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 3-0Friday’s 3A Semifinals
Eagan defeated Lakeville South 3-0
Champlin Park defeated Hopkins 3-0Friday’s 3A Consolation
Prior Lake defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Moorhead defeated Roseville 3-0Saturday’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
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