AMHERST — The Amherst Broncos took a step forward last year, reaching the Class C2 state tournament semifinals for the first time after a pair of first-round losses in the years before.
With a roster dominated by seniors, and getting reclassified from C2 to D1, the Broncos have their eyes on bigger things.
“The seniors are excited to finish their careers with four consecutive trips to State while knowing it will take hard work and focus,” said coach Jonie Fader, who is entering her fifth year at the head of the program. “
Amherst returns five starters from last year’s 27-8 squad, including middle blocker Hannah Herrick (5-8, Sr.), outside hitters Saryn Prickett (5-8, Sr.) and Grace John (5-6, Sr.) and back-row players Josee Tesmer (5-4, Sr.) and Josie Loshonkohl (5-4, Sr.).
Other returning letterwinners are seniors Kaylin Killin (5-2, DS), Breanna Bosshamer (5-10, RS), Destiny Bartels (5-9, RS) and Aubrey Lambertus (5-6, RS); and juniors Lucy Van Rankin (5-7, RS) and Keelie Hagan (5-7, RS)
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Amherst opens the season Aug. 24 in a triangular against Ansley/Litchfield and Elm Creek.
The Broncos came on strong in the second half of last season, making them a team no one wanted to play in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, when the NSAA added up the final playoff points, everyone else got lucky. Amherst, 5-4, finished 17th in the Class C2 playoff point standings where the top 16 qualify for the playoffs.
That makes qualifying for the playoffs the No. 1 priority for this season.
“We return a lot of experience on both sides of the ball and will have good leadership from our senior class,” fifth-year Amherst head coach Faron Klingelhoefer said.
The Broncos return eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense, led by senior Tayje Hadwiger (6-4, 190), who Klingelhoefer describes as a “ball hawk.”
He intercepted five passes last year from his safety position. On offense, he caught 22 passes, three for touchdowns, from his wide receiver position. He also played some quarterback.
Also back on offense are running backs Jesse Tesmer (5-11, 205, Sr.) and Ben McGee (6-0, 195, Sr.), tight end Carter Riessland (6-4, 185, Sr.), wide receiver Owen Stokebrand (6-1, 180, Sr.) and linemen Wyatt Anderson (6-4, 240, Sr.), Kale Taubenheim (5-10, 195, Sr.) and Cope Smith (6-1, 205, So.).
Riessland, Anderson and Smith also started on the defensive line last year, as did Tucker Stubbs (6-1, 230, Jr.). Taubenheim, Tester and McGee started at linebacker. And Stokebrand played defensive back.
“We will have playmakers in all three phases of the game and that, with a balanced attack, should help us win some ball games,” Klingelhoefer said.
Amherst opens the season Aug. 25 at home against Wood River.
The Amherst cross country teams are banking on experience, hoping that will lead to better things.
The Broncos have “lots of seniors bringing talent and experience with them,’ said coach Tessa Dobesh, who is in her 11th season. “We’re hoping to be competitive as a team, both girls and boys.”
Returning letterwinners for the girls are Lilly Wozniak, Olivia Bondel and Adalyn Skrdla. Wozniak and Bandel are senior while Skrdla lettered last year as a freshman.
Returning lettermen for the boys team are seniors Kurt Klingelhoefer, Gavin Skrdla, Kobe Jones and Joel Christensen.