The Rock County Fury accomplished their goals during the 2018-19 season. Their postseason, however, was stopped short, leaving them hungrier to accomplish it all this winter.
The area high school girls hockey co-op team, based out of Beloit Memorial, won a second consecutive Badger Conference title for the second consecutive season, capturing it outright by beating the Cap City Cougars in the final game of the regular season.
The Fury then advanced to the sectional level of WIAA playoff competition, where a rematch with Cap City appeared likely with a trip to the state tournament on the line. Instead, a 4-3 loss to the Onalaska co-op ruined those plans.
We fell short last season of our goal to make it to state with a tough lost to Onalaska in the semifinals,” Fury head coach Luke Steurer said. “The girls have worked hard all summer to get ready for the season.”
The co-op includes Beloit Memorial, Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Beloit Turner, Albany, Brodhead, Clinton, Milton and Monroe, as well as Lena-Winslow and Orangeville in Illinois.
It returns a vast majority of the core of players, which should give it a chance to win a third straight conference title and contend for a spot at state. The season begins Saturday against Brookfield Glacier in the first of six straight road games to open the year.
The Fury return their top players both up front and at the back.
Their top line of senior Hailey Knauf and juniors Alyssa Knauf and Anika Einbeck accounted for 55 goals and 45 assists between the regular season and postseason.
Hailey Knauf and Einbeck are captains along with Janesville Craig senior Sara Nerad, who added eight goals and eight assists and senior Presley Kovacevich, who had two goals and five assists.
“We expect to have the same power up front with those forwards as last year, with incoming freshman Claudie Boehlke expected to climb into a big role with those top two lines,” Steurer said.
Steurer also said the Fury will look to employ a third line with more consistency, with Olivia Combs, Sara Edler and Kylie Evans returning after getting some minutes last year.
“They have really improved over the summer and will add more depth,” Steurer said.
Sophomore goalie Olivia Cronin went 13-9-2 last season with a 2.01 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
“She really took on a starting role as if she had been there before,” said Steurer, who said there are also three other goalies out for the team, including senior Brooke Teubert.
Defensively, the Fury will need to replace Cammi Ganshert, one of just two seniors from last year’s squad.
Sam Wells, Sara Loerke and Anna Malone return on the blue line.
“We will be looking for those girls to step into big leadership roles,” Steurer said. “We are trying a couple different girls out at the fourth position to step in.”
There is one new added wrinkle to this season.
Even if the Fury top the Cap City Cougars (Sun Prairie) and the Metro Lynx (Middleton) and their other Badger Conference foes, they will not need to go through them to get to the state tournament.
Rock County is now part of a sectional that includes teams from the Milwaukee area sectional come tournament time.
“We need to make sure we stay focused on one game at a time,” Steurer said. “Being the new team in a sectional, we will have a lot to prove and look forward to the challenge.”