Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria recognized its 2019 Senior Athletes of the Year, Leigh Steiner and Sawyer Schugel, at its annual Recognition Ceremony. The Senior Athlete of the Year Award recognizes a senior male and female athlete who exemplify leadership, character, and excellence; on the field of play, in the classroom, and in their communities. Before presenting the award, activities director Nick Tibesar stated: “The Class of 2019 is a tremendously talented and highly impressive group of individuals. The selection of just two seniors for the Athlete of the Year is incredibly challenging, and a testament to the depth of talent at HF.” He continues, “This class leaves behind a huge legacy of leadership, and for that we are extremely grateful.”
2019 Female Athlete of the Year
2019 HFCHS Senior Female Athlete of the Year Leigh Steiner (Eden Prairie resident) is three-year honor society member, academic cord recipient for seven semesters with a 3.5 GPA or higher, a member of the President’s Honor Roll, and an Academic All-State recipient. She holds nine athletic letters for basketball and lacrosse and is a three-time MVP and two-time team captain. Steiner contributed as a member of a conference championship basketball team, two section champions, and the 2019 MSHSL Class A Consolation Championship Team. She was a 2019 Ms. Basketball finalist and a member of the 2019 MSHSL All-Tournament team! Steiner is also a highly decorated lacrosse player, with an athletic scholarship to play D1 Lacrosse at Marquette University next fall.
2019 Male Athlete of the Year
Holy Family’s 2019 Male Athlete of the Year is soccer and hockey player Sawyer Schugel. Schugel (Victoria resident) is a seven-time letter winner, two-sport captain, and two-time MVP winner. He was a member of four conference championship teams and two section championship teams, serving as an integral leader on the Holy Family Boys Soccer team that made its first state appearance in school history this past fall!
As a junior, Schugel initiated the Holy Family Fishing Club, a competitive fishing club that competes in local competitions over the summer months, and qualified for the state tournament at Lake Pokegama in 2018. In addition to his athletic prowess, Schugel is also a talented musician and member of the percussion section of the school band. In recognition of his wide-ranging talents, Sawyer was awarded the MSHSL Triple A Award for Excellence in Arts, Academics, and Athletics. Schugel is also a recipient of a music scholarship to St. John’s University, where he will continue his music and soccer careers next fall.
To see additional recipients of academic awards, click on the link to our Recognition Day story: 2019 Recognition Day
Holy Family Fire Girls’ Basketball Burning for a State Championship
Having just finished the final exhausting drill, Fire Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Adrian Turner signaled practice was over. How did the players react? They broke out into a raucous round of clapping. It’s a daily celebration of the hard work the team put in that day and what’s to come tomorrow.
It’s one of many new traditions Turner has brought to the program in his first year at the helm. During a season filled with success, the celebration doesn’t end with practice.
The Fire, ranked No. 5 in Class 2A, is aiming for its first state championship in program history. The team has reason to be optimistic. They won a share of the Wright County Conference championship, a Holy Family girl’s basketball first.
“Coming in from Day 1, the talk was state. We’ve embraced it,” Turner says about the team that just finished the regular season 20-5. “We haven’t run from the expectation. We knew what we had coming back. We knew where the program has been the last couple of years. And it was like, ‘What are we going to do to get to that next level?’”
Picking Up the Pace
Hiring Turner was the first step to that goal. He replaced Head Coach Ellen Thompson, who cemented her place in Holy Family history when she took the team to the State Tournament in 2016. With the tradition of winning now established, Turner has brought a more up-tempo style of play.
“It definitely was a little tough at first because the style of play was a lot different,” says senior Julia Geurs, one of the team’s three captains. “I feel like our big thing last year was structure, structure, structure. This year we’ve tried to transition into more of a faster pace and getting up and down the floor as quick as we can.”
The result? Many more points in transition, in part sparked by an aggressive defense.
“Last year we focused on fundamental defense,” senior captain Grace Conroy recalls, “and with steals, it was more of, ‘You’ve got to be very confident that you’re going to get that steal.’ This year it’s always go for the steal, and that’s made the biggest difference.”
Having an experienced senior team doesn’t hurt, either. The Fire’s seniors have played together since eighth grade and the team has reached the section finals each of the last two seasons and the state tournament the year before that.
This season includes a perfect 12-0 mark at home and win streaks of eight and 12 games.
Amid all the winning, though, came two difficult stretches:
The Fire lost its first two games to open the season – against Hill-Murray and DeLaSalle, both which now rank in the top 10 of Class 3A.
January brought a tough stretch of consecutive conference losses at Hutchinson and New Prague. In that stretch, junior guard and key contributor Grace Elander broke her nose and missed the New Prague game.
Turner said the season-opening losses were eye-opening. He expedited implementing his system, which included an aggressive trap defense. The other side of it was learning more about his players’ skills and using those to exploit opponent weaknesses.
“I thought we’d have some more hard knocks,” Turner shares. “Really, the reason we’ve avoided them is that the girls are just really good at adjustments. And their leadership is outstanding.”
Building Future Leaders
Turner didn’t have to move far when he accepted the Holy Family head coach role. He was the assistant girls’ basketball coach at Chanhassen High School, where he was named the 2014 Section 2AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year.
When Turner learned about Holy Family’s Convocation, the daily student-led event where the entire school gathers in the gym, he was all in.
“That’s building strong leadership in these kids,” Turner says. “That’s something that I cherish and enjoy—being involved with people who are leaders. You can get a lot of things done with folks who know how to lead.”
That’s a trait Activities Director Nick Tibesar recognized in Turner as he interviewed for the position.
“It’s really important for us when we’re looking for people that they understand the balance between being a high school coach and the opportunity to have a transformational impact on young people’s lives,” Tibesar says. “It’s not just about winning games. It’s about changing lives and inspiring and empowering young people.”
Faith On Fire
Being a man of faith didn’t hurt Turner’s candidacy either. While playing baseball at Grambling State University, which is a public institution, Turner shared his coach-implemented chapel services, which helped bring his team together. That’s something he’s now implemented with the Fire.
“That’s been a fun thing for us,” Turner says of “Chapel,” which includes singing and scripture. “A lot of messages get introduced to the girls to try to set a tone going into our weekend or our next games.”
Tibesar says this team tradition is a “phenomenal” addition to the program.
“It’s no surprise when you go take those extra steps to build strong bonds between coaches and players and between players and players that it translates to positive results on the court,” says Tibesar.
Turner also impressed Tibesar by organizing an alumni night early in the season.
“It really helps to further the message to our kids that you’re not just here to help us win games right now,” Tibesar says. “It’s not just a four-year transactional relationship. We’re trying to build relationships for a lifetime, and we hope that you want to come back and cheer on the team and maybe even send your kids to Holy Family someday.”
And someday, Leigh Steiner hopes she can return to Holy Family, look up and see a 2019 girl’s basketball state championship banner hanging from the rafters.
“I feel like we knew we’d be really good this season,” says Steiner, a senior captain. “But the fact that it’s actually happening and that we’re ranked and we’re doing so well just kind of made us all realize that those dreams we had are coming true.”
Update: Holy Family Girls Basketball won the Section 5AA Championship, earning a trip to the MSHSL Class AA State Tournament. The team was defeated in the quarter final round and moved on to the Consolation Bracket. The girls defeated St. Peter in OT to move on to the Consolation Championship at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 14. A tweet by Coach Turners says it all, “One of our goals as a team was to never give up. We have met that goal every step of the way!”
About the Writer: Mike Nelson graduated from Holy Family in 2008. He is an editor and writer at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Since graduating from Marquette University with a degree in journalism, he has also written for Bleacher Report, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com. Nelson lives in Burnsville with his wife, Kim.
Holy Family hires Chanhassen Assistant Coach to lead the Fire Girls Basketball Program
Holy Family Catholic High School Activities Office is pleased to announce the hiring of Adrian Turner as the school’s new head girls basketball coach.
Coach Turner has been an integral member of the girls basketball coaching staff at Chanhassen High School since he joined in 2012, and he was named the Section 2AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014. His duties at Chanhassen also include working full time in academic support and coaching baseball.
Prior to coming to Chanhassen, Turner earned his bachelor’s degree from Grambling State University, where he was a highly decorated 4-year scholarship athlete on the university’s baseball team, being named captain twice and earning South Western Athletic Conference Tournament MVP on the way to leading his team to a conference championship in 2010.
Holy Family Activities Director Nick Tibesar is thrilled to bring in such a strong leader, experienced coach, and man of character to lead the Fire Girls Basketball program into the future. “We were wowed by Turner’s commitment to leading through service, his leadership capacity, and his passion for helping young people achieve their goals and dreams. He is an effective communicator, a student of the game, and an experienced and well-connected coach in the area. Holy Family is excited to welcome Coach Turner into our community to lead the Fire Girls Basketball program into the future.”
Turner officially begins his work at Holy Family on June 18 with an open meeting for parents and players at 3pm in the Holy Family Performance Center, and with summer skills programs and Holy Family’s youth basketball camp starting on June 25th.