High school fall sports underway

Angie Houk

The calendar might say August but autumn is on the minds of plenty of people this week, especially anyone associated with high school sports. That’s because the start of the school year is right around the corner and that means that fall prep sports are underway.

From cross country to football, soccer to volleyball, practices for Minnesota high school fall sports started on Aug. 15 and there are even some games this week.

Hill-Murray holds the distinction of having the first event from among the three Review-area high schools. The Pioneers’ girls tennis team kicks off its season on Friday, Aug. 19 with a tournament at Stillwater.

With the season in full swing, here’s a quick look at some storylines to keep an eye on this fall.



The buzz with the Pioneers has a lot to do with the new stadium on campus. Work has progressed throughout the summer on the $3.5 million project, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

The stadium, which will be known as “Mary, Queen of Victory, Stadium” includes an artificial-turf playing surface and brand new track. A celebration of the project is scheduled for homecoming week and the grand opening is set for Friday, Sept. 16 when the Pioneers host Hastings in the first football game in the stadium.

In addition to a new stadium, the football team also has a new coach. Former Minnesota Vikings player and coach Pete Bercich was hired in May to lead the Pioneers on the gridiron. Bercich is the fifth football coach at Hill-Murray since 2011 and he inherits a team that won just one game a year ago.

Hill-Murray opens the season on Friday, Sept. 2 at Tartan.

Another Hill-Murray team to watch this fall is the volleyball squad. The Pioneers have qualified for the state tournament in two of the past three seasons. They finished as the consolation champions last year and were the state runners-up in 2013.

The Pioneers have some holes to fill from last year’s roster. There were five seniors on the 2015 team and they all saw plenty of playing time. 

Like the football team, the volleyball squad enters the season under the tutelage of a new head coach. Angie Houk brings plenty of coaching experience to Hill-Murray. She was the junior varsity head coach at Bloomington Kennedy last season and also coaches in the Northern Lights volleyball club.

“I have been completely impressed with the program so far,” Houk said in a release. “From the players to the parents to the administration, Hill-Murray sets a very high standard. I am honored to have been chosen as the leader of such a program. Hill-Murray has had a very successful program over the past 10 years. I’m excited to see where this program can go and I am anxious to get started.”

The volleyball team opens the season on Tuesday, Aug. 30 when it hosts Concordia Academy, which was the Class AA state runner-up in 2015.

Hill-Murray’s boys soccer team also brings in a new coach this season. Jeff Zupfer brings nine years of college coaching experience and 22 years of club coaching experience to the Pioneers.

The boys soccer team opens the season on Thursday, Aug. 25 when it hosts St. Paul Academy in a non-conference game.

The rest of the first games and meets for Hill-Murray’s fall varsity teams are as follows: boys and girls cross country run in a meet on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis; the girls soccer team plays at Prior Lake on Aug. 25; and the girls swimming and diving team participates in the Metro East Conference relays on Thursday, Sept. 1.



After a season that began two weeks early because of state-tournament venue availability issues, things are back to normal for high school football in Minnesota. The North High football team is hoping not everything goes back to normal this fall.

The Polars shined in the unusual season last year and earned their first state-tournament berth since 1998. Following back-to-back losses to open the season, North rattled off eight straight victories, including two section-playoff wins to qualify for state.

This year’s schedule is the same except that the venues are flip-flopped. The teams that North played at home in 2015 will host the Polars in 2016 while the four road teams they faced last year will visit Polar Field this year.

North opens the season on Friday, Sept. 2 when South St. Paul, the 2015 Class AAAA state runner-up, pays a visit. 

The North High boys soccer team put together a solid regular season, going 14-2, in 2015 and earned the No. 1 seed in the section tournament. The Polars’ state-tournament hopes were dashed in an overtime loss to East Ridge in the section final.

The Polars enter the season ranked No. 1 in the state by at least one outlet. Topdrawersoccer.com put North in the top spot in its preseason state rankings. Minnetonka was No. 2 and Anoka was third.

North opens the boys soccer season on Thursday, Aug. 25 with a home game against Irondale.

North’s volleyball team saw its streak of three straight trips to the section final snapped last year. The Polars begin the season ranked 10th in the state in the Class AAA state coaches poll and must fill holes left by last year’s six seniors.

North opens the season on Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Breakdown Classic at Hopkins High School. The Polars are scheduled to face the Moorhead Spuds at 5 p.m.

The rest of the North’s fall teams open the season on the following dates: The boys cross country team ventures to Grantsburg, Wisconsin, for a meet on Thursday, Aug. 25 and the girls squad runs at a meet at the University of St. Catherine on Friday, Aug. 26. The girls soccer team hosts Park Center on Aug. 25, the girls swimming and diving team heads to the Metro East Conference relays on Thursday, Sept. 1 and the girls tennis team hosts Cambridge-Isanti on Sept. 1.



The Titans’ girls cross country team finished in the middle of the pack in the section meet last fall but two individuals put together solid performances and advanced to state. Both of those runners are back this fall.

Freshman Claire Cater and her older sister Paige, a senior this year, represented Tartan in the Class AA state meet last November. Claire qualified for state by finishing as the section runner-up while Paige finished 11th overall and fifth among the runners not from the top two teams.

The Caters and the rest of the Titans have their first competition at the Rosemount Invitational on Friday, Sept. 2. The boys team is also in action at Rosemount that day.

Tartan’s football team also opens the season on Sept. 2 when it hosts Hill-Murray. The Titans won only one game last season and it came against the Pioneers in the season opener.

The rest of Tartan’s fall sports teams have their first competitions later this month. The girls soccer team kicks things off with a visit from St. Paul Central on Thursday, Aug. 25. The boys squad hosts St. Paul Washington the next day.

Girls tennis visits former Metro East Conference foe Richfield on Monday, Aug. 22; the girls swimming and diving team competes at White Bear Lake on Tuesday, Aug. 30; and the volleyball team plays in the Breakdown Classic on Saturday, Aug. 27 at Hopkins High School against Glencoe-Silver Lake.


Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.




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