Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.
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The New Life Academy girls' tennis team is operating a few players short of a full roster this season. The Eagles graduated two players from last year's team and lost three more to other commitments. At the start of the season, the Eagles have five players back with experience — four singles players and one-half of a doubles team.
The New Life Academy girls' soccer team returns experience through most of its positions this season. However, the one exception is with the forwards. The Eagles started their season with a pair of 2-0 losses to St. Croix Lutheran at home on Friday, Aug. 25, and at Bloomington Kennedy on Saturday, Aug. 26. While head coach Sam Mann said they were in contention for the majority of both games, New Life Academy struggled to connect on the attacking third of the field.
The East Ridge girls' soccer team is working to build familiarity between the new and returning players on the varsity team this year. The Raptors lost a talented group of seniors from last year, including two who are now playing Division 1 college soccer. Brittany Mahowald is on the roster at Air Force this season while Emily Bunnell is playing at Baylor. Last year's graduates have left the Raptors with varsity newcomers at most of the midfield and forward positions. Half of the team's starting back line has returned, as well as two goalkeepers from last year.
The Woodbury girls' soccer team did not have time to ease into this fall's varsity schedule. The Royals made the trip to Duluth to play in the Great Northern Shootout last weekend, coming away with losses to two talented teams. Woodbury started the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Duluth East on Friday, Aug. 25, a team that a day later defeated a 2016 2A state title contender in Rosemount. Then the Royals were defeated 4-1 by Andover on Saturday, a team that qualified for last year's state tournament. Leah Hallett tallied the only goal in the loss.
Woodbury senior defensive end David Alston has emerged as one of the top recruits in the state's 2018 class on the defensive side of the ball. At 6-foot, 4-inches, the widely rated three-star recruit towers over most of his teammates. But his size and ability as a football player are no surprise when you consider his upbringing. Alston's father was a football player at Rice University in Houston, while his mother was a thrower at the University of Minnesota. Not surprisingly, sports helped bring them together.
Kelly Kobold had reached the ceiling in her mixed martial arts career when she decided to retire in 2011. Kobold had fought in about 25 MMA bouts between 2001 and 2011, becoming a top-ranked fighter in the world during her 10-year career. "I fought on the biggest stages that were available at the time," said Kobold, a resident of Woodbury. "When I started, it was still a little underground. It was illegal in some states."
Minnesota United FC TV sideline reporter Jamie Watson grew up watching his brother, Brett, participate in sports with the Special Olympics. Now Watson is giving back with fundraising efforts to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota. On Aug. 9, Watson teamed up with SuperAmerica for a one-day fundraiser donating all purchases of ICEE drinks to Special Olympics Minnesota. The fundraiser, dubbed "Cold for Gold," helped raise $15,000 for Special Olympics in 2016.
There are no Minnesota Baseball Association teams to call Woodbury or Cottage Grove home this summer. Take a look at the Miesville Mudhens roster, however, and you will see where some of the area's best ballplayers are playing.
East Ridge graduate Nate Roese ran the first 800 of his career at the tail end of his senior season with the University of Minnesota men's track and field team. But that did not stop him from becoming a NCAA All-American in the mid-distance event. Roese ran the 800-meter run just one time before the Big 10 championship meet. Deep down, he always felt the 800 might be his event. But until this spring, he never had the chance to prove it.
Woodbury boys' basketball player Michael Jones only needed one official visit to decide where he will play college basketball after graduating next spring. After the AAU season wrapped up in July, Jones had planned to take official visits to multiple Division I schools before committing to a program. But on his first trip to Davidson College in North Carolina, Jones made up his mind.