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With full season under her belt, Meyer settling in at Iowa

IOWA CITY – One shot at a time, Makenzie Meyer worked all summer to find her comfort zone on the basketball court.

The Iowa sophomore recorded 16,000 shots during the summer, work Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder believes will help Meyer deliver from the perimeter this season for the Hawkeyes.

“Our expectation is that she’s going to demand as much respect on the floor as Melissa Dixon did during the season when she was the best three-point shooter in the nation," Bluder said. “She is playing with a joy you need to have to be successful."

The Hawkeyes, who host their lone preseason exhibition Sunday at 7 p.m. against Minnesota State-Moorhead, count on the 5-foot-9 guard from Mason City to take her game to another level after she averaged 6.8 points a year ago.

Meyer expects it, too.

“I feel more confident and comfortable now," Meyer said. “Last year was an adjustment for me, getting used to the college game. It took some time."

Meyer started 23 times as a freshman while playing in each of Iowa’s 34 games last season.

She worked through a slow start from the field, an experience Meyer now believes has strengthened her as she prepares for her sophomore season.

“It was something I had to deal with and figure a way out of and it taught me a lot," Meyer said. “I worked through it, kept at it, and eventually the shots started to fall again."

Meyer finished the season shooting 35.6 percent from three-point range, hitting 42-of-118 shots, and she is Iowa’s top-returning shooter from the behind the arc.

“I’ve put a lot of work into that part of my game and I feel like I’m where I want to be right now," Meyer said. “We have some good shooters on this team so it isn’t all on me. We’ll have success as a team."

Bluder likes the attitude and approach she sees as she watches Meyer work through her second preseason with Iowa.

“She is just much more comfortable on the court. You can see it in her expression and the way she carries herself," Bluder said. “Some of that is experience, having gone through it all before, and some of it is skill. I felt a year ago like she was our best three-point shooter."

Meyer has worked to grow her game on the defensive end of the floor and moving from 10,000 shots a year ago to 16,000 shots this past summer, she continues to work on developing the consistency that she wants offensively.

“I’m seeing the results now," Meyer said. “I feel good shooting the ball and I’m looking forward to carrying that over into the season. A year ago, everything was new. Now, I’m ready to go."

breaking top story
St. Ansgar defies the odds to reach Class A semifinal for second straight year (with photos)

ST. ANSGAR — All season long, St. Ansgar carried a chip on its shoulder because some people outside the program believed there would be a falloff after last year’s trip to the Class A semifinals. Proving those people wrong was one of their main motivators this year.

Photos: Saint Ansgar vs. Glenbrook-Reinbeck Regional Football

With a chance Friday night to get back to the UNI-Dome in their Class A quarterfinal game vs. defending state champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck, the Saints brought their A-game.

Behind the three-pronged rushing attack of Dayton Smith, Jack Sievert and Josh Van Vliet, the ninth-ranked Saints avenged last year’s semifinal loss to the seventh-ranked Rebels as they rolled to a satisfying 35-7 victory.

“It’s a great feeling,” Van Vliet said after Friday’s win. “It’s more the fact that no one thought we’d be here right now. There’s a lot of people – even people around St. Ansgar – who were saying they’re not going to be as good as the last class and they’re not going to get this far because we basically lost everybody.”

The Saints had all their pieces working on Friday night.

Dayton Smith got the scoring started in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run to put them up 7-0.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck struck back as the first quarter expired when quarterback Hunter Lott hit Walker Thede on a 35-yard fly route to tie the game 7-7.

Then came a play in the second quarter that turned the game for the Rebels when Lott, who also plays on defense, went down with a leg injury and he was out for the rest of the game. From there, the G-R offense was never able to fire up again.

“We have a lot of guys we trust subbing and coming in, but it just changes,” G-R coach John Olson said. “You lose player like that it changes a lot of stuff, but this was too good of a team to overcome stuff like that.”

On the other side, St. Ansgar’s offense kept rolling.

The Saints tacked on 14 more points in the second quarter on touchdown runs by Smith and Van Vliet to take a 21-7 lead into halftime. Sievert and Smith added a touchdown run apiece in the second half for good measure, and the party was on in St. Ansgar.

Smith led the way with a game-high 185 yards on 25 carries, Sievert rushed 20 times for 156 yards, and Van Vliet added 98 yards on 20 carries. The Saints out-gained the Rebels 454-173.

“We’ve been underdogs all year it seems like, and now that we’re here … well, we’re the only ones who thought we’d be here and it feels even better because of that,” Smith said.

Now, the playoff takes the Saints down to Cedar Falls next Friday to face Hudson at the UNI-Dome. For now, though, they get to enjoy a year’s worth of hard work.

“I think we’ve gotten better each year and I’m really proud of the effort,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “They’ve had that lunch-pail mentality, they come to practice each day trying to get better and they made a lot of growth over the course of the year so I’m very proud of them.”

Kirchgatter, Sievert play unsung roles for St. Ansgar (with photos)

ST. ANSGAR | Junior Ethan Kirchgatter looks surprised when he’s asked for a TV interview.

“Really, me?”

Junior Garrett Koster spots Kirchgatter smiling for an interview, he gives him a hard slap as he runs by.

“He always does that,” Kirchgatter says.

Photos: Saint Ansgar vs. Glenbrook-Reinbeck Regional Football

Kirchgatter’s role often goes unnoticed. He’s the Saints top receiver on offense with nine receptions for 158 yards this year, but the Saints hardly ever throw the ball with a three-man squad that dominates the ground game.

Friday, Kirchgatter grabbed his fourth interception of the year, a lofty pass down the right sideline by Gladbrook-Reinbeck backup quarterback Walker Thede. Kirchgatter ran 15-yards, setting up a scoring drive for the Saints on offense by senior Josh Van Vliet to make it 21-7.

“We’ve been practicing all week about getting our depth and we know they like to pass so the ball,” Kirchgatter said. “Went up and tried to make a play on the ball and came down with it.”

Kirchgatter had many more opportunities like it, his 6-foot-2 stature and long wingspan allows him to brush his fingertips over every ball.

“He has a little bit of a nose for the ball,” Saints head coach Drew Clevenger said. “Obviously, it’s a tough situation with their injury situation, so maybe a few more balls available but he does a good job of making plays on the ball.”

Like Kirchgatter, sophomore Jack Sievert plays an unsung role for the Saints.

Behind record-breaking senior Dayton Smith and Van Vliet, Sievert is the up-and-coming leader already taking on a bigger role.

“It’s just awesome, I love looking up to them and seeing what they do and just going with it,” Sievert said. “This is my first year playing a big role.”

Sievert ran for 156 yards on 20 carries, making him the second best rusher to carry the Saints through a 35-7 victory over Gladbrook-Reinbeck to lead the Saints to state.

“Jack’s gotten better, hard to believe he’s only a sophomore as you watch him out there,” Clevenger said. “He continues to surprise people week by week with how physical he is. He started the year at linebacker, and we moved him down to defensive end about week four. And I think our defense got better on both ends.”

While both have increased their roles from last year, Kirchgatter and Sievert had the same chip on their shoulder from last year’s loss to Gladbrook-Reinbeck. Friday, they had a part in the play for revenge.

“Nobody thought we’d do it, yet, here we are,” Sievert said.

West Hancock's playoff run ends vs. West Sioux

HAWARDEN | West Sioux scored 40 unanswered points behind the legs of Jake Lynott on Friday and ended West Hancock's season in the quarterfinals of the Class A Iowa high school playoffs. West Sioux won 54-12.

The Eagles finished their season at 7-4 after starting the season with a pair of losses.

The Falcons (11-0) advance to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls to play Council Bluffs St. Albert next week.

Tate Hagen had a pair of 5-yard scoring runs for West Hancock - one each in the first and second quarters. But the answers from the hosts were on long runs by Lynott.

He scored from 36, 62 and 59 yards out, the latter helping West Sioux pull away for good.

West Hancock had a 14-play drive in the first quarter stall and didn't muster much more after Hagen's second TD. Any chance of a comeback by the Eagles stopped in the third quarter, when Conner Koopmans fell on a fumble in the end zone when West Hancock was pinned deep in its end.

Josef Smith finished with 103 rushing yards - most of it on a 49-yard carry, while Hagen added 98 yards. MaCoy Yeakel pitched in 47 yards.

Caleb Eckels led the defense with nine total tackles, five of them solo. Hagen added six, three of them solo.

For West Sioux, the top-ranked team in Class A, Lynott finished the game with 329 total yards, 254 of those on the ground. He added another 80 yards on two punt returns and finished with five touchdowns. 


Pressure pushes No. 9 NIACC past No. 18 Illinois Central


MASON CITY | NIACC women’s basketball coach Todd Ciochetto has been anticipating the debut of this season’s edition of the Lady Trojans for some time.

The Lady Trojans have garnered some national attention with a preseason rating of ninth, and in the Konigsmark Klassic on Friday, Ciochetto could see just how accurate those expectations might be as the Lady Trojans opened their season by hosting 18th-rated Illinois Central.

The only thing slow on the night for NIACC was its start, but an 18-4 run to end the first quarter put the Lady Trojans up by nine, and they steadily built the lead through the second half for a 99-82 victory.

“We’re different this year,” Ciochetto said. “There is a lot of pressure on the girls. They have been built up.”

What NIACC fans saw was a versatile team with a small core of sophomore leadership and a lot of freshman talent that gives Ciochetto options for controlling a game.

After falling behind 14-9, the Lady Trojans adjusted their full-court press and took over the game in the last 4:26 of the first quarter.

Traditionally under Ciochetto, the NIACC offense has featured a lot of driving from the outside and three-point shooting, and one thing that became apparent was that several of the Lady Trojans can break down a defense off the dribble.

“We have seven or eight who can drive,” Ciochetto said. “But we can go big too.”

Mikayla Homola, a freshman from Maple Grove, Minnesota, came up big in her first junior college game as she led NIACC with 22 points – including 17 in the first half.

Homola made three of the Lady Trojans’ 10 3-pont goals.

Khalilah Holloway came off the bench for 18 points and nine rebounds while sophomore guard Adria Stewart finished with 16 points.

Fourteen different Lady Trojans scored in the game.

“I think the freshmen follow and see how the sophomores are doing things right,” Stewart said. “We have become very close.”

NIACC (1-0) returns to action today at 3 p.m. when it plays host to Bay College.