Huskies Coach Jeff Williams shares a smile during a recent interview. He reflected on the past 99 years at the current football stadium in Owatonna. Staff photo by Roy Koenig
The final school year is underway at the current Owatonna High School. The new facility is well along in the construction process. You can see updates and video at the school website or drive by on 18th Street S.E. It opens to students next fall. Football will be played in a 3,500-seat stadium with artificial turf.
The Huskies opened their final season at the current site Sept. 2 against Rochester Mayo. Coach Jeff Williams said, “We’ve been here for 99 years. It will be an unceremonious departure, probably. We talked about doing some sort of a farewell ceremony and inviting players back. I think it’s just gonna be where we kind of transition. This has been a great place for us, right in the middle of town, very visible, a lot of great memories of huge wins, some difficult losses here. I remember Jerry Peterson’s last year. He came out and had a few pictures of himself taken in various areas of the stadium just as a reminder of his time here. He coached here for 30 years. This will be my 27th in this stadium. Ninety-nine years. We’ve got almost 60 of it covered with the two of us. That’s kind of cool.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity for a new facility. Some new digs, a new locker room, air conditioning. I think it’s time to move on, and we’ll do that when the time is due,” added Williams.
New roles, new coach
The Huskies volleyball squad lists nine seniors on the varsity roster. The players have been through a lot in their careers. Their sophomore season almost didn’t happen due to the pandemic. Last year saw a variety of restrictions and an on-edge feel to the season. One constant is the role of captain for seniors Ava Eitrheim and Bella Barrie.
Eitrheim told the Owatonna Live Coaches Show, “I’m glad we get to finally experience a normal season with all of the girls in our grade.” Barrie is honored to return as a captain, “To continue to show leadership even in tough situations like when you’re down in a game or continuing to push hard in practices.”
This season the team is adjusting to a new head coach. OHS grad Rachel Malo has been on the staff for several seasons and the players are excited to have her calling the shots. Eitrheim says, “I’ve known Rachel since my year as a freshman on JV and I think that she’s an amazing coach. She has a lot of passion for the game.”
Barrie has switched positions this season, “I’m the libero now. So it’s really nice to get some coaching experience to you from a former alumni and just continue to get all those reps…It’s quite a big change from running the offense to running the defense and it came up and I was really honored to be able to wear the different jersey and continue to show leadership.” She’s been playing libero and defensive specialist during the club season as well.
Eitrheim has switched to right side hitter and setter. She says being the final class in the current OHS, “Is bittersweet definitely because I wish that we could experience the new building, but we were also the last class at Willow Creek. So it’s kind of a recurring pattern for us and I think it’s a cool way to close off this high school.”
Huskies drop match
(Report from Owatonna Live’s Brad Bettermann) The Tigers topped the Huskies 3-1 at OHS on Sept. 6. Farmington took the first set 25-21 where neither team had more than a three-point lead until the end. The Tigers got into the rhythm in the second set and took control with an eight-point service run by freshman Lexi West to win 25-17.
OHS answered with a 25-17 win in the third set behind a serving string and one-handed diving dig from senior Lauren Bangs. Set four was back-and-forth. The Huskies jumped out to a 10-5 lead, but Farmington climbed back to win it 28-26.
Owatonna was led by junior Mehsa Krause with 10 kills. Bangs added nine with two aces. Senior Bella Barrie had three aces.
Strong start for soccer
Owatonna boys’ soccer is off to a strong start in Big Nine play. They overwhelmed Albert Lea 11-0 with senior defenseman Blake Burmeister notching a hat trick. Owatonna came from behind to beat defending conference champ Century 2-1. Ty Svenby converted a penalty kick and Benny Bangs scored from long range.
OHS topped perennial power Austin (No. 10-AA) 2-1 at Lincoln on Sept. 8. Junior Garrett Karsten (Straight River Sports/Ron’s Repair Player of the Game) scored midway through the first half by twisting his body and to put a shot back across the grain. Svenby matched last season’s goal total with his fifth of the year in a scramble five minutes into the second half. The Packers converted a free kick with two seconds remaining to avoid a shutout.
Eight players have goals for Owatonna this season. Five of those have two or more. Bangs leads the team with six. Coach Bob Waypa likes the balance, “The more that can score, the tougher it makes for other teams to defend us…Century put three guys on Benny. We ended up dropping him to a midfielder and he scored from 30 yards out on an unbelievable shot…We have the ability to make changes if we need to.”
Winning a family-grudge dual
(Report from Brad Bettermann) The Owatonna girls’ swimmers defeated Faribault 93-82 on Sept. 8 in a battle of the Fuller coaches. Isaiah coaches the Huskies. Charlie and Bethany lead the Falcons. OHS controlled the meet and went to exhibition scoring after the 500. The Ron’s Repair/Straight River Sports athletes of the meet were Dylann Norrid, Kate Karsten, Mya Dutton, and Jayna Martin. They are all divers that also swam in the 200 JV freestyle relay. Martin won the varsity diving competition.
Huskies snap skid
The Owatonna girls’ soccer team had many scoring chances early in its match Sept. 6 against Rochester Century, yet nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. Several were Grade-A opportunities for senior Ava Stanchina. But her time would come when it counted most in the game as the Huskies rallied for a 4-2 Big Nine Conference win, ending a three-game losing streak to the Panthers, and earning their first win over them since 2017.
OHS had about eight shots before Century seemed to cross the centerline. The momentum swung to Century and they took the lead with two-and-a-half minutes remaining until halftime. All-Conference senior Jordan Nowicki stole the ball around midfield and had a partial breakaway for the 1-0 lead.
Owatonna’s All-Conference senior Ezra Oien leveled the game midway through the second half. But Nowicki scored on Century’s first corner kick with just under 15 minutes to play. Stanchina took over 34 seconds later with her second goal of the season. Less than half a minute later, she made a pass from the left wing that seemed to be intended for Oien. The ball rolled through to the right post for sophomore Averi Vetsch to pot her second goal of the season for a 3-2 lead. Stanchina added the final tally with less than 11 minutes remaining and was named the Player of the Game.
After a couple of non-traditional years, the Owatonna High School Homecoming Parade is returning to downtown Owatonna. 2020’s event was switched to a drive-thru display as team’s decorated businesses downtown. In 2021, the parade started at the fairgrounds due to the construction downtown.
With the North Cedar Streetscape project largely completed, the parade returns to the heart of Owatonna on Friday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. The Owatonna Chamber of Commerce and Tourism indicates the new streetscape allows more room for spectators. Downtown businesses are holding a window decorating contest. Check with the chamber for more information. By the way, a ribbon cutting for the project is planned for Thursday, Oct. 13.
Preseason honor for former Huskie
OHS grad and Gustavus Adolphus junior linebacker Carson Dekam is a preseason All-America selection, third team, by D3football.com. Dekam was an MIAC First-Team All-Conference in 2021. He led the Gusties in tackles in his freshman season and was an All-Region Second Team honoree after his sophomore season. Gustavus won their season opener 62-20 at Buena Vista University on September 3. Eli Spurgeon (OHS ’22) joined the Gusties this fall and will participate in weight events for track and field as well.
Thursday, Sept. 15
OHS boys soccer vs. Winona, 7 p.m.
Medford volleyball vs. Bethlehem Academy, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16
OHS football vs. Mankato West, 7 p.m. (simulcast on 100.9 FM KOWZ)
BP football vs. United South Central, 7 p.m.
Medford football vs. Lester Prairie, 7 p.m.
All games will be featured on Owatonnalive.