Rambler girls’ crossover dominance preps team for playoff run

Olivia+gardner%2C+Sera+Speltz%2C+Megan+Morgan%2C+Allyssa+Williams%2C+Ava+Killian%2C+and+Sofia+Sandcork+at+a+basketball+practice+prior+to+playoffs

Amaiya Kauphusman

Olivia gardner, Sera Speltz, Megan Morgan, Allyssa Williams, Ava Killian, and Sofia Sandcork at a basketball practice prior to playoffs

5 v. 5 or 11 v. 11? For a current crop of Cotter athletes it doesn’t seem to matter, as long as they’re playing together, good things seem to happen for their teams.

Cotter girls soccer and basketball have been very successful the past few years. The top six players on the basketball team also were members of the soccer team that finished 3rd in State this year. They know each other well, know how each other play, and have been doing it together for years. As the basketball team heads into the MSHSL State playoffs this week as the #3 seed in their section, they hope to use their chemistry and experience to match or exceed their success in soccer.

Olivia Gardner is a senior forward on the basketball team and was the leading scorer on the soccer team and Minnesota’s Miss Soccer Class A this year She says that the group of girls are talented and they have such a strong connection that shows on the field or court. Gardner thinks that both basketball and soccer rely on everyone participating and having such a strong connection and translating that from soccer to basketball.

“I totally think playing both sports compliment each other. We all are able to transition easily from sport to sport, allowing us to apply our skills from one sport to the other. My goal for the end of the season is State,” Gardner said.

Sera Speltz is also an All-State soccer player who is a starting guard on the basketball team. “I think what is notable about our group is that we have similar goals for success and we all work very hard in both sports. We also have all played together for a very long time and have spent a lot of time together,” Speltz said.

She thinks soccer and basketball compliment each other in many ways with similar strategies of play of quick movement and passes. They both require great teamwork and accountability. Things she has learned in soccer have helped her in basketball and she has carried things from basketball into soccer.

“Playing multiples sports has also helped me to improve a larger variety of skills and movements than what I would get from just playing one. Playing together on different teams has helped with our success and improved our connection as a team,” Speltz added.

Megan Morgan is a captain in both soccer and basketball. She has played together with all Sera, Olivia, and junior Allyssa Williams since 5th grade, and with Sofia Sandcork since 9th grade,  and it shows in the court. This group was coached in grade school by Megan’s mom, Rita Miller, who taught them the  fundamentals and set us up for success at Cotter. They were incredibly successful at St. Stan’s, so they came to Cotter with a winning mentality. Everybody on the team knows their role and strives for great execution.

Both sports benefit each other in numerous ways. I do think playing on different teams has helped our progress because we are around each other and play with each other so much that we know everyone’s next move”

— Ava Killian

“Playing basketball makes me a better soccer player, and plying soccer makes me a better basketball player. Many of the movements are the same, such as defense, cutting, protecting the ball with your body, and explosive moves to attack,” Morgan said.

Perhaps this biggest crossover between the two team is they share a passion for success and simply know how to win. Success in both sports has fueled their motivation for their other sports. Morgan’s goal for the season is is to be conference champions and go to State of course.

Allyssa Williams is a great asset to both soccer and basketball.  “We all are extremely competitive and want to win, no matter what we’re doing. The two sports compliment each other because both of them have such a heavy reliance on the team aspect. If one person isn’t putting in their full effort, it shows. Playing on different teams definitely has assisted in our progress. We know how it feels to get to State, and we understand the amount of work that is required to get to that point.”

Ava Killian is a sophomore has become a key member of both teams. She believes that this group is special because they have such great chemistry with each other.

The Cotter soccer team is announced prior to the State semifinal at US Bank stadium in November, 2021 (Cathy Gardner)

“We have played together for so long and it has paid off. I think that soccer definitely helps with footwork in basketball and conditioning. Both sports benefit each other in numerous ways. I do think playing on different teams has helped our progress because we are around each other and play with each other so much that we know everyone’s next move,” Killian said.

Sofia Sandcork is a basketball captain along with Megan Morgan. She sees the keys to success being that everyone works really well together and all get along. “Both sports are team sports where we all work together. For me, soccer has really helped me get in shape for basketball. Playing on different teams has definitely played a role in our progress. Our relationships with each other grow every season, and year. We have learned more about each other as players, and know what strengths each other have and where we can help each other out. ”

Mr. Pat Bowlin is Cotter basketball coach. He is proud to coach these girls. Something notable about the girls is how well they pass to one another and the high level of understanding they have regarding where a teammate may move is extraordinary. They have been in a lot of big games together over the years and experienced success so they expect to win.

“This is possibly the best passing team I have coached and I believe the fact they have played soccer and basketball together for many years is definitely part of the reason. The sports certainly have many similarities, primarily being that you need to move without the ball and making the extra pass makes a good shot a great shot.

“A big part of playing with someone in multiple sports is you develop a caring culture so you want to win for not only yourself but your teammates. You also develop a trust that your teammate will do their job and you can focus on yours. My goal for the season is to get to the state tournament,” Bowlin stated.

I think any two sports compliment each other but basketball and soccer have an incredible relationship in that they compliment each other extremely well, but also uniquely strengthen the game and cross-train athletes in ways you may not think of”

— Marie Barrientos

Mrs. Marie Barrientos is the girls Cotter soccer coach. She thinks that the athletes share a will to not only win but prepare.  They want to compete against the best and show up to get the job done each and every day.  There is a love for each other and a love for competition that drives them. The two sports 100% compliment each other in many different ways.

“I think any two sports compliment each other but basketball and soccer have an incredible relationship in that they compliment each other extremely well, but also uniquely strengthen the game and cross-train athletes in ways you may not think of.  Basketball is a quick, intentional, reactionary based game that relies on athletes to learn to use their body in tight spaces to get to where they need to be and best allow them to get the ball.  If they don’t box out under the basket, someone else will put themselves between them and the ball, ball is lost and you are now defending.  You must learn to know where you are going before the holes are even there.  This translation to the soccer field is huge!  The ability to use your body as a shield, especially in tight spaces can mean the difference of getting a shot off or not.  It can mean defensively just kicking a ball out or setting yourself up to intentionally find a teammate down the field.  Soccer and basketball are both transition games.  Our soccer team does not defend out of fear of being scored on, we defend to attack which means as soon as we win a ball, our head is up and we go.  This translates to the basketball court and I think we wear other teams down.  They don’t get a chance to breathe.”

Different teams have helped them both to make progress. She thinks each of the girls has their strengths on and off the field and court.  They take different leadership roles within the sport but with so many of the movements in tight spaces being the same, their ability to read each other and hit spaces before they are open is purely from the hundreds of miles they have logged together in a gym and on the field.  It is a very unique bond they share with each other.

The basketball team and their coaches have one common goal to make it to State, and if they do, who knows, maybe they can finish the season with a win.  The girls first playoff game is at home vs. Triton on Thursday, February 24.