John's Journal
No Surprise: Eagan, Wayzata Advance To 3A Finals 11/8/2019
When the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds meet to decide the state championship, it's a scenario that shouldn't surprise anyone. That will be the situation Saturday at Xcel Energy Center when Eagan and Wayzata square off for the Class 3A volleyball title.

Among those who aren't stunned is Wayzata coach Scott Jackson.

"If you had told me on August 11 (the day before practice started) that this was going to be the final, I wouldn't have been at all surprised," he said after the Trojans defeated North St. Paul 25-16, 25-22, 27-25 in Friday's semifinals.

Top-seeded Eagan advanced with a five-set struggle for survival against Minnetonka. The Wildcats trailed 2-1 before rallying to win 22-25, 28-26, 25-27, 25-18, 15-13. Eagan, which had lost only six sets all season prior to Friday, will play in the championship match for the seventh year in a row.

"It was a battle from start to finish," said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen of the semifinal victory. "And we have a lot of battles like that in our own gym. So I kind of think the girls fall back on training, and that match today was real typical of what happens in our practices."

Minnetonka coach Karl Katzenberger said, “I think they deserve to win because they outplayed us by a whisker today. But I'm incredibly proud of these kids and you can see there's no disappointment. This is one of the rare, fun years where the sum is greater than the total parts, plain and simple. And I think it goes back to the respect level we all have for one another and the way we treat each other.”

Eagan (31-0) and Wayzata (30-3) did not meet during the regular season. The Skippers' losses this year were against Northfield (twice) and Minnetonka.

Eagan has played in 11 previous state championship games, winning gold in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2013, 2015 and 2016; the Wildcats were the state runner-up most recently in 2017 and 2018. Wayzata, making its seventh state appearance and first since 2010, was the runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

“I thought North St. Paul was fantastic,” Jackson said. “When I shook hands with their staff at the end I meant it when I told (Polars coach) Steph (Blanda) that this is the best defensive team we played against all season. They dug a lot of balls that we normally get kills on.”

Wayzata is among the tallest teams in the state. Their kills leaders Friday were the 6-foot-2 Elizabeth Helmich with 16, the 6-4 Sophie Jesewitz with nine, the 5-11 Kate Long with eight and the 6-4 Katelyn Empkey four. North St. Paul’s Lauren Stenman, at 5-foot-10, led the Polars (24-6) with 15 kills.

“It feels a little bit intimidating when most of your front line is just over five feet and their front line is six feet,” Stenman said with a smile. “And it can feel like they're taking a lot from you, even if it's not true and it can just be a mental thing.”

Stewartville vs. North Branch in Class 2A

Top-seeded Stewartville got out fast before having to rally to defeat Concordia Academy 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 15-7 in the 2A semifinals. The Tigers (29-4) will face defending champ North Branch (29-4) in Saturday’s championship match.

Third-seeded North Branch advanced with a 25-19, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9 victory over unseeded Belle Plaine in Friday’s last semifinal matchup.

Minneota vs. W-E-M in Class 1A

The top two seeds – No. 1 Minneota and No. 2 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown -- also will meet in the Class 1A title round Saturday.

Defending state champion Minneota rallied from a first-set loss to defeat Fosston 23-25, 25-14, 25-7, 25-10. The Vikings (32-3) will play in the state title match for the third year in a row.

Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (34-2) defeated Medford 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 in the semifinals. The Buccaneers have played at state once prior to this year, winning the title in 2015.

A year ago, Minneota defeated Medford 3-0 in the championship match.

State Volleyball Tournament
Friday’s Semifinals
Minneota defeated Fosston 23-25, 25-14, 25-7, 25-10
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown defeated Medford 25-21, 25-20, 25-20

Stewartville defeated Concordia Academy 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 15-7
North Branch defeated Belle Plaine 25-19, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9

Eagan defeated Minnetonka 22-25, 28-26, 25-27, 25-18, 15-13
Wayzata defeated North St. Paul 25-16, 25-22, 27-25

Saturday’s Matches
Class 1A
9 a.m. fifth place: Greenway vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
11 a.m. third place: Fosston vs. Medford
1 p.m. championship: Minneota vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown

Class 2A
11 a.m. fifth place: Watertown-Mayer vs. Marshall
1 p.m. third place: Concordia Academy vs. Belle Plaine
3 p.m. championship: Stewartville vs. North Branch

Class 3A
9 a.m. fifth place: St. Louis Park vs. Lakeville North
3 p.m. third place: Minnetonka vs. North St. Paul
5 p.m. championship: Eagan vs. Wayzata

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Playing At State And Treating Each Other Right11/7/2019
The Minnetonka volleyball team had a great opening day at the Class 3A volleyball state tournament, defeating Moorhead 3-1 Thursday in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. It was the Skippers' first trip to state since they claimed the 2A title in 1976, the third year of the tournament.

They defeated the Spuds 21-25, 26-24, 28-26, 25-23 in a hard-fought match. Afterwards, Skippers coach Karl Katzenberger talked at length about what matters most to his team: Treating each other well and being good people.

"This team really holds onto one of our kind of core values; let's treat each other the right way and good stuff happens," he said.

"Number one, we want to make sure that we have personal relationships and treat each other the right way, and everything else comes secondary after that. There's an interesting question we posed: in an average season if there are 100 hours, how many hours do we spend talking about volleyball strategy and how many hours do we spend talking about preparing to be a good person out in the world?"

An answer came from Skippers senior Skyler Germann, who will play college volleyball at Long Beach State and was seated next to Katzenberger in the postgame media session: “60-40,” she said, “40 being the volleyball part and 60 focusing on everybody else.”

The coach added, “Chasing outcomes -- state champion, conference champion, section champion -- that's a byproduct of what we're chasing. We want to be the best team, we want to be there for one another. The good stuff will come if you just have your processes. We're going to treat each other the right way to play the right way.”

The Longest Match of the Day

In the wildest contest of the tournament's opening day, Fosston went the distance in holding off Mounds Park Academy 22-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-17, 15-9 in the Class 1A quarterfinals.

It was Mounds Park Academy's first state appearance and the first for Fosston since 2004. In other words, playing in the big NHL arena in downtown St. Paul was a very new experience for everyone.

As Fosston junior Taylor Kroening explained, “It's huge. We’re very excited to be here.”

Greyhounds coach Sarah Dryburgh said one way to overcome nerves is to give it everything you’ve got.

“It can be a lot of pressure and the nerves can play a factor and we just wanted to play hard,” she said. “Whatever happens, we're down here, let's show what we’ve got. And let's go for it and just play our best game. We can walk away from this court if we lose and feel good about it, so you don't want them to play tight and get nervous. The girls stepped up into that.”

As with many teams from smaller towns, the excitement of going to state is a big thing in Fosston.

“We've been able to hear from a lot of our community with well wishes and support,” Dryburgh said. “Some of our local businesses painted windows, brought treat bags for the girls. A lot of our young students have been supporting the girls and cheering them on. Our community is just really excited for these girls and it was a fun week. We really appreciate all that support.”

Tournament Tidbits

--With Medford and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown both winning Class 1A quarterfinal matches Thursday, they will meet in Friday’s semifinals. The teams are very familiar with each other since they both are members of the Gopher Conference. They met once in conference play and twice in tournaments this season, with W-E-M winning all three times.

--The distance from St. Louis Park High School to Xcel Energy Center is 15 miles, and 11 buses carrying fans of the Orioles made the drive Thursday. St. Louis Park, in its first trip to state in school history, lost to Eagan in the Class 3A quarterfinals and will meet Moorhead in Friday's consolation round.

State Volleyball Tournament
Thursday’s Quarterfinals

Minneota defeated Greenway 25-22 25-15 25-19
Fosston defeated Mounds Park Academy 22-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-17, 15-9
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown defeated Henning 25-11, 25-21, 25-18
Medford defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-22, 25-18. 25-10

Stewartville defeated Annandale 25-17, 25-12, 25-21
Watertown-Mayer defeated Concordia Academy 25-19, 25-18, 25-12
Belle Plaine defeated Marshall 25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22
North Branch defeated Pequot Lakes 25-21, 25-11, 25-18

Eagan defeated St. Louis Park 25-16, 25-12, 25-16
Minnetonka defeated Moorhead 21-25, 26-24, 28-26, 25-23
Wayzata defeated Elk River 25-14, 25-23, 25-16
North St. Paul defeated Lakeville North 25-21, 25-22, 25-19

Friday’s Semifinals
9 a.m.: Eagan vs. Minnetonka
11 a.m.: Wayzata vs. North St. Paul

1 p.m.: Minneota vs. Fosston
3 p.m.: Waterville-Elysian-Morristown vs. Medford

5 p.m.: Stewartville vs. Concordia Academy
7 p.m.: Belle Plaine vs. North Branch

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Brave Like Gabe: Grunewald Inspires Perham’s Historic Day 11/2/2019
NORTHFIELD -- Saturday was a history-making day for the cross-country teams from Perham High School. Both Yellowjackets squads captured Class 1A state championships at St. Olaf College, and the historical record will forever state that Perham became the first school to win both crowns for three years in a row.

Jeff Morris is the head coach of both teams, and this is his 18th year in that post. Every fan of Minnesota high school cross-country is familiar with Perham's success; the boys cross-country team now owns eight state championships and the girls have won it four times. Individually, Kevin Lachowitzer of Perham won cross-country state titles in 2006 and 2007, Keeghan Hurley did the same in 2013 and Maddie McClellan was the 1A girls champ in 2009.

One of the first Perham stars under Morris’ watch was Gabriel Anderson, who as a senior in 2004 won a track state title in the 800 meters. That was the first state championship won by a Morris-coached Perham runner.

Anderson went on to compete at the University of Minnesota and then as a professional runner. After her marriage to fellow Gophers runner Justin Grunewald, she was known as Gabe Grunewald. Gabe died in June in Minneapolis at age 32; a decade earlier she had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Her fight, her inspiration lives on in the running community nationally and around the world. Gabe and Justin began the Brave Like Gabe Foundation during her days with cancer, and runners of all ages have been inspired.

Gabe died a few weeks before the start of the 2019 high school cross-country season. Her loss hit folks in her hometown hard.

"We’ve actually had a kind of rough season, just a lot of things that have been going on mentally, physically, emotionally with our team,” Morris said Saturday. “And it started out with everything that happened with Gabe this past summer.

“We started off the season with the Brave Like Gabe (an inaugural early-season invitational) and I told the kids we’re going to focus on being thermostats, not thermometers, kind of letting our attitude and effort being where we want it to be. And it seemed like after that, everything that could happen wrong happened. We have one kid running on a non-displaced fracture, another kid with a stress fracture. We’ve had sickness. And the cool thing with the kids was they made no excuses. They stepped up to the moment and it was just fun.”

It’s not hard to imagine that the Yellowjackets felt pressure coming into the state championship races. Facing the prospect of making history can do that.

“I think they feel pressure from not wanting to let people down,” Morris said. “That’s the biggest thing. My daughter (Mya) is a ninth-grader and last night in the room her and her friends were saying, ‘We’re so nervous.’ At the start line today I just reminded them that the most important thing was that they were doing this for each other. We kind of focus on faith, love and hope. And we said if we run with that and kind of make it about that, it doesn’t matter how we do. It matters in our eyes what we do, and the rest of the what-ifs and what other people think, that doesn’t matter and that’s a good life lesson to learn.”

In the days leading up to the state meet, the Yellowjackets watched a documentary about Gabe, which brought some of the runners to tears.

“I think it’s taught the kids that in a moment like that, where you had everything that Gabe went through, you realize that the running doesn’t matter anymore,” said Morris, who became head coach in Perham when Gabe was a junior. “The running is secondary, and I think these kids learn that, ‘Hey, these races are important and we had a great moment and we want to do something great,’ but to realize it’s just a race. There are bigger things that are way more important. Because you’re not always going to win. I’ve been here when we’ve been on the other side of it. If you can learn from that and take that with you for the rest of life, it’s going to matter. And that’s how Gabe will live on in these kids.”

A little extra motivation arrived in the form of some special gifts in preparation for state: sweatshirts carrying the slogan “Running On Hope” ... that’s a phrase made famous by Gabe and the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. They were sent to the Yellowjackets by Justin Grunewald.

“The kids were pretty emotional about that,” Morris said. “Every kid and every coach got one, and he wouldn’t even let me pay for them.”

Justin, in New York for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, said via phone Saturday night that he is inspired by lots of people from Perham.

“The Perham community, their cross-country teams, their volleyball team, their boosters, KLN, which is a wonderful company, they’ve all shown so much support for Gabriel and the foundation,” he said. “On top of that, right when I came out of college, myself and another guy became the first post-collegiate runners Jeff coached. He gave me some of my best years of running, and he never took a penny. It was a long-overdue thank you. I just felt with all that their kids have done and how inspirational they’ve been, buying them sweatshirts made a lot of sense.”

Through souvenir sales and donations from teams that participated in the first annual Brave Like Gabe Invitational, the Yellowjackets raised $5,680 for the Brave Like Gabe Foundation.

“These kids are who is going to change the future," Justin said. “I can only do so much, and Gabriel gave her heart and soul. Seeing these kids be good stewards, raising money for the foundation, I’m speechless.

“They’re raising money to make the world a better place. Hopefully none of them are afflicted with cancer, but they’re spreading hope for those who are. They’re all winners in my book.”

--On the boys side, Perham was led individually by Jakob McCleary in fourth place and Brandon O’Hara in eighth. In the girls race, the top Perham finishers were Liz Berkeland in 14th and Aspen Rohde in 25th.

--Class 1A individuals: Junior Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin won the boys title for the second year in a row with a 15-second margin over runner-up Emmet Anderson, a junior from Staples-Motley. Junior Morgan Gehl of Murray County Central/Fulda was the girls winner, outdistancing ninth-grader Jade Rypkema of Nevis by 37 seconds.

--Class 2A teams: Edina won the girls state championship with 55 points, followed by Wayzata (109) and St. Michael-Albertville (115). Mounds View was the boys winner with a one-point margin (86-87) over Eden Prairie. St. Paul Highland Park was third at 135.

--Class 2A individuals: St. Paul Highland Park senior Oliver Paleen claimed the boys championship with a five-second margin over second-place Nicholas Scheller, a senior from Chanhassen. The girls winner was Stillwater junior Analee Weaver of Stillwater with a six-second margin over Wayzata freshman Abbey Nechanicky.

--For complete results, go to

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Cheers And Tears As The Soccer Season Ends 10/31/2019
Whether it's the World Series on Wednesday night or a high school soccer game on Thursday morning, similarities are everywhere. In the final, deciding game of the season, one team will win and one team will not. One team will celebrate with hugs and high-fives and one team will tearfully hug it out.

In the final Class 1A girls soccer game of the 2019 season Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium, Mahtomedi defeated Orono 3-2 by scoring two goals on penalty kicks in the game’s final 12 minutes. The game-winner came with a little more than three minutes to play.

The result was the same as in the two previous 1A girls title games. Two years ago, Mahtomedi defeated Orono 2-1; the 2018 season ended with the Zephyrs defeating the Spartans 1-0 in overtime. Three games, three one-goal decisions.

There are 12 seniors on the Mahtomedi team this year, and they ended their careers with three state titles.

"Our seniors have really stepped up at the end,” said Zephyrs coach Dave Wald, who has been at the helm for 14 years. “It's going to be sad here, we're losing 12 of them. It's our second-biggest class ever coming through. And they've been a major part of all three state championships.”

One of those seniors, Lauren Heinsch, scored the penalty-kick goal that won Thursday’s game. Asked if she had ever dreamed about such a moment, she talked about dreams and teams.

“I honestly didn't even ever imagine it,” she said. “I remember when I was in elementary school and I went to go watch the girls high school team at the Metrodome. I remember all the spirit there and I was like. ‘I want to be those girls.’ And then sure enough. But I never would imagine that I would be that girl with an amazing team.”

Orono senior Claire Gagne, whom Wald called the best goalkeeper that Minnesota has produced in several years, said her team certainly wanted to win their last game together, but the fact that it was their last game together was more important than the setting.

“I think this team just wanted to go out with pride and we really just wanted to win our last game as a team,” Claire said. “And it wasn't necessarily that it was the state championship. It was the small things and the memories we've made that we wanted to really preserve, instead of having this memory. I think going into the game it was really more about playing for each other than playing for the state championship.”

The team. The friendships. The memories. Those are always more important than the outcome.

“I knew that it was like the last 20 minutes I'd ever play for this team, so let’s give it everything I have,” said Mahtomedi senior Anna Wagner, who scored the game’s first goal. “Why not put everything I have out there?”

As the postgame interview session came to a close, Heinsch and Wagner could have been speaking about either team when they said these words:

Lauren: “We're all kind to each other and there's no one that really stands out. So I think our chemistry is really strong.”

Anna: “We get along really well and that's what helps us get through games. We're willing to do anything for each other. We stick together.”

Class 1A Boys: Holy Angels 3, Blake 2 (2 OT)

Sophomore Nick McGrane scored with 10 seconds remaining in the second overtime to life Holy Angels to the victory over the defending champion Bears.

Blake had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score with two goals within three minutes near the end of regulation. The score remained that way through one 10-minute overtime period and nearly to the end of the second overtime.

“We just try to stay confident,” said Holy Angels senior Conor O’Rourke, who was named Class 1A Mr. Soccer by the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association. “Belief is one of our pillars for our soccer program. So you’ve just got to keep believing in each other. And that belief comes down to it. I mean with 10 seconds left in the second overtime and you still believe you can win? You never know what's going to happen.”

Class 2A Girls: Maple Grove 2, Centennial 1

Kelly Kloncz scored in the 18th minute to give the Crimson a one-goal advantage and Emma Fournier made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute. Centennial scored with slightly more than 12 minutes remaining in the second half on a header by Khyah Harper.

Class 2A Boys: Edina 2, East Ridge 1

The Hornets completed an unbeaten season by edging the Raptors. Oscar Smythe scored both goals for Edina and Cullen Featherstone scored for East Ridge.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A girls/ Emma Dean, Bemidji; Kiana Bender, Cloquet-Carlton; Bella Talbot, Rochester Lourdes; Grace Seim, Waconia; Amelia Reyes, Blake; Ali Fine, Blake; Rachel Kawiecki, Holy Angels; Mia Van der Heide, Holy Angels; Ally Swenson, Orono; Sadie Koltes, Orono; Anna Tesar, Orono; Nora Chouanard, Orono; Lauren Heinsch, Mahtomedi; Audrey Sexson, Mahtomedi; Anna Wagner, Mahtomedi; Lindsey Handke, Mahtomedi.

Class 1A boys/ Henry Tolbert, Austin; Kee Rah, Austin; Nicholas Lundberg, Mankato West; Calder Erickson, St. Croix Prep; Jack Russum, St. Francis; Zakaria Mohamud, St. Cloud Tech; Ethan Miller, St. Cloud Tech; Reece Clifford, Orono; Ben Summers, Orono; Will Mortenson, Blake; Howard Henderson, Blake; Jake Shapiro, Blake; Porter Ball, Holy Angels; Mackie Zabinski, Holy Angels; Carter Hermanson, Holy Angels; Noah Hermanson, Holy Angels.

Class 2A girls/ Kaitlyn Hansen, Lakeville South; Emme Lindberg, Minnetonka; Paige Peltier, Cretin-Derham Hall; Marissa Bonilla, Stillwater; Paige Kalal, Champlin Park; Megan Carlson, Champlin Park; Kenzie Jacobson, Rosemount; Lexi Orlando, Rosemount; Olivia Kraemer, Rosemount; Khyah Harper, Centennial; Olivia Lovick, Centennial; Sydney Kubes, Centennial; Luca Ralph, Maple Grove; Emma Fournier, Maple Grove; Hannah Zahn, Maple Grove; Sarah Cortez, Maple Grove.

Class 2A boys/ Demetrius Benardy-Nelson, Centennial; Owen Johnson, Eastview; Wyatt Hall, Lakeville South; Caleb Robinson, Maple Grove; Vilas Stolpman, Mpls. Washburn; Darley Florvil, Mpls. Washburn; Ronald Hall Jr., St. Paul Central; Riaz Kelly, St. Paul Central; Reese Dodd, East Ridge; Nick Wagner, East Ridge; Brennan Featherstone, East Ridge; Alex Hager, East Ridge; Jordan Carter, Edina; Sammy Presthus, Edina; Hank Stechmann, Edina; Oscar Smythe, Edina.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Edina, East Ridge Advance To 2A Boys Soccer Title Game 10/29/2019
Edina boys soccer coach Dave Jenson has been with the Hornets for a long time. So long, in fact, that players from his early teams are reaching 50 years of age.

Now in his 36th year as Edina's coach, Jenson will direct the Hornets in a state championship game for the fifth time when they meet East Ridge in the Class 2A title game at 5:30 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In Jenson’s first championship game, Edina lost to St. Paul Academy & Summit School 3-1 in 1986. That team included some big names in Minnesota soccer history, which Jenson referred to after Tuesday’s 2-0 semifinal win over Minneapolis Washburn.

Asked about East Ridge and Central a few minutes before the second semifinal began, Jenson replied, "Well, they don't have Tony Sanneh or Manuel Lagos or Gerard Lagos.”

After that initial championship game, Edina won in its next three appearances, defeating Minnetonka in 1999, Bloomington Jefferson in 2000 and Wayzata in 2001.

Edina has a 2019 record of 21-0 and the Hornets will take six consecutive shutouts into Thursday’s game.

“Our defense has just really picked it up,” said junior goalkeeper Hank Stechmann. “They've been locking down the forwards and just not giving them any opportunities, so most of the credit goes to our midfield and back line.”

After a scoreless first half against Washburn, Sammy Presthus and Oscar Smythe scored in the second half.

East Ridge 1, St. Paul Central 0 (shootout)

Following a goal-free 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the Raptors came out on top in a six-round shootout to advance to Thursday’s title game against Edina. The shootout score was 5-4 in favor of East Ridge.

“It was a great game and there has to be a winner,” said Central coach David Albornoz. “I couldn't be prouder of my boys. It was an absolutely fantastic performance this season.”

Soccer State Semifinals

Class 2A girls
Maple Grove 3, Champlin Park 0
Centennial 2, Rosemount 1 (OT)

Class 1A girls
Mahtomedi 3, Blake 0
Orono 2, Holy Angels 1 (OT)

Class 1A boys
Holy Angels 4, St. Cloud Tech 1
Blake 4, Orono 1

Class 2A boys
Edina 2, Minneapolis Washburn 0
East Ridge 1, St. Paul Central 0 (5-4 shootout)

Thursday’s state championship games

10 a.m.: Class 1A girls/ Mahtomedi vs. Orono
12:30 p.m.: Class 1A boys/ Holy Angels vs. Blake
3 p.m.: Class 2A girls/ Maple Grove vs. Centennial
5:30 p.m.: Class 2A boys/ Edina vs. East Ridge

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.