Alexandria girls basketball coaches Wendy Kohler and Julie Wrobel had already wrapped up Section 8AAA Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Cardinals to a section title.
On Tuesday, they added Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association state coach of the year honors to their résumés. Kohler was named the Class AAA Head Coach of the Year, while Wrobel was named the Assistant Coach of the Year at the AAA level.
"We never scored a point all season, but I just feel honored and really humbled because this group was so committed and so invested," Kohler said. "Just like all our groups have been in the past, but this group was so invested with all the different tweaks and changes we had to make to keep going toward our common goal. It was a lot of teamwork that went into that award. It wasn't anything that just I did or Julie did."
The Cardinals finished their season 26-6 overall, with Central Lakes Conference and Section 8AAA titles and a fourth-place finish at state. That's despite losing one of their best players in 1,000-point scorer Macy Hatlestad to a knee injury for more than half the season, including the entire playoffs. The way the rest of this team responded to Hatlestad's injury is what impressed Kohler so much about this group.
"We had to move kids to different positions," she said. "(Senior) Kendall (Kohler) slid over to the point. She has not run the point ever here at Alexandria. Everyone moved up a position. Then you have to learn everything offensively and defensively about that position. I think to me, the most amazing part was how the kids just adjusted and did whatever we asked them to do. They believed and trusted this was the answer and this is what it was going to take."
Kohler has been at Alexandria for 31 years and coached the Cardinals to eight state tournament appearances, including a Class AAA championship in 1997. Wrobel has been on her staff for 17 of those years, creating a lot of consistency within this program for almost two decades.
"The girls know that we are a team working for them and have a united front," Kohler said. "She's really loyal to the program and helping out with the summer programming. The kids can turn to either of us at any time during practice, the off-season, during games and they'll generally get the same message. It's like two of us who are echoing the same things."
Kohler has won plenty of coaching honors over her career but couldn't remember if she had ever received this statewide award during her tenure. It's an honor she says was made possible by this entire group that was determined to accomplish a goal of making a state tournament.
"The thing that's exciting to me is the coaches around the state recognize what this team did to keep persevering," Kohler said. "We had so many expectations coming into the season, ranked number two in the preseason. I'm just super humbled how these girls were able to shift their thinking to get the common result they wanted. Julie and I were able to help navigate them through some rough waters, but they were the ones who did the heavy rowing."
MGBCA 2017 COY HONORS - Class A - Head coach - Jeff Gronner, Cromwell-Wright; Assistant coach - Dave Foster, Cromwell-Wright; Class AA - Head coach - Kelsey Didrikson, Roseau; Assistant coach - Isaac Erickson, Rosea; Class AAA - Head coach - Wendy Kohler; Assistant coach - Julie Wrobel; Class AAAA - Head coach - Jeremy Digiovanni, Elk River; Assistant coach - Andy Parochka, Moorhead