John's Journal
Class 3A State Volleyball: We Meet Again11/11/2016
On October 22, two volleyball teams who were – it seems now – destined to meet again on a much bigger stage, squared off to decide who would be the champion of the Chaska Invitational. That match was in a high school gym on a Saturday afternoon. On that day, Champlin Park defeated Eagan 25-23, 23-25, 19-17.

That was Eagan’s only loss of the season. Prior to that match, Champlin Park lost to Lakeville North and Hopkins in tournaments.

Which brings us to Saturday at 5 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. Eagan (30-1) and Champlin Park (31-2) will play in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd to decide the Class 3A state championship.

“It’s one match for the state championship and we’ll see what happens,” said Champlin Park coach John Yunker after both teams won semifinal matches Friday. The defending state champions from Eagan breezed past Lakeville South 3-0 in a 51-minute match and Champlin Park defeated Hopkins 3-0.

It’s a championship pairing that may have been foretold by the Class 3A coaches association rankings: Eagan is No. 1 and Champlin Park is No. 2; they hold those same spots in the state tourney seedings.

Champlin Park finished fifth at state two years ago and was third last season, losing to Eagan in the semifinals.

“We come back each year with a bigger goal in mind, that we want to do more,” said the Rebels’Allie Miller.

Eagan played nearly flawless volleyball against Lakeville South, winning 25-12, 25-13, 25-15. Wildcats coach Kathy Gillen said, “The girls played well today. There’s not a whole lot you can look at and change or tweak. They executed the game plan.”

Lakeville South senior star Jenny Mosser, who will play at UCLA, was held to eight kills in 45 attempts. This is the Cougars’ first trip to state, while Eagan is playing at the big arena for the fourth consecutive year. Eagan has also played in the last three championship matches, winning twice.

“I definitely think the experience they have (is a factor),” Mosser said of facing Eagan. “Playing here is a different game altogether. They didn’t make many mistakes and we didn’t rise to the occasion.

“You obviously know that you have to play really well if you even want to have a chance of competing with them.”

The Champlin Park-Hopkins match was also a dual between two of the top hitters in the state. Rebels senior Sydney Hilley will play at Wisconsin and Hopkins’ Jasmyn Martin will play for the Gophers. Hilley finished with 23 kills and a .305 attack percentage to Martin’s 19 and .135.

“They played really well,” said Hopkins coach Vicki Swenson. “They don’t do anything fancy, they’re very well-disciplined. And when the going gets tough they like to go to Hilley. With a player like that it helps elevate the play of the other kids.”

State Volleyball Tournament

Thursday's 3A Quarterfinals

Eagan defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Prior Lake 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Roseville 3-2
Hopkins defeated Moorhead 3-0

Friday’s 3A Semifinals
Eagan defeated Lakeville South 3-0
Champlin Park defeated Hopkins 3-0

Friday’s 3A Consolation
Prior Lake defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Moorhead defeated Roseville 3-0

Saturday’s 3A Matches
9 a.m., fifth place/ Prior Lake vs. Moorhead
3 p.m., third place/ Lakeville South vs. Hopkins
5 p.m., championship/ Eagan vs. Champlin Park

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Class 1A State Volleyball: It’s Been 34 Years 11/11/2016
Mayer Lutheran won its only state volleyball title 34 years ago. In that 1982 Class 1A championship match, the Crusaders defeated Becker by a score of 19-17, 18-11. That’s right, winning two sets meant a state title from the first state tourney in 1974 until 1985, when winning three sets became the norm.

Joelle Grimsley has been the Mayer Lutheran coach since 1993 and has taken the team to state 10 times. On Saturday they will return to the spot their school last saw in 1982, in the hopes of adding a second championship trophy to the collection.

On Thursday the top-seeded Crusaders had cruised to a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Stephen-Argyle. Their task in Friday’s semifinals was a much rougher go because they needed five games to defeat Heritage Christian 3-2. The score broke both ways and the final was 25-19, 22-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-4.

“(Before the fifth set) we talked about getting back to our basics,” Grimsley said. “We had to stay aggressive and not get into a tipping game. We were there to win and we had to stay aggressive.”

The biggest challenge for the Crusaders was Heritage Christian senior Bella Lien. She stands 6 feet, 2 inches and is a force at the net. She will play at North Dakota State University.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that girl is 6-2. Yikes,’ ” said Grimsley.

Heritage Christian had also played five sets in defeating Underwood on Thursday. Ten sets within 24 hours can be a tall order.

“I saw the girls still playing well,” said Heritage Christian coach Tom Fuglestad. “I think Mayer really surged in that fifth set. Two five-setters in a row on consecutive days certainly could have taken a toll but they battled with everything they had.”

--Caledonia advanced to the title match against Mayer Lutheran with a five-set victory of its own. The Warriors held off Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, 16-14. It was Caledonia’s first five-set match of the season.

“We’ve never been pushed to a fifth set this season,” said Warriors ninth-grade middle hitter Lydia Lange. “We didn’t want the first one to be a loss.”

TMB coach Katie Gervais said, “I thought both teams were so aggressive. They were very confident. Both teams were good, they just didn’t back down. That’s the kind of game you want. … I think it was just a good battle back and forth.”

State Volleyball Tournament

Thursday’s 1A Quarterfinals

Mayer Lutheran defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-0
Heritage Christian defeated Underwood 3-2
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Kimball 3-0
Caledonia defeated Cook County 3-0

Friday’s 1A Semifinals
Mayer Lutheran defeated Heritage Christian 3-2
Caledonia defeated Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3-2

Friday’s 1A Consolation
Underwood defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-1
Kimball defeated Cook County 3-0

Saturday’s 1A Matches
9 a.m., fifth place/ Underwood vs. Kimball
11 a.m., third place/ Heritage Christian vs. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
1 p.m., championship/ Mayer Lutheran vs. Caledonia

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Class 2A State Volleyball: Seeds Don’t Matter11/11/2016
Concordia Academy came into the Class 2A state volleyball tournament under the proverbial radar. The Beacons were the state runner-up last year but if anyone predicted they would return to the championship game in 2016 they weren’t too vocal about it.

The Beacons had a very good regular season, taking a 20-7 record into the playoffs. They were ranked eighth in Class 2A and seeded fourth as the state tournament began. No surprise there.

Conversely, there was Kenyon-Wanamingo. The Knights came to state with the No. 1 ranking, the No. 1 seed, a record of 32-1 and a big label: The Team To Beat.

It wasn’t easy by any means, but Concordia Academy got the job done Friday at Xcel Energy Center, defeating the Knights in a five-set match, 25-17, 19-25, 29-27, 22-25, 15-10. The Beacons advanced to Saturday’s championship match against Maple Lake and holy smokes was it wild.

“I definitely think we knew that the pressure was on Kenyon-Wanamingo mostly,” said the Beacons’ Erin Fallert. “And we were going to go out and play our game and have fun, and not be concerned that we were the underdog.”

Teammate Anika Newman added, “We knew we had nothing to lose. So we played our hearts out.”

The Knights had only lost one opening set all year, against Caledonia (which will play for the Class 1A title Saturday).

“Everyone was just like, ‘Whoa we lost,’ ” Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Mara Quam said of the first-set results. But if the Knights were on their heels they didn’t show it, rallying to win the second set and setting the five-set train rolling down the tracks.

If the Beacons felt any pressure, it wasn’t apparent.

“We talked about that in pregame, them coming in as the number one seed and we were the four,” said Concordia Academy coach Kim Duis. “They were unstoppable at points. But we could stay loose and play our game and have fun at it.”

On the other half of the bracket, second-seeded Maple Lake defeated third-seeded Kasson-Mantorville 3-1. The Irish (29-3) lost the first set to the KoMets (22-12) before taking the next three sets.

State Volleyball Tournament Update

Class 2A quarterfinals

Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated Holy Angels 3-0
Concordia Academy defeated Morris/Chokio-Alberta 3-1
Maple Lake defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-0
Kasson-Mantorville defeated Hermantown 3-0

Friday’s 2A Semifinals
Concordia Academy defeated Kenyon-Wanamingo 3-2
Maple Lake defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-1

Friday’s 2A Consolation
Morris/Chokio-Alberta defeated Holy Angels 3-2
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defeated Hermantown 3-1

Saturday’s 2A Matches
11 a.m., fifth place/ Morris/Chokio-Alberta vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
1 p.m., third place/ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Kasson-Mantorville
3 p.m., championship/ Concordia Academy vs. Maple Lake

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Semifinals Are Set In Class 3A State Volleyball11/10/2016
The 2016 state volleyball tournament is under way at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The Class 3A quarterfinals are the first order of business, followed by Class 1A matches in the afternoon and 2A quarterfinals this evening.

The opening round of 3A play was highlighted by a five-set match between fourth-seeded Lakeville South and fifth-seeded Prior Lake. Prior Lake played very well in winning the first two sets before the Cougars rallied to win the next three and advance with a 3-2 victory.

“I think early (Lakeville South was) tight,” Prior Lake coach Mike Dean said. “We were able to get them in some tough spots early on. I thought early on our serve receive was really well played. After set two we got a little tight. And you had a team that started to relax and realized this was it. That sometimes has a calming effect on a team. They came out, they brought it, hats off to them.”

Defending state champion and top-seeded Eagan advanced to Friday’s semifinals with a 3-0 victory over unseeded Grand Rapids. Eagan will meet Lakeville South in the semifinals and Grand Rapids will face Prior Lake in the consolation bracket.

Grand Rapids coach Bryan Fideldy said his team knew that drawing Eagan in the quarterfinals was a rough way to start the tournament.

“In all honestly we expected to play defense throughout the match,” he said. “We’re vertically challenged. We have a 5-9 middle. That’s a pretty tough chore for our kids to handle.

“Every (Eagan) girl on the floor threw darts at us. Anyone who watches volleyball can see why Eagan has earned the respect they have.”

Also in Class 3A, second-seeded Champlin Park held off unseeded Roseville 3-2, and third-seeded Hopkins defeated unseeded Moorhead 3-0.

State Volleyball Tournament

Class 3A quarterfinals
Eagan defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Prior Lake 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Roseville 3-2
Hopkins defeated Moorhead 3-0

Friday’s 3A Semifinals
9 a.m./ Eagan vs. Lakeville South
11 a.m./ Champlin Park vs. Hopkins

Friday’s 3A Consolation
9 a.m./ Grand Rapids vs. Prior Lake
11 a.m./ Roseville vs. Moorhead
Class 1A State Volleyball: Top Four Seeds Advance11/10/2016
Playing at the state volleyball tournament for the first time in school history is exciting, thrilling, and it can be a little scary. Especially if the first-time team is facing an opponent that knows the ropes.

That was the formula Thursday at Xcel Energy Center when unseeded Stephen-Argyle met top-seeded Mayer Lutheran in the Class 1A quarterfinals. The Stephen-Argyle Storm was at state for the first time; the Mayer Lutheran Crusaders were in the big show for the 12th time since winning the 1A title in 1982. Mayer Lutheran’s most recent appearance was two years ago, so lots of current players had been here before.

The result was no surprise, as the Crusaders rolled to a 3-0 victory.

“It’s huge,” Crusaders coach Joelle Grimsley said of having state tourney experience. “We basically have a routine of what we’re doing. We’re very conscious of our time and what needs to be done. The thing we stress the most is to keep everything as normal as possible.”

That can be a tough assignment, particularly for a team walking into the giant arena for the first time and looking up into that high, dark ceiling. Couple that inexperience with a talented opponent, and the task is very tall.

“They’re just a little bit bigger and faster than what we saw on tape,” said Storm coach Renae Lindgren. “It was kind of an eye-opener for our girls. But it wasn’t for lack of effort and heart.”

The day and the match went according to plan for Mayer Lutheran (27-6).

“It was kind of what we wanted, to get out fast and stay strong,” said Grimsley.

Stephen-Argyle (28-4) will play at least one more match, facing Underwood in Friday’s consolation bracket; the winner will play in Saturday’s fifth-place match. Win or lose, the Storm have made lots of memories in getting to state.

“There’s been so much excitement,” Lindgren said. “We had a fun time with the kids at our elementary school, and the high school has been pretty crazy. We’ve had to share it because our football team went to state, too. (The football team will meet Waubun in the nine-man state quarterfinals Friday night at Brainerd High School.)

“We told the girls, ‘Don’t hang your heads. We lost to a good team.’ Our goal is to get to 30 wins. And we’ve got another shot at that tomorrow.”

--Fourth-seeded Heritage Christian (26-10) held off fifth-seeded Underwood (28-5) in the match of the day in Class 1A. The teams split the first four sets before the Eagles won the fifth and deciding set 15-13.

--Second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over unseeded Kimball.

--Third-seeded Caledonia advanced by defeating unseeded Cook County 3-0.

State Volleyball Tournament

Class 1A Quarterfinals
Mayer Lutheran defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-0
Heritage Christian defeated Underwood 3-2
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Kimball 3-0
Caledonia defeated Cook County 3-0

Friday’s 1A Semifinals
1 p.m./ Mayer Lutheran vs. Heritage Christian
3 p.m./ Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Caledonia

Friday’s 1A Consolation
1 p.m./ Stephen-Argyle vs. Underwood
3 p.m./ Kimball vs. Cook County