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With the season just days away, Rhinelander is confident about a bounce-back seasonSubmitted: 11/13/2017

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RHINELANDER - When Rhinelander basketball tips off its season next week, the Hodags will have one specific goal in mind.

"To be able to go back and win conference after losing last year would definitely be a goal," said senior Owen White.


Not winning the Great Northern Conference last year snapped Rhinelander's streak of four conference titles in a row. Hodags head coach Derek Lemmens puts that responsibility on himself.

"Myself, especially, really got caught up on the drive for five," Lemmens said. "We really talked about that, and I think as a staff, I lost focus of the process."

Part of that process includes starting off the season against stiff competition. Rhinelander will begin the year with a difficult non-conference game against Stevens Point.

"We want to do the things that doesn't make us look good but makes us good," said Lemmens. "So playing those types of teams, we feel like is the way to do that."

Another way for the Hodags to be good is to get the ball to White. The senior forward was named GNC player of the year two years ago before earning a spot on the first all-conference team last season. But he says he's not worried about personal awards.

"If we win conference then, yeah, it would be nice to also get the player of the year," said White. "But that's definitely not the main goal. The main goal is to win conference, and we'll see what happens from there."

White hopes more playoff success is part of what happens from there.

"This year if we could win a regional championship, that would be huge for all of us," said White.

Lemmens says he will lean on White and the other seven returning seniors to make that happen.

"When we have that kind of experience, it really creates more coaches on the floor, and when guys hear from other players, it sticks a little better, so having that many leaders and that many upperclassmen is beneficial in that way," said Lemmens.

Combining that experience with ability on the floor has the Hodags feeling pretty good.

"I really have a lot of confidence in our team this year. I think we'll be first," said senior Brad Comer. "I think we will. I am being confident."

Story By: Mark Spillane

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 LOCAL SPORTS

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MADISON - Tomahawk may have headlined the results for Northwoods teams, but they weren't the only ones in attendance. Rhinelander, Merrill and Medford all competed in the meet. For Rhinelander, it was the capstone of a roller coaster season that included a surprise coaching change.

"It was really emotional but we just tried to keep working as hard as we could, and try to focus on the positives we had," said Rhinelander freshman Makenna Winnicki.

Winnicki finished ninth in the 500 yard freestyle. She was the first Hodag to swim the event at state since 2007. Meanwhile the Merrill Blue Jays broke their own drought at the state meet. Sophomore Trinity Kanitz was the first Blue Jays state qualifier since the 1980s.

"The start of something is really amazing, and for it to be Merrill, a not-so-well known community for swimming, it's like a really big boost," said Kanitz.

Kanitz placed 14th in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:30.

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MADISON - On Friday, the Tomahawk Hatchets stunned even themselves with how well they did at the state swim meet. 

The team has had tremendous leaders in their two seniors all season, but on Friday night, you could see that leadership being passed down to the younger girls.

Junior Kaylie Svacina's 100 breast stroke finish gave the team a very big boost in overall points.

"I wasn't expecting that at all. Last year I made it in the breast stroke as well and I got last place. So I was just going for something above last place this year," said Svacina.

Svacina swam a time of 1:07 which gave her a 6th place finish out of 16 swimmers, so she definitely reached that goal. 

That podium helped push the team up the scoreboard and played a major part in the 4th place finish. 

They wanted to be in the top ten after finishing 11th last year. But to get 4th, that was huge for the team.

Sophomore Kylee Theiler finished 4th in both the 200 and 500 freestyle.

"I didn't drop time in my 200, so I thought if I can stay around my same time in my 500, I was going to be really excited. Dropping time and getting that close to going under a 5:10 is just insane," said Theiler.

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MADISON - Teams across the Northwoods traveled to UW-Madison on Friday to compete in the 2017 state girls swim meet.Medford, Merrill, Rhinelander and Tomahawk all represented the area at the meet.

Tomahawk sophomore Kylee Theiler led the way as she earned two individual fourth place finishes. Tomahawk also earned a few other podium spots and finished fourth overall as a team.

"I don't even know what to say, and now I'm going to cry. Its unbelievable what these girls did and how they put together their goals and their practices, it's just phenomenal," said head coach Theresa L'Esperance.

The Hatchets entered Friday night's meet with a goal of finishing in the top ten. With their fourth place finish, they said a bittersweet goodbye to their seniors.

It's amazing my senior year to end it like that. We were watching our score, Tomahawk, change throughout the entire meet. When it got to fourth, the highest it was throughout the entire meet, we told Theresa and she couldn't believe it. It's just amazing, it's really an honor," said Rachel Dallman.

Tomahawk finished with a final score of 142.

Tune into Newswatch 12 at 10 on Saturday night to hear more from the Hatchets and other Northwoods teams at the state meet.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander senior Owen White verbally committed to play basketball at Michigan Tech last December.

But on Thursday, he made it official by signing his letter of intent.

"They've been a solid program for multiple years. I went up there to one of their games when they competed against one of the best teams in D2. Regardless of athleticism on the team, just their coaching style and the way they play, they can compete with anybody. I know if I go there, I'll be going to a successful program," said White.

White also said he likes Michigan Tech in Hooughton because it's close to home.

Two of his older brothers played football there, as well, so being a Husky runs in the family.

The Rhinelander basketball season begins next week with practice and the first game will be at home on Tuesday the 28th against Wisconsin Rapids.

Rhinelander's Brad Comer also signed his letter of intent on Thursday. He will be attending Winona State University in Minnesota to play baseball.

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ANTIGO - Being back on the ice isn't the first competition for Matt Young in the last year. He played football this fall. But it is his first time playing his favorite sport again.

"Hockey is definitely my favorite sport because of the comradery," said Young.

Last year on December 8th, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The cancer battle was hard…
"It was tough for sure," said Young.

But his team was always there.

"It was incredible. Especially knowing that everyone is standing behind you and taking care of you and supporting you throughout everything," said Young.

The doctors told him he was cancer free back in March. And he immediately started thinking about playing sports again.

"First thing I did was tell my coaches right away. And then I got back out on the football field," said Young.

He played center for the Red Robins and helped them reach the level three playoffs. But Young had something else on his mind.

"Throughout the entire football season, I've just been waiting for hockey season," said Young.

And now that he's back playing the sport he loves, the thought on cancer is pushed even further away.

"You always have that little thought in the back of your mind that it could come back. But you pray every night that it won't," said Young.

Whether he's playing hockey or not, he knows that cancer taught him a lifelong lesson.

"You've just got to live one day at a time," said Young.

Young now hopes to help a young friend through a new cancer battle for the Antigo hockey community. 

11-year-old Eli Kassler was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and receiving treatment in Milwaukee. 

Antigo hockey is having a fundraiser for him on Saturday November 11th.

The event will be a live auction and raffle at Northstar Lanes in Antigo at 4:00 P.M. 

For more information, contact 715-610-2911 or BergAppraisalServices@yahoo.com.

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NEW YORK - Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson held their spots in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and unbeaten Miami moved up three spots to No. 7 before its showdown with the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma remained fifth and TCU moved up to sixth. The Sooners and Horned Frogs play a key Big 12 game on Saturday, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the conference.

Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson held their spots in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and unbeaten Miami moved up three spots to No. 7 before its showdown with the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma remained fifth and TCU moved up to sixth in the rankings released Tuesday. The Sooners and Horned Frogs play a key Big 12 game on Saturday, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the conference.

After Miami, unbeaten Wisconsin was No. 8, the highest-ranked Big Ten team. Washington, the highest-ranked Pac-12 team, is ninth and Auburn is 10th.

No. 14 Penn State and No. 15 Ohio State fell out of the top 10 after losses last week.

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GREEN BAY - GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Matthew Stafford passed for 361 yards and two touchdowns to Marvin Jones, and the Detroit Lions snapped a three-game losing streak with a 30-17 win on Monday night over the offensively challenged Green Bay Packers.

Stafford was 26 of 33, including 12 of 14 in the first half with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Ameer Abdullah added a 4-yard touchdown run for Detroit (4-4).

Green Bay (4-4) finally got in the end zone on Brett Hundley's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 9:52 left.

The Lions answered with Stafford's 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 8:06 left to put the game out of reach with a 17-point lead. Jones had seven catches for 107 yards.

The Packers have lost three straight games.

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander Basketball Association prepared for the winter sports season by holding a camp this weekend for students from 3rd grade through high school.

The camp was run by Ryan Borowicz who owns a basketball training center near Green Bay. Rhinelander's girls basketball coach Ryan Clark knows Borowicz from college. Clark said he was happy to have Borowicz work with his team.

"He's a fantastic guy and he's just a credible source, but he's a guy you want to have around your young men and women. He's a great mentor and he knows the game really well," said Clark.

Borowicz travels to different schools all across Wisconsin for camps. He says he enjoys visiting smaller communities like Rhinelander.

"It's communities like this that are kind of fun, because the kids a little more teachable often times as well. They want to learn because they don't always have those outside influences to come in and teach. If you go to a bigger city you have more opportunity," said Borowicz.


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UW-STEVENS POINT - A year ago, the Tomahawk Hatchets won the sectional title and every day since then, they knew they wanted another one.

"Thinking and knowing we're seniors, that's an accomplishment we've always wanted to make and the fact that we accomplished it, feeling is just incredible," said senior Kirstin Marcks.

The Hatchets won five out of the 11 events and won by 76 points.

"It was really fun to see everyone perform their best out of the whole year and even our one swimmer who was tapered for last week, she dropped time too which was amazing," said senior Rachel Dallman.

Dallman and Marcks are the only two seniors on the swim team. Saturday's win was their 3rd sectional championship.

"The fact that it's going to hang up on the wall in our school is really amazing because we'll always know that it was because of us," said Dallman.

Their leadership over the last few months has made a big impact on the younger swimmers.

"They're so important to this team, I'm really going to miss them both next year," said sophomore Kylee Theiler.

But the team has one more week with the two girls. The state meet is Friday night in Madison.

"Kirstin's always there saying, 'Okay, let's start the next set, let's get it going'. They're really big for our team, not just in practices," said Theiler.

They're focused on the big meet, but Dallman and Marcks can't help but think about how their time at Tomahawk is coming to a close.

"It is so sad. But I love this team. I had such a great four years. Without the team members that I had, they would not have made it such a great experience," said Marcks.

That state meet will be on Friday at 6:30 at the Natatorium in Madison.

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UW-STEVENS POINT - The Tomahawk girls swim team won an impressive sectional title on Saturday. The team won five out of the 11 events to be repeat champions.

The Hatchets racked up 345 points today. and to put that into perspective, second place Rice Lake had 269 points.

River Falls came in third, Medford in fourth, and Rhinelander rounded out the top five.

A big victory for Tomahawk was the 500 freestyle. Sophomore Kylee Theiler set a goal to swim a personal best time of 5:16. She did four seconds better, with 5:12.

"I was kind of on the fence on whether or not I was going to get it here, or if I swam at state, if I'd get it at state. But just the fact that I got that by four seconds this weekend, I just couldn't believe it honestly," said Theiler.

Multiple swimmers from Tomahawk and Rhinelander advanced on to the state meet next weekend in Madison. Newswatch 12 will keep you posted throughout the week on other Northwoods swimmers that will be there as well.

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