By PATRICK SLACK
If Pierz is to continue the success it has had in back-to-back winning seasons, it will have to do so with a group of new faces running the show.
The Pioneers graduated eight players from last year’s 14-13 roster that finished third in the Central Minnesota Conference, including its entire starting lineup.
Looking to fill those starting slots and contribute off the bench are seniors Matt Athman (center) and Noah Thomsen (guard), juniors Robbie Skiba (forward), Ethan Lochner (forward) and Ryan Kowalzek (guard) and a number of sophomores, including Jonny Kasper (guard) and Aaron Weber (guard).
Athman and Thomsen are the lone seniors on this year’s roster.
“We have a young team this year with only two seniors,” Pierz head coach Matt Poepping said. “Some underclassmen will be counted on to step up and contribute on the varsity team. We plan on getting better every day in practice and working toward becoming the best team possible come March.”
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE), winners of 55 consecutive conference games, figures to be the favorite once again as it seeks its sixth conference championship in a row, Poepping said.
“BBE won the conference last year and is going to be a very good team again this year,” Poepping said. “There are a number of teams that have talent coming back and we expect it to be a very competitive conference schedule.”
Melrose Area remains the team to beat on Pierz’ half of the section, Poepping said, with the Pioneers getting a crack at most of the teams in Section 6AA throughout the course of the regular season.
Graduating from last year’s team were: Mitch Bednar, Cullin Carter, Ben Boser, T.J. Hoheisel, Jon Fuhrman, Jess Kasper, Josh Templin and Elias Schomer.
Pierz opens the season at home against Albany, Tuesday.