When the Northwestern Tigers girls basketball team had to take a two-week break because of COVID-19 in the middle of an already shortened season, sophomore point guard Tieryn Plasch organized virtual workouts.
“Our big thing with it was trying to stay connected as a team, because when someone gets COVID and the whole team has to shut down, we don’t want anyone to feel blame for it,” she said.
So they got together virtually and did ball-handling drills. They talked. They looked ahead to the opponents they would face after their quarantine ended.
Looking back on that forced respite, Plasch, the Superior Telegram’s 2021 Girls Basketball Player of the Year, said she thinks it helped light a fire that helped the team claim its second straight regional championship.
“Coming back we were like ‘This could be over,’ so we all came in with the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ approach — not wanting to lose — and we were more connected because we had to be home for two weeks straight with nothing to do,” she said.
Plasch's aggressive, intense style of play factored in, as well. She led the Tigers in scoring with 19.8 points per game; in assists with 5.3; in steals with 4.0; and in 3-point shooting percentage at 41%. She was second on the team in rebounds per game with 5.6.
Her play earned her the Heart O’ North Conference’s Player of the Year honor, as well as first-team all conference.
And she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.
When she found out she was the HON’s Player of the Year, Plasch said she was a bit shocked. St. Croix Falls joined the conference this year, adding more talented players to the mix.
“I’m so grateful, but at the same time, it just means I have to work even harder to get it back-to-back,” she said.
What sets Plasch apart from other players? Her work ethic and her leadership skills, said Northwestern coach Paul Eberhardt. He also credited her parents for supporting her, particularly when it comes to driving her to AAU practice and tournaments.
“In 20-plus years of coaching, including a number of years coaching collegiately, she’s the hardest-working player I’ve ever coached,” Eberhardt said.
Her leadership style is a mix of leading by example and being vocal with her teammates. By putting in the work, Plasch is able to motivate her teammates to do the same, Eberhardt said.
The Tigers lost six seniors to graduation last year, one of whom was Plasch’s older sister. Plasch wasn’t a vocal leader on that team as a freshman, Eberhardt said, but she and senior Allison Luoma stepped in to fill the void left by the 2020 Tiger seniors.
Plasch remembered how those seniors worked together to lead the team, and she sought their advice on how to step into a more prominent leadership role.
“Coming into it, they just told me to be nice and not be rude while leading because there’s a difference between being a leader and being someone that yells at you when you do things wrong,” she said.
Plasch plans to continue playing aggressively, but hopes to do so without committing as many fouls. She also plans to improve on handling the ball with her left hand and growing as a leader.
For her team, she hopes they can build on the postseason run they had this year and leave a mark.
“No one really knows our name, so just to keep on making history as a team and keep on leaving an impact,” she said.
2021 Telegram Team
The youth movement that started last year ramped up with the 2021 Superior Telegram All-Area Girls Basketball Team.
The 2021 incarnation has one senior, five sophomores and two freshmen compared to six seniors and four freshmen in 2020.
Four of the players — all sophomores — are back-to-back selections: Northwestern's Tieryn Plasch; Superior's Emma Raye and Savannah Leopold; and Solon Springs' Kyra Latvala.
New to the crew are senior Allison Luoma and sophomore Brynn Erickson of Northwestern; and freshmen Kloe Zentkowski and Eva Peterson of Superior.
Superior Telegram Girls Basketball Players of the Year
2021 — Tieryn Plasch, So., Northwestern
2020 — Karsyn Jones, Sr., Northwestern
2019 — Morgan Anderson, Sr., Solon Springs
2018 — Katie Lundeen, Sr., Northwestern
2017 — Katie Lundeen, Jr., Northwestern
2016 — Mackenzie Kmecik, Sr., Superior
2015 — Megan Gustafson, Sr., South Shore
2014 — Jessica Lindstrom, Sr., Superior
2013 — Jessica Lindstrom, Jr., Superior
2012 — Jessica Lindstrom, So., Superior
2011 — Jessica Lindstrom, Fr., and Hailey Kontny, Fr., Superior
2010 — Annie Block, Jr., Northwood
2009 — Ashlee Blegen, Sr., Northwood
2008 — Gretchen Grube, Sr., Northwestern
2007 — Lindsey Lindstrom, Sr., Superior
2006 — Lindsey Lindstrom, Jr., Superior
2005 — Lindsey Lindstrom, So., Superior
2004 — Jolene Anderson, Sr., South Shore
2003 — Nancy McConkey, Sr., Maranatha
2002 — Katie Moench, Sr., Maranatha