When made aware of the St. Cloud Apollo girls basketball opening, Jill Lipp and Steve Wagner entertained the notion of being co-coaches.
Wagner thought it would work well.
The two wound up as co-coaches after Wagner prodded her, Lipp said.
“We’re pretty similiar (in coaching style),” Wagner said. “Jill and I are very similar in our thoughts.”
Defense comes first and will be the Eagles’ mainstay. Offense has to be solid and based on fundamentals, not flashy.
“And we’re not going to be out-hustled on the court,” Wagner said.
“Never,” Lipp chimed in.
Lipp and Wagner conducted their first official practice Monday at Apollo. It was the first day of practice for girls basketball throughout the state. (The boys began last week).
The two replace Nic Peterson, whose contract was not renewed. They welcomed 32 players, which was more than last season and were encouraged by their new team’s enthusiasm.
Apollo was 4-12 in the Central Lakes Conference and 6-17 overall last season. Most of that team has graduated, including all-conference performer Abby Notch.
Lipp and Wagner are part of a CLC that features new girls basketball coaches at Sauk Rapids (Joey Waters) and Rocori (Dave Sorensen).
“It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out in the conference this year,” Tech head coach Sascha Hansen said.
Both Lipp and Wagner have long associations with north side students.
Lipp has spent a good chunk of her 18 years in the St. Cloud school district coaching girls basketball at North Junior High School.
“Actually, I’ve done just about every type of coaching you can imagine,” she said.
Lipp is from Linton, N.D. She ran track at the University of Wisconsin on a scholarship. She was a head girls basketball coach for two years in North Dakota at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation before landing a job at North. She also has worked at Madison Elementary School in St. Cloud and is teaching physical education at Apollo this year.
Because of her work at North, she is familiar with the athletes.
“I’ve basically coached almost all of them,” she said.
Wagner is from Webster, S.D., and is in his eighth year teaching in the district. He works in the alternative education program at Apollo.
He played football at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., and came to the area as a graduate assistant football coach at St. Cloud State during the Randy Hedberg era. (Current Huskies assistants Jim Louis and Doug Patterson were also on the staff).
He has been on the Sauk Rapids football staff the past seven years and also has helped coach track and field for the Storm for three years.
Apollo has a handful of players back: Morgan Tesch, Brooke Benner and Mary Thuok among them.
Both coaches are excited about getting going. But they’ll have to be patient for the Eagles get their home unveiling.
Apollo opens at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Zimmerman, then plays Dec. 6 at Delano before opening conference play Dec. 12 at Sartell.
The Eagles’ home-opener is Dec. 17 against Fergus Falls. Fergus Falls will be the CLC favorite. Wagner and Lipp said a key in developing a program that has struggled in recent years will be retaining more players produced in the junior high program.
“We need to build the feeder program,” Lipp said.
Tech coach resigns
Eric Olson has resigned as St. Cloud Tech head girls soccer coach. He led the Tigers to a 5-8-3 record this fall.
“Seventeen years is enough,” Olson said. “I’ve had enough.”
Olson has two children, ages 8 and 10, and would like to spend more time with them. He’s not employed in the St. Cloud school district and thinks change would be good for the program.
“It’s been fun over the years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it.
“But the things I’ve enjoyed I’m not enjoying as much. And the things I dislike about coaching, like doing administrative stuff, I dislike even more.”
New coach at CHS
John Pepper, who coached St. Cloud Cathedral’s boys soccer program for 14 seasons, is enthused about Matt Zimmerman taking over as head coach.
Pepper won’t be back after leading the Crusaders to an 11-3-3 season this fall.
“I’m pleased that Zimmy’s taking over,” Pepper said. “He’s a Cathedral graduate who was on the first (boys soccer) team. His heart is all wrapped up in it and he’s definitely a Cathedral guy.
“I think he’ll do a good job.”