Junior Fury set to state its case
The U12 Girls State Hockey Tournament is Saturday and Sunday at the Janesville Ice Skating Center. The host Rock County Junior Fury co-op and seven regional champion teams will take the ice.
The Junior Fury faces the arch-rival D.C. Diamonds of Madison at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The Wisconsin Ice Spirit and Chippewa Falls open state play at 8 a.m. The state title game is set for 2 p.m. Sunday.
Coulee Region, Fond du Lac, Green Bay and Eagle River round out the state tournament field.
Coach Denise Nerad expects the Junior Fury co-op to show the state qualifiers they belong in the tournament.
“I expect a very tough state tournament,” Nerad said. “I expect the girls to hold their heads up high.’’
The Junior Fury includes, Zoe Alonso, Gabrielle Buck, McKaylie Buescher, Ally Burke, Riley Burke, Madysen Fry, Madison Hagemann, Danielle Heitsman, Maggy Henschler, Jessica Jerome, Madison Lewis, Meghan McCarthy, Marci Mitchell, Sarah Nerad, Ashley Raisebeck and Camryn Withrow.
All but three players returned from a team that suffered 27 losses last season, but rebounded to win 30 games and finish over 500 this season. The about face is encouraging to Nerad.
“Every girl gave an effort, and good things happened,” Nerad said of the Junior Fury’s comeback season. “The thing is, we had one year of maturity.’’
Nerad said she stressed one thing to the girls after last season.
“They have to learn how to skate,” Nerad said. “That is so important.’’
Nerad said the girls are eager to learn and have worked to improve.
“Girls are very different to coach than boys,” Nerad said. “I think the girls are like sponges. They soak up everything you tell them.
“They listen and have a desire to learn how to play” Nerad added. “You have to be a role model and mentor to the girls.’’
Since the U12 state pairings were announced, Junior Fury players focused on beating the D.C. Diamonds, who defeated them three times during the regular season.
“The girls chant, ‘Beat the D.C. Diamonds,’ ’’ Nerad said. “We lost three games to them, but they were all close games, and the girls know (the Diamonds) can be taken down.’’
Nerad said losing three times to the Diamonds is not a problem.
“I like that we’re in the underdog role,” Nerad said. “We lost three times, but our team has come a long way.’’
Maggy Henschler of Milton is in her second season for the Junior Fury. The 11-year-old Henschler is eager to take on the Diamonds.
“Last year, when we played the Diamonds, I broke my wrist,” Henschler said. “I want to makeup for that.’’
The Junior Fury learned what it’s like to lose last season. Now it has a chance to find out what it’s like win on a big stage. A positive experience this weekend carries benefits for the program in the future.