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Girls' basketball loses sixth in a row

Things were looking good for the West Fargo girls' basketball team after starting the season early last month with a pair of wins.

Things have definitely changed since then; the Packers are now in the midst of a six-game win streak. One of the games, a one-point loss to Grand Forks Red River, was close, while most of the others haven't been. The Packers, now tied for last place in the conference, lost at home to Devils Lake 65-57 on Saturday to drop to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the EDC.

"We deal with it. We know it's something that's just minor. We've missed free throws and gone on a couple dry spells throughout the game at the wrong times," said coach Lynette Mund. "If we start making some free throws and make some of those clutch shots, it'll be a different outcome."

Although a deep and very balanced team, the Packers have been plagued most of the season by not having a serious offensive threat that can be relied upon during pressure moments. Mund sees potential in junior Blake Selisker who scored a career-high 18 points against the Firebirds, the highest scoring effort of any Packer this season.

"She's looking more and more like that (scoring threat)," said Mund. "She's really taking the ball to the hole strong. She's taking three pointers too and getting more and more consistent there."

For her part, Selisker said the losing streak isn't a big deal to the team right now - she says West Fargo will snap out of it soon.

"We know we haven't won," said Selisker. "We've played some real tough teams. I think we know we're going to come around and start winning."

Perhaps the Packers can snap the six-game losing streak against winless Valley City, a 0-7 team. The Hi-Liners are ahead of West Fargo in the standings, because they've played only one EDC game. The road game is worth two conference points for the Packers since it's the only time the teams will face one another during the regular season.

Tough puck schedule

Could the season be going better for the Packer boys' hockey team? You betcha, but don't believe those associated with the team are thinking there's nothing left to play for.

"We're still trying to have fun, especially the seniors, because this is our last year and everything," said Kyler Eid. "I think we know how our team works and how we're playing, and we think we're playing well."

Yes, the Packers are 0-9-1, and, yes, the team was expected to have a rough season given its inexperience. These guys don't seem to be dwelling on their record. Right now they're just happy that they've been playing solid hockey lately - as their 5-3 loss to Fargo South attests.

The Packers were outscored 24-4 in their first four games of the season and have been outscored 20-12 in their last five. Clearly the offense is coming around and the defense is tightening things up a bit.

"We've played pretty well in the last five or six games that we've played," said coach Ross Richards. "We've put ourselves in a position in each of those last games to win. We've had relatively close games in the third period."

When a team isn't winning, the players have to find ways to stay motivated. Right now the Packers are hoping the second half of the season plays out a bit different than the first.

"From our team perspective, we're pretty happy right now," said Eid. "We just have to keep going with it. We're looking forward right now to the second games against these teams to get another shot at it."

Richards partly attributes a lack of skill on special teams for the team's lack of victories, saying it's pretty clear the Packers aren't a highly-skilled team when they're on the power play or on penalty kill. It's often the third period when Packers find themselves in the penalty box.

"I think we're a team where it's better when we're playing five-on-five type hockey. We're a much stronger team then," said Richards.

The Packers aren't playing Mandan or relishing the chance to play several games against teams like Wahpeton or Fargo Shanley. Instead they're playing stronger teams like Bismarck or Mankato West, for example. It doesn't lead to more wins, but it does help the players prepare for teams like Grafton Park River and Grand Forks Red River, who dominate the EDC most years.

"Like I told the kids yesterday, we may be the best 0-9-1 team that North Dakota has ever seen," said Richards. "I know we're a better team than what our record shows. We've had a pretty tough schedule so far. Our scheduling is something that we've made more difficult over the years. This year it's something that's biting us a little bit."

Swimmers mix it up

Don't use the regular swimming season to try to gauge how a team is going to do in post season meets like, say, EDC or state. It won't work, especially for a team coached by Marsha Dahl.

The Packers boys' swimming coach often rotates swimmers into off events to mix up their training and get a feel for her team's depth and versatility. Such was the case in the team's last two competitions - last weeks' dual win over Mandan and a fifth place finish at Fargo North's Manley Memorial Invite.

"We move kids around to give them a chance to do something different," said Dahl.

The Packers were also without three of their top swimmers. Sophomores Jared Sykora and Jacob Weible were sick last week, while sophomore Cody Smith was out with an injured shoulder.

"Mandan has always had a tough team, so swimming with them and beating them and missing three of our key swimmers was a huge accomplishment for us," said senior Alex Windjue.

Dahl said she's happy the holidays are over, because it gives her swimmers a little more consistency to their training. The coach and members of the team are holding true to their goal to become EDC champions. Windjue said the young team needs to mesh a little more before the Packers can reach their potential.

"We're working toward it now," he said. "Once we get that team spirit up, I see us being a powerhouse at state."

"We're still working to find our magic at the end of the season," said Dahl. "We can start getting down to business now."

Two more hockey wins

The Packer girls' hockey team showed no signs of slowing down last week with two more shutout victories on the road. West Fargo beat Hazen-Beulah 4-0 before defeating Devils Lake 7-0 to up its record to an impressive 8-2 and move into third place in the state standings.

Freshman scoring sensation Kacie Johnson is now in eighth place in scoring in the state with 20 points (13 goals, 7 assists). Fellow freshmen Kaylee Lothspeich and Katlyn Springer are second on the team with nine points each. Senior goaltender Alison Sund remains perfect on the season with a 4-0 mark.

Schiller wins big

The West Fargo wrestling team had a very strong showing at the prestigious Bismarck Rotary tournament, finishing fourth among 25 teams.

Sophomore Scott Schiller, Packer Wrap's Packer of the Week, came up big for the Packers with a tournament title at 171 pounds. Junior Austin Cassezza finished second at 125, while senior Dusty Holmes took fourth at 140.