Jacob friede/lakeland times

Senior goalie Mason Holmquist, was a second team all-GNC selection for soccer.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Senior goalie Mason Holmquist, was a second team all-GNC selection for soccer.
There were plenty of Thunderbirds listed among the Great Northern Conference’s elite athletes when the fall sports all-conference selections were released Monday morning.

Twenty-four Lakeland student athletes were recognized by the GNC for having exceptional seasons in their respective sports.



Football

In football, wide receivers Jake Rexroade and Ray Rentmeester received first-team honors, with Rexroade being a unanimous selection. The dynamic duo led the conference in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, with Rexroade catching 46 balls for 671 yards and eight touchdowns while Rentmeester caught 35 passes for 479 yards and seven touchdowns.

“The common saying in our program is that there’s nobody better than a Lakeland wide receiver in the conference,” head coach Dan Barutha said.

And there wasn’t, not by a long shot. The next closest team to Lakeland’s 1,382 GNC receiving yards — of which 1,150 went to Rexroade and Rentmeester — was Mosinee with 581. And having such a unique air attack was not only tough for other teams to protect against, but to prepare for.

“It’s hard for them to successfully prepare for our passing game when the rest of the conference is based in the run,” Barutha explained. “In any conference, to be able to do something that is unique and different can be difficult to prepare for.”

But as far as having Rexroade and Rentmeester to prepare with, Barutha said it’s fun for his coordinators and himself to design plays that wouldn’t be possible without them.

“If we didn’t have the kind of players that we have it would be very difficult to run our offense,” he said.

This would have been difficult especially for the quarterback, but passing the ball was no problem for junior Michael Ouimette, who passed for 1,037 yards to lead the conference and land him on the second-team all-conference list.

“He’s really, without question, taken ownership of that position and has flourished in our system,” Barutha said of his quarterback.  “So I think it’s a combination. You have a guy like Mike that puts in the effort and is dedicated and knows what it takes to be the number one quarterback, but at the same time has the benefit of having a couple guys who are incredible playmakers who he knows he can deliver the ball to and have trust in.”

Two other guys Ouimette put trust in were offensive linemen Nick Kizorek and Andre Starynski, both all-conference honorable mentions, who kept him protected while he put up the big passing numbers.

“Nick Kizorek was our left tackle and our leading receiver was our left side slot,” Barutha said. “Nick was responsible for a lot of back side protection for Michael to be able to deliver passes, and for that reason, with the fact that we threw the ball 221 times this year and Nick only gave up one sack is absolutely incredible.”

Starynski, on the other side, was not only responsible for opening up holes for Ouimette to run through on keepers, a major play in the Thunderbird’s arsenal the last few games, he was also exceptional at throwing down blocks on short passes.

“We’re a very high screen game focused attack and if you look at our jailbreak screen, especially with Rexroade, and then our solid screen, with Ray, a lot of that is going on behind A.J. at the right guard spot,” Barutha said.

As far as all-conference defense and special teams, Chris LeSavage was given first team honors for his play on the defensive line, while Rexroade was a second team defensive back. Austin Wanty and Ouimette were second team selections for kicking and punting.

“Chris was a dominating force on the defensive line there’s no question,” Barutha said of his senior lineman who let the team in forced fumbles and tackles for loss. “Chris we looked to make big plays in big situations and (he) certainly delivered in many of those games.”

Barutha also praised Ian Valliere’s play. The T-Bird’s leading tackler received an honorable mention for his intensity and ability to step it up when needed.  

“Ian’s an emotional guy and you need some of those guys, on your defense especially, because they can get guys fired up when you need to be able to rise to an occasion on the field,” Barutha said.



Soccer

Moving from the football field to the pitch, the Lakeland boys’ soccer team had four of their members given all-conference honors.

Junior forward and midfielder Brandon Boh was named to the first team.

“Brandon is a team captain. He’s also a leader in points as far as goals and assists,” co-head coach Rhonda Maulson said. “He knows the game well, has a solid soccer IQ and is a key player in our possession game.”

Also contributing to the Lakeland offense was the T-Bird’s other major scoring threat, Sam Hiller. The senior forward and midfielder was given second-team honors.

“He is persistent putting constant pressure on the defense,” Maulson said of Hiller. “He made things happen offensively.”

Another offensive spark this year was junior honorable mention Kyle Bengtson, who was on a three-game scoring streak going into the final game of the season.

“He’s more of a tactical player,” Maulson said. “He’s going to be in the right place when he needs to and he’s going to place the ball where it needs to be placed.”

Goalie Mason Holmquist, who kept the ball away from its intended target on 78 percent of the shots on him, was fantastic under heavy fire all season and that earned him second-team all-conference honors.

“Throughout his four seasons he’s been a key to many wins, coming up with big game-saving saves,” Maulson said of her senior goalie. “His strength, attitude, leadership, and skill will be missed.”



Volleyball

Lakeland head volleyball coach Carley Punzel is also going to miss an all-conference selection next year.  

Mel Bruckner, who was among the conference leaders in kills, led the Thunderbirds in that category and was named an honorable mention. But it was her leadership in general that Punzel most valued.

“It is truly sad to see our senior Mel Bruckner go but we know that she will do great things in her future,” she said. “Our returners will understand what it takes to be a great team captain because of her.”

Abby Parris, who coach Punzel referred to as “one of my go-to’s,” led the T-Birds with 68 digs and was also named an honorable mention.



Cross country

The girls cross country team looked to Ashley Peterson to lead the way this year and she didn’t disappoint. The junior runner won the GNC meet, the Freedom sectional race, and took sixth at the state championships.  For her efforts she was named first team all-conference and the GNC Runner of the Year.  

Teammates Aubrey Anderson and Kate Melms, who joined Peterson as frontrunners on Wisconsin’s eighth fastest team in Division 2, were also first-team all-conference selections.

“I could not be more proud of the entire team, but especially those three,” head coach Dan Claussen said. “They were the heart of the team and led be example. I’m really excited for the future with these three returning.”

Claussen also has reason to have high hopes for the boys’ team next year. In his first year of running cross country, sophomore Victor Masayesva led the Thunderbirds to within 18 points of a state championship appearance.  

Senior Tony Holmes was another first-year frontrunner and they both earned second team all-GNC honors.

“Victor and Anthony were both first year cross country runners,” said Claussen. “For them to accomplish all-conference status says a lot about heir desire, determination, commitment, and athleticism.”



Swimming

A strong performance at the Great Northern Conference meet, which LUHS hosted, placed a handful of Lakeland swimmers on the all-conference list.

With her conference championship in the 100-yard freestyle, Mariah Angove was the lone first team selection for the Thunderbirds. She was also an honorable mention for her third-place finish in the 100 yard backstroke.

Rylee Ahlborn was second team all conference for her runner-up conference finishes in the 50 and 200 yard freestyle.

Finishing third in the GNC, Naomi Hamerla was an honorable mention in the 100-yard butterfly

Amanda Kosmen joined Angove, Ahlborn, and Hamerla on the second team for their 400-free relay runner-up finish. The relay team was also an honorable mention in the 200-freestyle relay.

The all-conference selections gave head coach Chris Garcia reason to be optimistic about the postseason.

“The breakout swims the girls had on Friday night really turned up the motivation to keep things rolling into the sectional meet,” Garcia said. “They are pretty excited.”” 

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.