It was a tough first half of the athletic year for the Rainy River High Owls' court teams.
The senior girls' basketball team ended its season with a 4-4 record, placing fourth in the league and missing out on the NorWOSSA 'A' playoffs by just one game.
Head coach Rebecca Tolen noted the team is losing four skilled players to graduation, but she also is excited about the strong core that will be returning and has high expectations for the squad's future.
The junior girls also finished fourth in the league, finishing with a 3-4 record that featured many close games.
Coach Nicole Armstrong believes that with only one player moving up to the senior ranks, the junior basketball team looks promising for next season.
The senior boys' volleyball team, meanwhile, had a slow start but steadily improved over the course of the season.
Unfortunately, that slow start left them out of the playoffs as they finished in fourth place with a 5-5 record.
With only two players slated to graduate, and having made such a vast improvement over the season, coach Guy Arpin said he's really looking forward to next year.
The junior boys' volleyball team had an up-and-down season. But coach Zac Tolen said he was impressed with how hard they worked at practice and is proud of how far they came.
He also noted it was a rebuilding year for the squad, with all six of the starters from last season moving up to the senior level.
“If these boys continue to work that hard, their league record of 4-6 will definitely improve and they will be contenders next year,” Tolen said.
The Owls now are getting ready for the second half of the year, with the boys playing basketball and the girls switching to volleyball.
The junior squads opened their respective seasons yesterday (Nov. 28) against host Whitefish Bay (Naotkamegwanning).
All four teams will play their first home games next Tuesday (Dec. 5) against Pelican Falls.
While the senior girls' volleyball team is relatively young, with seven players moving up from last year's junior squad, Rebecca Tolen said they've shown great potential and growth.
“Coach Morning Star Tom is focusing this season on introducing the girls to a new system of play and position-specific training, as well as getting them involved in leadership activities within the school,” she noted.
Meanwhile, with a roster that features only eight players, Tolen has been working hard with her senior boys' basketball team to get them ready for the season.
Despite the lack of numbers, she said the team has a strong, competitive core that should do well.
“The boys have decided that their goal is to make the playoffs and they have been working hard to achieve this,” Tolen added.
The junior girls' volleyball team only has one returning player this season, so it will be focusing on basic skills and technique for the game.
Tom, who also is coaching that squad, said she was “very pleased” with the number of girls interested in trying out for the team and has high expectations for the girls to step up both on and off the court.
As for the junior boys' basketball team, coach Nicole Armstrong said she's cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.
She noted her squad is “a balanced team of returners and rookies.”
“The boys are tall, athletic, and coachable, and the team is looking strong,” Armstrong enthused.
“Hopefully that will translate come game time.”
On the ice, the Lake of the Woods Bears boys' hockey team, led by head coach Donny Krause, was set to begin its season yesterday with a road game against International Falls.
Its first home game will be Dec. 12 against Kittson.
Tolen noted RRHS has four players on the roster—goalies Lemuel Carradice and Aidan Tom, along with forwards Jackson Arpin and Lara Wood.
In related news, RRHS had outstanding student play on the Bears' football team this past season.
Tanner Neilson showed his exceptional skill and work ethic on the field, earning both the MVP and Best Defensive Player awards while also being selected as an All-Conference player.
He broke school records in tackles made, tackles for loss of yards, and defensive points-per-game.
Neilson also had the most total points, longest run, and most yards rushing.