PA All the Way! Girls’ Basketball Captures State Title

While many in the Providence Academy community began their spring break resting and recharging, spring break for the Providence Academy Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team had an exciting start. In the weeks leading up to spring break, the Lions played in section games to qualify for the state tournament. In a close section championship game against the Holy Family Fire, the Lions won their ticket to the state tournament. 

The Lions moved on to the Class AA state tournament which took place at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota campus. The Lions won both the quarterfinal and semifinal games, putting them in the State Championship game on Saturday, March 19th where they faced number 2 seeded Fergus Falls. It was a close game, being within two points up until the last seconds, but the Lions walked away with the state title. 

The Lions burst into celebration in Williams Arena after their victory over the Fergus Falls Otters on Saturday, March 19th.

Not only was this a reflection of the hard work the team put in all throughout the season, but it was also a happier ending than last year’s state tournament game. Coach Conner Goetz reflected, “Losing in the championship last year was a motivating factor for us this year. We knew what we failed to accomplish, and to get back to the championship game was a main focus of ours.”

Hope Counts ’25 attempts to block an opponent from their shot.

With four out of five starters returning and new talent coming into the program, the girls knew winning state was a possibility. Senior Captain Maria Counts ‘22 stated, “our team had a lot of new talent and figuring out how everyone could contribute ultimately led us to the win.”

Though winning state was one of the top priorities, it was not the only one for this year’s team. The relationship that the team created off the court was equally as important.

Hope Counts ‘25, younger sister of returning starters Maria and Grace, commented on the team culture, “Besides helping and pushing me to be the best player I could be, [the team] also comforted me like a family does when I didn’t play my best, whether that was through cracking jokes or just saying something to bring me up.”

While the girls celebrate their state title, they also look forward to the next season. Goetz reflected on the positive outlook of the program when he said, “One of the most special things about our team culture and chemistry is how it grows stronger every year. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some great leaders and captains come through our program that put in the work to build a team culture we can all be proud of.” 

Maria Counts ’22, Hope Counts ’25, Bridget Healy ’23, Shannon Healy ’26, and Grace Counts ’23 pose for a picture with the trophy after winning the state championship game.

A Night to Remember Robby Miller

The Providence Academy and Edina communities came together to honor Robby Miller and support the Miller family on Tuesday, February 8 for “Robby Miller Night.” Miller, the father of Kyra, ‘23, Carissa, ‘21, and Sarah, unexpectedly passed away last week, leaving the basketball community in shock. Over the years, Miller was heavily involved in both the Providence Academy and Edina basketball programs and communities. To support the Miller family, fans from both teams packed the Edina High School stands for the girls’ basketball game on Tuesday.

Pictured is a program that fans received at the game, which highlighted memories of Robby Miller.

Head Varsity Girls’ Basketball Coach, Conner Goetz, reflected, “Two large communities were able to put their competitive differences aside to show their love and support for a man and a family that made a deep impact on them.”

Goetz continued, “It speaks volumes about the number of people Robby was able to impact. Robby was a man who dedicated a large part of his life to serving and coaching others. The world was a better place because Robby Miller was a part of it.”

Senior Captain Maria Counts, ‘22, explained, “In the end, basketball’s greatest blessing is the community it builds, and Mr. Miller really understood that and worked so hard to make everyone a part of it.”

Miller worked with the boys’ and girls’ basketball programs at Providence and set up many groups, such as the Booster Club and the youth travel program. He also was active in Edina youth athletics by serving as the president of the Edina Basketball Association and coaching many youth teams.

Goetz remarked, “Robby Miller was an incredible influence on Providence basketball through his work in the program. Most importantly, though, he was a large supporter of everything Providence. He always greeted every player with a smile and positive remarks about the game.”

Fans and athletes wore bright colors, as Miller often did, to honor him and show their support for his family. Goetz commented, “Quite literally, Robby Miller would light up any room he went into. His personality and smile is something that is hard to describe other than ‘bright’. Lighting up the gym is incredibly fitting because he would have done the exact same.” 

Basketball Manager Kira Cmiel, ’23, wears her warm-up jersey with Robby Miller’s initials on the back in memory.

Kyra Miller, ‘23, added, “It was a little bittersweet for my two worlds to collide but the reasoning for it was very sweet. It meant so much to me and my family to have him honored in such a way and by so many people from both communities. The love and support were felt and it was really cool to see that it was him that brought us all together.”

Both teams played hard and gave it their all, making it a fun environment as the game was tied until the very last seconds. With just under 10 seconds left, Maria Counts, ‘22, passed to Brooke Hohenecker, ‘24, who scored and put the Lions up 58-56, and the Lions walked away with a win.

Counts concluded, “It was really meaningful to play in this game because we all knew he would’ve never missed it and that he would’ve been in the stands cheering us on. It really felt like we were playing for him.”

Catholic Schools Week: Serving Others

Students look forward to Catholic Schools Week for many reasons: the out-of-uniform days, a break from the homework load, the pep fest, and more. Though these things are all wonderful opportunities to celebrate attending a Catholic school, one element, in particular, stands out: serving others.

At Providence Academy, it is important that the students learn the value of using what they have to help others in need. During Catholic Schools Week, which ran from January 31 through February 4, students took a break from the classroom to spend the morning in service before being rewarded with a fun afternoon excursion. 

Upper School students created 140 Valentine cards for sick children at the Children’s Hospital Minnesota – Minneapolis, made 300 sandwiches and collected 200 personal care product kits for homeless people, and crafted more than 60 fleece blankets for children at Sojourner Project and St. Joseph’s Home for Children. This allowed students to work together with peers to provide warmth, toiletries, food, and kind words for those in need.

Sisters Ava Wasserman, ’22, and Ellie Wasserman, ’22, work on tie blankets during Catholic Schools Week.

Grace Counts, ‘23, reflected, “It was fun to be able to support the community while doing so with our friends. The service day was both a fun event for students and a beneficial event for those in need.”

The Atrium, Lecture Hall, and Study Hall were filled with enthusiastic students enjoying time with their friends while working hard to complete their service projects. Ronan Flanigan, ‘22, added, “Because we live such busy lives, it was a great opportunity to spend time serving others during the school day. It was good to know that we could help others while still having an enjoyable morning at school.”

Another way students showed their appreciation and support to the community was on Thursday morning when the National Honor Society (NHS) organized a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast. NHS cohorts made cards for each teacher and provided a catered breakfast for all the teachers and faculty.

Director of the Upper School, Mr. Kurt Jaeger, poses for a picture after picking up his handmade card and breakfast from the Teacher Appreciation Breakfast.

Eleanor Young, ‘22, noted, “Our teachers do so much for us every day. It was great to be able to see the smiles on their faces when they came down to get their card and breakfast. It was a great opportunity to show them our appreciation.”

In addition to the great feeling of serving others, it also created a break for students. Ellie Millerbernd, ‘22, concluded, “Especially during the busy month of February, with sports, extracurricular activities, and a heavy school load, it was great to take time during Catholic Schools Week to serve others.”

Ready to Roar: Girls Basketball Begins Their Season

A crowded gym. A loud bench. Teamwork. These are three things that have already led the Providence Academy Girls Basketball team to success early on in the season. After being the runner-up in the state tournament last year, the Lions have high expectations for this season. With numerous weeks of practice and hard work under their belt, the girls are ready to dominate on the court with aspirations to make it back to the state championship game this year and walk away with the trophy. They know this will not happen without determination and dedication, but they are up for the challenge.

Brigitta Nelson ’27 gets excited for the 2021-2022 basketball season and poses for a silly picture while inside the cage of basketballs.

Point guard Maddyn Greenway ‘26 commented, “I’m most looking forward to picking up this season from where we left off last season: playing together and playing well. I’m also excited to be challenged by the bigger schools we are playing as I think it will push us to be better.”

The girls’ season started off strong at the Twin Cities Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend, winning their first game, against Hutchinson. This past weekend, the Lions participated in another tournament, the annual Breakdown Tournament hosted by Hopkins, and walked away with a win against Benilde St. Margaret, one of the top-ranked teams in Class 3A with many strong players. This game was far from easy, but the teamwork and energy brought by the team and crowd alike allowed the Lions to shine and walk away with the W. 

Sisters Ellie Millerbernd ’22 (left) and Emma Millerbernd ’27 (right) put their game faces on as they get ready for a fun and competitive season together on the court.

Seventh-grader Emma Millerbernd added, “Being on this great of a team, you never know who’s going to show up and what opportunities you will receive. I have gotten the opportunity to play against some of the greatest basketball players in Minnesota or playing against [future] D1 athletes which has made me a better basketball player and overall a better person.”

Not only is their hard work going to drive them to succeed in the coming season, but their bond as a group is also a crucial factor. “Family on me, family on three” is a classic cheer for the team, and the words hold special significance. The team has a strong relationship on and off the court and they all show support for each other in every circumstance. The bench energy is like no other, with everyone cheering their teammates on, showing continuous positivity throughout entire games.

Ellie Millerbernd ‘22 reflected on their relationships and said, “I think the fact that we are such a family, along with the bond we have off the court, help drive our success because of our positivity and attitudes towards each other. Everyone on the bench is always cheering as loud as they can for everyone, and it’s really cool knowing that everyone has each other’s back.”

Straight to State: Lions Tennis Places Third

The Lions Varsity Tennis Team processes out during the school send-off before the state tournament last week.

After a season full of many restrictions and cancellations last year due to COVID-19, the girls’ tennis team came back this year ready for success. This past week, the Lions competed among other tennis teams in their class and walked away with the third-place trophy for the Class A state tournament.

Bright and early on Monday, October 11, the team traveled to the Gustavus Adolphus campus for sections play. The girls got hyped up on the bus ride on the way down and got ready for a full day of tennis, walking away with a ticket to the state tournament.

Senior Captain Olivia Eck ‘22 added, “It was a long bus ride on the way to Gustavus and we were all tired because it was early in the morning, but we blared ‘Party in the USA’ through our speaker which got us pumped up and ready for the day.”

Father Michael McClellan blesses the tennis team at the send-off last week.

On Tuesday, October 26, after a fun send-off by the PA community complete with music from the band and student-lined hallways to cheer the girls on, the tennis team headed to InnerCity Tennis for the state tournament. The Lions won their first match against Crookston and moved on to the state semifinals where they fell to Litchfield, moving to the third-place match the following day. In the third-place match, they beat Fairmount, bringing home the third-place trophy.

One of the team’s varsity coaches, Alyssa Wilkins, added, “The success the team had in the state tournament was definitely a reflection of their hard work and dedication throughout the season; they worked hard during practices and they went out and fought hard during every match.”

With four seniors on the team who will be off to college in the fall, everyone wanted to make sure their last season was one that would be remembered. Wilkins reflected, “The seniors are such an awesome group of girls; we will miss so many things about them. They have shown so much leadership and their energy, positivity, and excitement for their team has set a great foundation for future seasons.”

Not only have they had a strong season with many wins and success in the state tournament, but they have also bonded off of the courts. With members of the team spanning ninth through twelfth grade, they don’t necessarily have connections outside of tennis, yet their relationships have strengthened throughout the season.

Grace Wikenheiser ‘22 reflected on the bonds created, “I will miss the moments both on the courts and off the courts with the team; I will forever cherish the friendships I have created with the team through playing tennis.”

Eck echoed Wikenheiser’s sentiment, “Our bond as a team transcends every circumstance we may encounter and I believe it’s what allowed us to be as successful as we are.”