MELROSE, Wis. (WXOW) – It’s been a remarkable two years for the Melrose-Mindoro girls basketball team.
After finishing second in the title game in 2018, the first team in program history to do so, the start of the 2018-19 season for the Mustangs really began when the buzzer to that game ended.
“We were really happy about bringing home that silver ball last year,” Senior Erika Simmons said. “We were kind of hoping to get to state, but there really wasn’t any prior expectations or bars set up to that point.”
However, the bar had been set for 2018-19. With the team returning the entire starting group, they knew they had a lot to prove.
“Throughout the off-season we really pushed the girls harder this year,” Coach Joey Arneson said. “I wanted to
get as much out of them as I possibly could and the girls responded very positively to that.”
“We practiced so much harder,” Junior Emily Herzberg added. “We were so much more focused and we all came together knowing what our goal was going to be at the end of the year.”
That goal, returning to the title game and this time coming out on top. However, the Mustangs stumbled in the middle of the season, losing to Black Hawk by 18 points.
“We came together as a team after that game and that just showed us everything that maybe we got lazy early on,” Herzberg explained.
“We decided we were going to turn that loss, that negative, into a positive. From that moment forward it was a different looking team,” Arneson added.
The change showed. The Mustangs went on to win their next 12 games by an average of 37 points, rolling into the championship game against a familiar opponent in Aquinas.
The fans knew how big this game was, but in the end, it ended the same with the Mustangs coming up short.
“I was obviously sad that it was over, but super excited to have gotten this far because most teams never make it this far,” Senior Katie Christopherson said.
In the post game interview following the game, that’s when Erika Simmons summed up the run the team made in back-to-back years.
“Everybody’s goal when they get here is to bring home the gold ball, but you can’t be disappointed being a part of the best groups to come out of your own school,” Simmons said following the loss.
Two days later, her thoughts didn’t change.
“Of course a silver ball wasn’t necessarily our goal, or end goal, but you know once the game’s over and the buzzer goes off, you can either be upset with it or think of it as a good opportunity,” she explained. “I mean a lot of girls don’t get to go to state.”
Also, not many leave the legacy these teams will leave behind.
“You go in the hallways and you see the little girls wearing green and gold. You see them talking about ‘I want to be like this player and I want to be like that player’,” Arneson added.
“What this team has done is really set us on the map and really changed our basketball culture in Melrose-Mindoro.”