Somewhere along the banks of the Chippewa River, Megan Baier is a few months away from wrapping up an illustrious three-sport career.
But to figure out which Megan Baier you might need a pronunciation guide.
Durand’s Baier (pronounced like bear) is a 5-foot-10 forward that balances time between volleyball, basketball and track.
The Panthers are the midst of trying to add to last year’s Dunn-St. Croix and sectional titles. A win Thursday over Colfax would give them another conference crown.
After losing co-conference player of the year Ambree Schlosser to graduation, coach Lionel Jones knew it would be smooth transition to Baier as one of his captains.
“She’s very intelligent on and off the floor,” Jones said.
Baier started getting varsity minutes her sophomore season, averaging 1.7 points in 13 games. She started to hit her stride last season, in which she started in eight games, before breaking her finger.
“Maybe it would’ve been the difference in bringing a ball back last year,” Jones said.
Durand lost a close state semifinal to eventual state champion Howards Grove. Baier was limited and played just three minutes off the bench in Green Bay.
Now healthy, Baier — a starter for the 19-1 Panthers — follows the lead of past seniors as a leader on the floor.
“I try to take other things I’ve learned from other girls because they’re great role models,” she said.
While Emily Annis and Emma Hansen lead the team in scoring, rebounds and assists, the versatility of Baier creates options on both ends of the floor.
“She can play all five positions,” Jones said. “She can guard all five positions.”
Another beneficiary of Baier’s return is her twin sister, Shae.
“This year’s a lot nicer because we work so well together,” said Shae, who averages 13.9 points per game to her sister’s 10.1.
After basketball, Megan and Shae will team up with Hansen and Hannah Prissel and look to re-break their 3,200-meter relay school record and win another regional title on the track before heading to UW-Eau Claire.
About an hour to the northeast, Chippewa Falls McDonell’s Megan Baier (pronounced like buyer) is averaging 10.9 points per game for the 16-4 Macks. This is after Baier led the Macks to Western Cloverbelt and regional titles and was the Leader-Telegram All-Area volleyball player of the year in the fall.
Baier, a 5-foot-11 forward is one of three Macks, along with Abby Opsal and Abby Wampler averaging, in double figures.
McDonell uses a high-paced style that involves a trapping defense.
Even though Baier plays on the wing with the ball in Grace Mrozinksi’s hands, Baier is active in the Macks’ ball movement.
“I focus on moving the ball around getting everybody touches,” Baier said.
Coach Don Cooper is in his fourth season in charge of the Macks and having Baier around for all those year has had its benefits.
“She’s been in this offense for four years,” Cooper said. “Knowing exactly what we’re doing sometimes helps the coach.”
While Durand’s Megan Baier gets to play with her twin sister all throughout high school, McDonell got just one year with Megan and her older sister, Dani, playing together as part of its 2015 sectional final team.
“I always dreamed of being on the court with her,” said Baier, who will go to UW-Madison next year to pursue a biomedical degree. “So when I was a freshman getting to play next to her was a super cool thing.”
Who Baier does have a long partnership with is fellow senior Abby Opsal. The two having been playing along side each other since fourth grade and have great on-court chemistry.
“It’s helpfully to play with her all these years because we know what to expect from each other,” Opsal said.
The Macks finished third in the Western Cloverbelt behind Eau Claire Regis and Osseo-Fairchild, but a win over Clayton, a state team last year, and two wins over the Ramblers, showed signs that Baier and Opsal could put another ball in the trophy case next to gold one they won last spring in softball.