09 Nov Lourdes’ Birch ready for the college step
It’s then that she’ll sign on the dotted line, becoming just the second Rochester Lourdes girl since 2005 to pledge to a Division I school in women’s soccer. Chelsey Turner (University of Minnesota) is the other.
The 5-foot-8, fast, strong and skilled Birch is bound for Nebraska-Omaha.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Birch, an All-State player the last two years and the daughter of former Rochester John Marshall boys soccer coach Tony Birch. “It feels good to be making it official.”
OTHER PAT RUFF STORIES:
• High School Football Focus: Playoffs have been wild and woolly; state is next
• Lourdes’ Groven is Coach of the Year
In choosing Nebraska-Omaha, Birch — a defensive player for Lourdes — is joining a program that’s on the rise. After a series of losing seasons, the Mavericks were 9-8-2 this past year (6-3-0 in the Summit League) and 8-5-5 the year before that (8-4-4 Summit).
Lourdes longtime coach Sarah Groven believes her senior star will be an ideal fit for Nebraska-Omaha.
“She’ll be terrific at Omaha,” Groven said. “She is such a smart player, and she has a great soccer sense. Lindsey knows where to be and when to be there. She can command an entire field from the backfield.”
Athletically, she is one of the best players that Groven has ever coached. Her mix of size, strength, speed and agility has made her special. Also decidedly in her favor is her aggression and fearlessness. When an opposing player was bearing down on the Eagles’ defense with the ball, Birch went into attack mode.
“Lindsey is not afraid to go after the ball,” Groven said. “She is not afraid to line herself up to stop shots. She has that attacking mentality.”
And judging by her statistics, it’s remarkable that she is listed as a sweeper, which is the last line of defense, just in front of the goalie. Despite that, Birch had 11 goals this season. Most of those were off of corner kicks, with Birch using her height and strength to leap up for those offerings and then head the ball into the net.
Birch can do it all on a soccer field and has invested so much of herself into making that happen. There have been almost daily trips to the Twin Cities the last bunch of years for club soccer practices and training when the high school season isn’t in session. And she even transformed a room in the Birch basement into one used solely for soccer training.
She’s been “all in” forever. Now it’s time to take it to the next level, playing Division I soccer for Nebraska-Omaha.
She’s sure ready for more.
“There is still so much for me to work on, my first touch, my speed of play and my fitness,” Birch said. “I want to work on all of that so I can help my team out.”
Wednesday will be a big day at Rochester John Marshall, with not one, but two girls basketball players signing Division I scholarships.
They are 6-foot-2 center/forward Lilly Meister and 5-11 guard Katie Hurt. Meister is headed to Big Ten women’s basketball power Indiana, while Hurt will attend Lehigh in Pennsylvania.
Meister verbally committed to Indiana last November, while Hurt said yes to Lehigh in December. Meister averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds last season, and like Hurt, has been playing varsity basketball since she was in eighth grade.
This marks a clean sweep for the Hurt family. All three of the children of Richard and Jenny Hurt will have played Division I basketball, Michael at Minnesota and Matthew at Duke.
• Pine Island also has a big signing day on Wednesday, with two athletes going to Division I schools.
Pine Island’s Jarod White, who set a state meet record in winning the pole vault last spring, is signing with North Dakota State University on Wednesday. Post Bulletin contributed file photo / Jerry Olson
Jarod White, one of the top pole vaulters ever in Minnesota, is signing at North Dakota State for track and field. Golfer Anders Larson is signing with Tennessee Tech.
White established a state-meet record last spring by clearing 15 feet, 9 inches after sailing a personal-best 16 feet in the Section 1A meet.
• One of southeastern Minnesota’s all-time best baseball players is staying local, as Hayfield’s Easton Fritcher is signing with Minnesota on Wednesday.
Hayfield’s Easton Fritcher delivers a pitch during a Class A state championship game against New York Mills on June 18. Fritcher is signing on Wednesday with the University of Minnesota. Post Bulletin file photo / Traci Westcott
Fritcher, a pitcher/outfielder, verbally committed to the Gophers in July. He batted .543 this past spring with eight home runs, and struck out 90 batters in 49 innings en route to guiding his team to an undefeated season and a state championship.
• It was quite a battle to lure Eli King’s services. In the end, it was Iowa State that landed the all-around Caledonia sports star. King, who was also considered a major Division I football talent as a wide receiver in football, will play basketball for the Cyclones. The 6-foot-3, high-flying youngest of three King brothers, will sign with Iowa State on Wednesday.
• Kasson-Mantorville has turned into a Division I factory. K-M is waiting until Monday to do it, but will then have three athletes signing with Division I schools. Wrestlers Bennett Berge and Kail Wynia are both bound for South Dakota State, while volleyball player Maddie Converse is headed to Campbell (N.C.).
Kasson-Mantorville’s Bennett Berge celebrates winning the 170-pound Class AA championship match against Simley’s Gavin Nelson on Feb. 29, 2020, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Berge will be signing with South Dakota State University. Post Bulletin file photo / Andrew Link
Berge, a 182-pound four-time state champion, was one of the country’s most highly recruited wrestlers. He also had offers from powers Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin, among others. In picking South Dakota State, he’ll join older brother Brady Berge who is a first-year assistant at SDSU, in Brookings.
Wynia went 27-3 at 170 pounds last year and landed third at state. Converse is one of the state’s top setters and has led her team to the state tournament.
Here is a list of southeastern Minnesota athletes who are expected to sign with colleges on Wednesday, as well as others who will sign next week:
WHERE THEY’RE HEADED
Note: Football early signing day is Dec. 15. There is a second football signing day on Feb. 2.
Caledonia: Eli King, Iowa State, basketball; Thane Meiners, Upper Iowa, baseball; Grace Myhre, Viterbo, Sadie Treptow, Viterbo, volleyball; volleyball; Brandon Ross, St. Cloud State, wrestling. Chatfield: Zayda Priebe, Bemidji State, volleyball. Century: Addison Clarey, Minnesota State, Mankato, soccer Jaden Wysocki, Minot State, basketball. Hayfield: Easton Fritcher, Minnesota, baseball. John Marshall: Lilly Meister, Indiana, basketball; Katie Hurt, Lehigh, basketball. Kasson-Mantorville: Bennett Berge, South Dakota State, wrestling; Kail Wynia, South Dakota State, wrestling; Logan Vaughan, St. Cloud State, wrestling; Maddie Converse, Campbell (N.C.), volleyball. Kenyon-Wanamingo: Leah Berg, Gustavus, volleyball. Lanesboro: Brielle Ruen, South Dakota State, track and field. Lake City: Natalie Bremer, Minnesota State, Mankato, basketball; Ava Brunn, South Dakota School of Mines, volleyball. Lewiston-Altura: Anna Hennessy, Winona State, volleyball; Thomas Menk, St. John’s (Minn.), basketball. Lourdes: Lindsey Birch, Nebraska-Omaha, soccer; Caroline Adamson, Augustana (S.D.), basketball; Joe Sperry, South Carolina Lancaster, baseball; Sam Schneider, Gustavus, baseball. Pine Island: Anders Larson, Tennessee Tech, golf; Jarod White, North Dakota State, track and field; Brooklyn Radtke, Wisconsin-La Crosse, track and field. Stewartville: Alllison Elliott, Fairfield (Conn.), volleyball; Chase Neubauer, Saint Mary’s (Minn.), baseball. Winona Cotter: Sera Speltz, Northern State, soccer; Olivia Gardner, University of Mary (N.D.), soccer.
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