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Freshman Standout Tops"M&O Voting

The 2016-17 All-Conference voting for the M&O was released and leading the list as the M&O Conference's MVP was none other than freshman standout for the Crivitz Wolverines Chloe Gruszynski.

It was the underclassman's year as Gruszynski was joined on the first team list by Oneida Nation's Yehil Rodriguez, a sophomore, and Peshtigo's Shae Tonn and Gillett's Taylor Yonker, both juniors. The lone senior was Niagara's Sarah Nawn.

It certainly isn't often that a freshman makes the list, but it's even more rare to see that freshman take an MVP but Gruszynski certainly isn't an ordinary run of the mill freshman. Anyone who has seen her hit the court this season may have guessed that she was a senior or at least a junior. It just isn't often that one sees a freshman play with the skill that comes with experience.

But those who have seen her play know that it isn't truly surprising to she her top the list. In a league that has seen tentativeness take control, the Wolverines have enjoyed action. Gruszynski just wasn't the type of player that was going to sit idle and watch the game go by, she made it happen. Whether she was firing off a deep ball or driving a cluttered lane she always seemed to find her way to points.

"Honestly I am still a little in awe of this whole deal.  Her receiving this award is definitely the shot in the arm we needed," said Crivitz Head Coach Brett Meyers. "We had a core group of girls who committed themselves this summer and our season reflected that.  Our girls love this game and being recognized is icing on the cake to end this year."

Meyers couldn't say enough about what he saw from this up and coming basketball star.

 "Chloe, first and foremost, is a great person.  I often tell her if I could pick the characteristics of any person I would want my daughter to have it would be her," said Meyers.  "When you start off with that, coaching her is already easy.  She loves this game and it shows.  She will do anything you ask of her on the court and was the catalyst for our success.  If she played well, we played well.  Often times I felt like she could do more until I went back and watched the film...  There wasn't much more she could do most of the time."

An area of the game where a freshman might falter is usually big pressure games. The ability to not let anxiety and doubt hinder your game is something that many players spend their whole high school careers overcoming. But not Gruszynski, she has a handle on it already. Gruszynski led the Wolverines with 14 ppg and averaged 3 assists a game helping to lead the Wolverine girls to a 14-4 season. Her final tally for the regular season was 307 points.

"Chloe played better when the pressure was on," said Meyers. "I can think of numerous times over the course of the year that she played harder and harder as the game went on.  She has been somehow involved with the game for so long it has now become part of her.  I honestly believe that she wouldn't be able to tell you what shows are on tv because most of her free time revolves around the sports she's involved with.  She is already creating goals for herself for the off season and next year."

But as Coach Meyers has stated this accomplishment isn't just about Chloe, it's about the whole team and the community, who has gained a level of excitement with the MVP announcement.

"I stated in the meeting when she was selected that this could bring life back into our program and give our community something to be proud of," said Meyers. "My hope for her in this program would be for her to see her hard work not only creates success, but also made others want to work harder and take advantage of the gifts they've been given.  Her success will breed success because she's the type of person that wants her teammates to win with her, and always will put them first.  I believe that the season we had this year has created a buzz in this town that will hopefully carry on for many years and wins to come.  I've been blessed to have a great coaching staff and great bunch of girls to work with."

The lone senior on this year's first team squad was Niagara's Sarah Nawn. In her final year as a Badger Nawn was able to register 15.2 ppg while chipping in with 2.2 assists a game. She ended the season as the Conference's leading scorer with 334 points.

"Sarah loves basketball," said Niagara Head Coach Karl Lamoreaux. "Sarah is one of the rare players that still shoots baskets in her driveway with her dad and a neighbor. Sarah is a three year varsity player and was a vital part of two regional championships. She can do most things on the court but her speciality is shooting."

Most teams would have to agree. Sarah can shoot. When the lane was closed it was time to let it rain. And many teams were left without an umbrella.

"Sarah can hit all the shots from the post, mid range and three point. She makes free throws the best though. Sarah shot 86% from the free throw line this year," said Lamoreaux. "Sarah was the only returning starter this year and people underestimated what we would be. Nawn, along with the rest of our team, worked very hard and we had a very successful season. I am happy with the foundation and work ethic that Sarah and this year's senior class left for our underclassmen." 

The Oneida Nation Thunderhawks were honored this season with the appointment of one of their talented ballers Yelih Rodriguez. In fact she was one of the most accurate and dangerous scorers of the season.

"Yelih Rodriguez was the driving force for the Lady Thunderhawks on both ends of the court this season, finishing her season with 349 points," said Oneida Head Coach Jamie Betters. "She garnered two Green Bay Press Gazette Player of the Week awards for her offensive points and rebounds. With the best scoring per game leading the conference at 15.7 ppg, she perpetually facilitated the Thunderhawks offense."

But the threat of Rodriguez wasn't limited to offense, she quickly became know around the conference as one of the toughest defensive players.

"Rodriguez  also was feared on the defensive end as a tenacious rebounder and shot blocker with 8.2 rebounds a game and 52 blocks on the season.  Her play in the post has been a strong asset for us, which we look forward to strengthening in the next few seasons to come as Yelih is only a sophomore."

That's right only a sophomore. Rodriguez is part of this years trend in the M&O of young and capable players.

"Yelih is also a standout not only athletically but academically and culturally," said Betters. "She commits herself to preserving our language and ceremonies off the court and is an amazing role model for our younger ladies.   Moving into the M&O conference has given our athletes like Yelih the opportunity at conference awards that they have been missing with us playing as an Independent.  I believe we are a great fit for M&O competition and have been building a great relationship with the rest of the teams. We are incredibly grateful to have a home and all teams have been very gracious with welcoming us."

Representing the 18-0 conference champion Bulldogs was junior stalwart Shae Tonn.

"I am extremely happy for and proud of Shae," said Peshtigo Head Coach Pete Villas. "She has been a very vital part of the varsity team for three years and has continued to grow as a player and person. Early in the season, i told her I needed her to step up and take control of this team. I wanted her to look to score more and use the experience she had gained as a varsity player to help the other adjust to this level of basketball. She didn't blink an eye. She stepped up and committed herself to being a great team leader and team player."

She certainly did step up, for the Bulldogs Tonn recorded a nine points per game average while pulling down a 5 rebound per game average. She also led her team in assists with three a game.

"For me, she is like having a coach on the floor," said Villas. "She picks up on what opposing teams are doing and relays it back to me so we can adjust and be more successful as a team. She has put a lot of hard work in and its paying off for her. I am very excited to see what her senior year will bring for her. One thing I know for sure, she will give it her all and take on whatever role is asked of her to make the team successful."

Also joining the first team squad was Gillett's Taylor Yonker who like others on this years team still has another year on the prep court. She ended the season with 14.2ppg, 6.8 rebounds a game and 1.3 assists per game.

"Taylor was our team captain and was the biggest competitor on our team," said Gillett Head Coach Justin Daul. "She always strives for excellence for her team. She is an excellent student that is very studious of the game and a thrill to coach night in and night out. We're hoping that next year she will achieve a 14pt avg and help lead us to a conference title. A lot of individual career goals are within touch. Next year could be a very special year for Taylor and I'm very excited for her future."

Topping the list of second team selections was Gillett's Erin Balthazor who claimed this season defensive player of the year.

"Erin has been a 2yr team captain and the class valedictorian," said Daul. "She leaves us with over 70 career starts. She has been the face of our defense for the last three years! I'm super happy "E" won this award, four years ago she told me that was the biggest career goal for her. Entering UW-LaCrosse's medical program she has been the example of what we are trying to build here. An absolute friend of life and we will sorely miss her in the years to come."

Also joining Balthazor on the second team this year were Coleman's leading scorer Marinana Meissner. Claire Neumann bagged a second team election for her Bulldogs while Alexis Ranallo of Wausaukee was recognized for her efforts that helped propel the Rangers to a Sectional playoff game. Suring's Katie Stegeman was also noticed for her efforts on the Eagles squad.

Receiving honorable mentions were Taylor Bemis of Crivitz. Wausaukee's Courtney Messier, Kaelyn Schlies and Madelyn Schlies. STAA's Millie Benson. Lena's Ally Demmith and Brianna Sylvester. Oneida's Jashon Killspotted, Coleman's Ashlee Mayer, Gillett's Willow Pecha and Suring's Greta Sleeter.


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