Ryan Schlehuber “Scoop”

Spark Plug POY new

Daily News fall sports Spark Plug Players of the Year

Recognizing our local “spark plug” players from our fall sports season.

Tri County’s Austn Nagelhout (24) attempts to dribble past Central Montcalm’s Zachary Bigelow (3) as Vikings guard Justin Kirkwood (11) looks on during the first half of Friday’s game, which Central Montcalm pulled out a close 56-54 win for its first league win of the season.

Central Montcalm boys survive last-second Vikings shots

With less than five seconds play, the Tri County Vikings had two great chances to steal a win on the road. Instead, both shot attempts bounced off the rim as time ran out, giving the Central Montcalm boys basketball team a thrilling 56-54 win in its first Central State Activities Association (CSAA) game Friday.

Central Montcalm’s Bree Brasington (10) gets a rebound and gets ready to put up a shot as Tri County’s Tricia Slavins lurks behind her in the second half of Friday’s game, which Central Montcalm won 48-46. (Daily News | Ryan Schlehuber)

Central Montcalm girls edge out Vikings 48-46

Ashley Bowen knew it would be a close battle to the end when her Tri County Vikings basketball team came into the Hornets’ nest of Central Montcalm. With 3.2 seconds left in the game and the Vikings down by two, Bowen, a senior, tried to get open for the game-winning three-pointer. But Central Montcalm’s defense forced a shot from teammate Jenna DeGeer, which bounced off the backboard and rim, giving the Hornets a 48-46 win at home Friday.

Second-year Montabella Mustangs boys basketball coach Jared Simon directs his players during practice Thursday. With only two varsity-experienced players returning from last year’s squad, Simon’s team this year is expected to have some rough learning curves, but Simon is excited to see the progress the team will make throughout the year. (Daily News | Ryan Schlehuber)

Montabella’s boys basketball team is ‘entirely different’ look from last year’s squad

With only two seniors returning from last year’s team, Montabella boys basketball coach Jared Simon has had to hit the reset button for this year’s team. In his second year as the Mustangs coach, Simon returns only two players with varsity experience, which even they don’t have much experience.

Tri County sophomore Summer Longstreet earned her personal record time of 19:45.8 at regionals this year. (File photo)

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Summer Longstreet, Tri County

As only a sophomore, Summer Longstreet is making her mark in Tri County’s cross country sport. Having already set a new school record for fastest ninth and 10th grade female 5K runner, Longstreet’s expectations for the next few years may not have a ceiling.

Montabella senior guard Madi Cutler fights for  a rebound in the paint during the Mustangs’ first game of the season at home against Merrill Friday. Pictured are teammates Lauryn Wisner (44), senior Lexi McQueen (middle) and Hanna Stockwell (3). The Mustangs lost 43-22. (Daily News | Ryan Schlehuber)

Grittiness couldn’t overcome turnovers for Mustangs

The fire was there, the scrappiness and shot opportunities were, too. But the Montabella Mustangs couldn’t overcome the turnovers and bad bounces in the girls basketball team’s season-opening game Friday. The Mustangs, opening their new season at home, lost 43-22 to the Merrill Vandals, one of the newest members or the Mid-State Activities Conference (MSAC).

Tri County senior cross country runner Aaron Jason established himself at “fastest Viking ever” at regionals this year, breaking the school 5K record. (Courtesy photo)

BOYS CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Aaron Jason, Tri County

Aaron Jason’s game plan was to hold back at first when he began his race in the boys cross country regionals earlier this year. As it turned out, his “holding back” didn’t pan out and, instead, he ended up with a new personal record and a new school record, earning him the phrase, “fasted Viking ever.

Tri County junior Julia Bice was the team’s No. 1 golfer all season, qualifying individually for the Division 3 state finals.  (File photo)

GOLFER OF THE YEAR: Julia Bice, Tri County

Three years ago, Julia Bice wasn’t sure how good she was at golf, or even if she liked the sport enough to keep at it. This season, the Tri County junior realized her potential and how much fun she had, reaching the Div. 3 state finals as an individual qualifier.

Mikayla Linebaugh, right, The Daily News Volleyball Coach of the Year, once again led her Belding Redskins team to a district title with wins over Ithaca and Chippewa Hills. The team finished the season 24-10-2 overall. (File photo)

VOLLEYBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Mikayla Linebaugh, Belding

In the 18 years Belding girls volleyball coach Mikayla Linebaugh has been coaching, a bar of expectation had been raised to a point to where winning a district title is always the goal, even in a year when it looks as though the team is rebuilding. As it turns out, the Redskins were able to retool. Belding finished with a 24-10-2 record and another district title, reaching the regionals yet again.

Senior Kenzie Rutz led the Central Montcalm volleyball team to a 33-9-5 record this year. (Daily News | Ryan Schlehuber)

VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kenzie Rutz, Central Montcalm

Kenzie Rutz’s all-around statistics with this year’s Central Montcalm volleyball team alone qualifies her as the Daily News Player of the Year, but it’s what she has done beyond statistics that really spell her worthiness.