Hendrickson guides USC’s historic year

Published 11:48 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

United South Central coach Stu Hendrickson, above, talks with his players against NRHEG earlier this season. -- Andrew Dyrdal

2011 Tribune Coach of the Year

WELLS — United South Central girls’ basketball coach Stu Hendrickson won’t take much credit for his team’s historic season.

In his third year as the team’s head coach, Hendrickson led the Rebels to the program’s first Gopher Conference championship. The Rebels also won a school-record 21 games and won their first postseason game in six years.

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Under Hendrickson, the team’s win total has increased each year, from 14, to 16 to 21, but so did the talent, he said.

“You don’t have a successful season as a coach without your players,” Henrickson said. “The 13 girls on the team deserve the award more than I do.”

Going into the season, Hendrickson said he was confident his team could contend for a conference championship, but after starting 5-5, including three straight losses at the St. Clair tournament, he began to doubt his coaching.

“When you’re 5-5 you tend to second guess yourself,” Hendrickson said. “But my team taught me to keep the faith.”

Hendrickson said the team’s motto is “Believe in yourself, believe in your teammates, believe in your coaches.” Hendrickson looked to that motto after the team’s slow start.

“We talk about believing in yourself,” he said. “When I tried to figure out what we needed to change I decided there was nothing we needed to change. I learned patience and sticking with the plan.”

That patience paid off and on Jan. 4 the Rebels began winning — a lot.

Sitting and 0-1 in the Gopher Conference, a loss to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in the conference opener on Dec. 17, the Rebels won at Blooming Prairie 40-35 to even their record. That win turned into seven straight before the Rebels ran into NRHEG for a second time at home on Jan. 27.

One game behind NRHEG in the conference standings, the Rebels needed to win and then win out for a realistic shot at the conference title. NRHEG came into the game undefeated in the conference and 15-2 overall but the Rebels won in overtime, thanks to a dominating performance from Val Sahr and the late-game heroics of Katie Ovrebo, and extended their winning streak to eight.

“Walking into the locker room before the game there was a different feel,” Hendrickson said, of the NRHEG game. “They knew they could beat them, they knew they had their work cut out for them and they came to play.”

The Rebels didn’t relent and won the following night convincingly over Randolph and finished the season on a 15-game conference winning streak, just good enough for a co-conference championship.

“The conference championship meant a lot because we had to play 16 games to get to that point,” Hendrickson said. “You have to stay healthy and a lot of things have to go your way.”

Hendrickson said the team’s biggest season-long accomplishments was finishing fourth in Class AA in scoring defense at 37.8 points per game.

“The number of wins we’ve built is mainly because we can stop teams from scoring,” Hendrickson said. “We’ve gotten better at defense every year.”

Hendrickson said the two main coaching decisions he made this season were having Rachel Mattick defend the opposing team’s best guard and giving sophomore center Amanda Allis more playing time after the 5-5 start.

Hendrickson has a 40-8 career Gopher Conference coaching record at USC.

Tribune Coach of the Year

2010-11: Stu Hendrickson, USC

2009-10: Daryl Love, Northwood-Kensett

2008-09: Mindy Sparby, NRHEG

2007-08: Daryl Love, Northwood-Kensett

2006-7: Mindy Sparby, NRHEG

2005-06: Mindy Sparby, NRHEG

2004-05: Mindy Sparby, NRHEG

2003-04: Mindy Sparby, NRHEG

2002-03: Dale Koestler, USC

2001-02: Dale Koestler, USC