going to need any heroics this time, or so they thought.
Against the odds, the Lions mounted their immaculate comeback. Caden Shean forced a three-point play, Ben Bohl went unconscious by making two contested long-range triples and Mason Hedberg had his shining moment with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that rippled the net with 5.5 seconds remaining to force overtime. All of which was made possible by a ferocious full-court press, some missed HCV free throws and a lot of heart.
In the final seconds of overtime, trailing 71-70, HCV’s Carson Henningsgard drove to the hoop and kicked the ball out to Troftgruben. Open for a split second in the corner, Troftgruben repeated history.
Back-to-back state titles in the most remarkable fashion. Even Ryan’s implausible rally wasn’t enough to prevent Hillsboro/Central Valley from completing a second perfect finale.
Photos by Alex Eisen, Ashton Gerard, Sean Arbaut, Al Christianson and FNS.