Goals piling up for Minot High

It’s only been six games, but it appears the Minot High girls soccer team has solved the scoring woes that stymied it all of last season.

The Majettes (6-0 overall, 4-0 West Region) have found the back of the net 15 times thus far – seven more goals than they managed in their 10 games a season ago. They have not been shut out so far this year.

Generating offense was Minot coach Matt Pfau’s primary objective when he instituted a new formation during the offseason. Pfau opted to use four defenders instead of five and added an extra midfielder to create more scoring opportunities. The Majettes’ new look has done just that.

Minot netted five goals against Jamestown in its season opener at the East-West Crossover and added three more in a 3-1 victory against Grand Forks Red River later that day.

“We switched our lineup just a little bit and I think the girls really bought into it,” Minot coach Matt Pfau said. “They were confident in it. We got off to a good start to start the season – we scored eight goals the first weekend – and went forward from there.”

Junior forward Taryn Love has found the most success under the new system. She recorded a hat trick in Minot’s first meeting with Jamestown and has seven goals and three assists this season. No Majette had more than two goals last year.

“It’s our formation,” Love said. “It’s being able to slide balls through, being able to run on. It’s not just long ball to the corner and chase, it’s through balls up the middle, being able to hit shots on net.”

Teasha Hughes has scored three goals and Paige Melby, Autumne Haskell, Lydia Frei, Malena Lennon and McKenna Hodenfield all have one goal.

“We were just eager to get back at it since we didn’t score as much last year,” Hughes said. “Now that we are getting the combinations to score, it’s a lot better for us and we’re a lot more confident.”

Not to be overlooked, the defense has been just as solid. The Majettes have allowed just one goal this season as junior goaltender Kaitlyn Stenberg has stopped 23 of 24 shots faced. Minot has outshot all six opponents.

Girls tennis mixing, matching doubles teams

The Minot High girls tennis team is two weeks away from competing in the West Region tournament and three weeks from the state tournament, and its still trying to find the right doubles combinations.

But it’s more of an embarrassment of riches than anything else as Minot’s doubles teams have been solid regardless of whom coach Scott DeLorme puts on the court. In three wins the season, the Majettes’ doubles teams are 9-0. The only slip up came in an 8-1 loss to St. Mary’s with doubles losing all three of their matches.

“So far it’s been good and we knew coming into the year as we looked come tournament time in that 3-2 format that our doubles teams would have to be a strong asset for us,” DeLorme said. “We’re making progress. We have a long way to go. We still want to be a lot more aggressive and get to the net as a pair a lot more.”

The Majettes (3-1 overall, 2-1 region) have rolled out nine different doubles combinations this season. Only three doubles teams – Latasha Klein and Kendra Collins; Ban Dodin and Jenna Coggins; Collins and Jenn Hamilton – have played more than one match together. Hamilton, Klein and Henson have had three different doubles partners. DeLorme said the idea behind the mixing and matching is finding two players that balance each other out.

“We might have a girl that has a strong forehand that can play one side and a backhander on the other side,” he said. “Strong communication. That is one emphasis. Any two we pair together, as long as they communicate, things usually end up pretty good for us.”

Dodin, who has played No. 1 doubles with Coggins (twice) and Klein, said the constant changes has a positive impact.

“It helps more because we have a lot of new girls this year and we need to know what their level is and who they play best with,” she said. “It’s good for us to try and mix it up.”

Coggins played her first two doubles matches of the season with Dodin before partnering with Henson against Mandan on Saturday. She, too, saw the benefits of playing with different teammates.

“We’ve tried a lot of different combinations and we’re starting to get used to playing with each other again from last year, ” Coggins said. “It’s been fun playing with new players It helps a lot because you can see who plays well with each other instead of seeing the same team every time.”

DeLorme said he hopes to make a decision on his finalized doubles teams by the middle of next week.

Backes works overtime for Lions

With two aces in its lineup, the Bishop Ryan softball team doesn’t feel depleted at the pitching position.

But when junior Hannah Stewart was out of town during the Lions’ doubleheader at Jamestown on Friday, Ryan was down to a single pitcher on its varsity roster. The Lions (6-2 overall, 4-2 West Region) weren’t sweating as senior Brieann Backes recorded a pair of wins, hurling 13 innings.

“It was definitely a different experience,” Backes said. “It’s a different mentality when Hannah’s not even there. Knowing there’s not really anybody else to take over when something goes bad. But it went really well and my fielders were behind me and that helps a lot.”

Backes was dominant in the first game, scattering just two hits while striking out seven and walking one. She threw 69 pitches – 48 for strikes.

“You don’t want to lose too many pitches, not throw so many balls and keep the count low. If they’re hitting it, it’s not the worst thing in the world,” Backes said.

Jamestown starting hitting Backes in the nightcap, seeing Ryan’s pitcher for a third, fourth and fifth time on the afternoon. Backes surrendered four runs in the first inning, but settled down from there. She allowed three runs over the final six innings and ended up throwing 103 pitches. Backes struck out four batters and walked one.

“She’s worked so hard over the years,” Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. “She’s got some confidence going and she’s real comfortable. Against Jamestown, she had the stamina to get through two games, which isn’t easy, and that was great to see.”

Magicians looking for answers

A 3-3 start in the West Region wasn’t what the Minot High baseball team had in mind at this point of the season, especially after garnering the No. 1 ranking in the preseason poll.

The Magicians (6-6 overall, 3-3 region) have lost three straight region contests, their last victory coming on April 15 against Dickinson. They’ve been outscored 29-4 during that stretch, including a 20-1 rout against Bismarck on Friday.

“We know we’re a better team than that, but we also know that we haven’t been playing like that,” Minot coach Pete Stenberg said. “We’ve gotta start pitching the ball, pitching to contact, throwing the ball over the plate and let our defense do a little work.

“Offensively, when we get runners on, we got to pick them up. We haven’t been doing a real good job of that. We seem like we always get one of two guys on, but we have to get them all around the four bases to get that run.”

The Magicians scored a run in the first inning in each of their last three region games, but have managed just three runs combined the rest of the way. Minot has 12 hits during that span and was one-hit against the Demons.

Stenberg’s not worried about the recent slide, saying the season’s still young. The Magicians have an opportunity to right the ship with upcoming games against Mandan and Jamestown, two teams they have already beaten this season.

“Baseball’s about 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical,” he said. “You gotta let the past be in the past and gotta be ready to accept the new challenge at hand.”

Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.