- Please install the Most Commented plugin
Emma Cavanaugh / Winonan
The Winona State University gymnastics team competed in their second meet of the season at home on Friday, Jan. 13. The team competed against Gustavus Adolphus College, winning the meet 184.150-182.400.
Junior Eboni Jackson won the vault event with a score of 9.350, as well as the floor routine with a score of 37.650. She did not stop with winning two events, as she also took home second place on the bars.
Head coach Beckie Rolbiecki explained how Jackson is expected to have a great season, having already demonstrated Olympic-level quality during her floor routine.
“She has already thrown a skill our first meet that you hardly see in a Division I meet. It’s a fold in on her floor routine, and she nailed it, so we’re super excited to see what her routine is going to score because it’s going to stand out from the crowd,” Rolbiecki said. “So it’s very exciting, and it really just adds that extra wow to her floor routine, which is already very good.”
First-year student Kelly Johnston competed on the beam, tying for second place with a score of 9.425, an improvement from the team’s last competition at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, where she received a 9.256.
“I think we’re going to go out there and do everything that we can to improve from Air Force. We had a really awesome start, but we really have room for improvement,” Johnston said.
She wants to continue to improve, but emphasized the importance of competing as a team.
“I’ve just been competing on beam, which is my favorite event, and I really just like helping out the team in any way I can, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, and I really hope that I can just keep going with it,” Johnston said. “My motivation is always that I want to do my best for the team score, and whatever happens to me happens, but I just want to help my team win this meet.”
Although early, the team had a promising start to their season with both coaches and athletes already looking ahead to competing at nationals. Winona State will be hosting several meets this competitive season, including the regional meet. Doing well at the regional meet is essential for sending not only individuals, but the entire team to nationals.
“I definitely think that we have a really good shot at making nationals and doing really well at nationals. Our goal is to place at nationals, so that would be really awesome and I think we’re on track for that, so we just have to stay together and do what we’ve got to do,” Johnston said.
Rolbiecki believes the team has a chance at nationals, and continued to stress the importance of placing the team over the individual.
“Our whole focus is team. Obviously there’s chances for individuals to stand out, and individuals qualifying to the national tournament… but we truly are all about the team and putting up the team total, and putting up the best team that day to put the best possible athletes on the floor so that we can score bigger and better than the meet before,” Rolbiecki said.
The team is carrying 26 athletes this year, a larger number than usual. However, 13 members of the team are first-year students, and one is a transfer student. Haruko “Sunny” Hasebe is a student from Tokyo, and is another member of the team who is competing in their first year of college gymnastics.
The team has no seniors, giving them a unique opportunity. All of the effort put into polishing and building the team this year will carry over into next year.
“The newness makes it scarier, and it’s a lot more work for us as coaches because we’re trying to develop the teams from scratch, but the effort we put in, the product we put on the floor after the effort is going to be our product,” Rolbiecki said. “So when they do it well, the celebration is going to be trifold what it used to be. That homegrown, when-you-put-it-together-yourself kind of thing, it’s much more of a celebration to put on the floor.”
The team will travel to compete on Friday, Jan. 20 against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh at 6 p.m.
By Emma Cavanaugh
Adam Kirk / Winonan
The Winona State University men’s basketball team started winter break strong with a 89-64 win against Minnesota State University, Mankato, shooting 72 percent from the field. The following game was a different story as Winona State lost 75-82 to Concordia University, St. Paul, and continued to split the competitions over winter break to total 4-4.
The following week Winona State gave Upper Iowa University its first conference loss of the season in the first of two matchups. The Warrior defense held the Peacocks to 37 percent shooting. Senior Riley Bambenek led the team with 23 points as the Warriors won 85-67 in Fayette, Iowa.
Seniors Isaiah Gray and Kyle Bauman scoring their 1,000-career point highlighted the second of the two meetings. Their accomplishments came in a losing effort though, as Upper Iowa topped Winona State 82-95 at home.
Winona State responded to the loss with consecutive wins against University of Minnesota, Crookston and Bemidji State University. Gray led the Warriors against Crookston on December 30, recording a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds to secure the win 64-51. Bambenek scored a season-high 30 points to pave Winona State’s win against Bemidji State the following day, 95-80.
The short winning streak was snapped by a game the following week against No. 22 ranked Southwest Minnesota State University. The Warriors could not find enough offense to match the Mustangs, losing 55-79. In the final game over winter break, Winona State visited University of Sioux Falls and came up short for the win, falling 55-58.
The Warriors have had to get used to playing games with key rotation players being out. This posed a challenge to the team, according to head coach Todd Eisner.
Charlie Koontz, a sophomore forward, is out the rest of the season with a hip injury. Bauman was expected to lead the Warriors this season but missed three weeks with an ankle injury and, according to Eisner, “is still trying to get his game back to normal.”
“There is nothing you can do about injuries or which player gets injured. It just gives someone else an opportunity. What the injuries have done is caused some players to play multiple positions and it has impacted our depth,” Eisner said.
Winona State visited University of Minnesota Duluth Friday, Jan. 13 and picked up an overtime victory, 78-70. The Bulldogs led the Warriors by two with a chance to put the game away at the free-throw line, but missed. Gray went down and made a buzzer-beating layup to tie the game and force overtime.
In the overtime period, Sophomore Tommy Gathje’s hot shooting helped the Warriors pull away for the win. Gathje led the team with a career-high 28 points.
Eisner said, “Tommy is one of the players who has taken advantage of his increased playing time because of some of the injuries. He has played very well the last four weekends. His production in the UMD game was very encouraging and he continues to play with more confidence as the season moves on.”
The following day the team traveled to St. Cloud to face the Huskies. The overtime effort the night before looked to have an impact on the game as Winona State struggled to get in a rhythm on offense and trailed by 21 points at halftime. The Warriors lost 65-88.
Winona State now has a record of 8-8 overall and 5-7 in conference play. The Warriors will host Wayne State College on Friday, Jan. 20 and Augustana University on Saturday, Jan. 21.
By Adam Kirk