John's Journal
Benefit Planned For Forest Lake Student-Athlete8/16/2019
Recent Forest Lake graduate and student-athlete Jesseca Overland was in a horrific life-changing car accident on August 1. She was T-boned on the driver's side as she was pulling into her own driveway, then airlifted to North Memorial Hospital where she is still being treated. She suffered 12 broken ribs, a broken clavicle, a fractured pelvis in three places, both lungs collapsed and grade 2 injuries to her spleen and liver.

Jesseca has been an athlete since seventh grade, competing at the varsity level in cross-country and track. She was supposed to start her collegiate journey at St. Cloud State University this fall and run cross-country and track as a Husky. However, her freshman fall season has been taken away.

The Forest Lake community has been hit hard and they are all hurting as well as trying to stay strong for Jesseca.

Caring Bridge: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jessecaoverland

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/runjessrun
The Heart Of Tartan Is A Familiar Face 8/14/2019
Like athletes, coaches and fans all over Minnesota, the start of practice for fall sports this week is a special time for Robert Lamb.

"I'll be honest with you," Lamb said. "When it gets close to the end of summer I'm raring to go. There's not much to do during the summer and I always look forward to getting back in the groove of things."

Lamb has been part of Tartan High School sports for about as long as anyone can remember. The 42-year-old, who took special education classes before graduating from the Oakdale school in 1996, has been linked with Titans sports since his days as a student. He has health issues and does not drive, but that hasn't stopped him from working as a manager with the football team and operating scoreboards as a timer for basketball, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling and other events. He also has worked as a timer at the state wrestling tournament for the last seven years.

"He does an awesome job and he loves Tartan," said activities director Bryan Munter. "He's super organized, he gets stuff done. He's one of those people you have to have in high school athletics. He shows up early, he does the job and bleeds Air Force blue and silver (the school colors)."

As a student, Lamb was a manager for the wrestling team and the football team. His ties to the football team have been interrupted at times because of health issues, including congenital narrowing of the spinal column. He missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons and wasn't able to assist the team last year until the postseason.

But the 2018 season was special time for two reasons: the Titans reached the state tournament for the first time in history and recorded their 100th victory with Lamb on the sideline. He was presented with a commemorative plaque to mark his milestone.

"He's my right-hand man," said football coach Matt Diediker. "He wants to be around and he wants to be helpful, he's certainly willing to do anything and everything you ask. He has a great relationship with the boys."

Lamb lives in St. Paul and uses public transportation, including Metro Mobility, to get to Tartan. Coaches and other friends sometimes drive him home. Robert is an only child whose mother, Rita, died in 2011. He never knew his father.

"Sports has been a big part of my life ever since I can remember," he said. "The Tartan community has been a big support network for me, not only here at school but in the community, too."

Everybody involved with sports at Tartan appreciates Robert. "The kids all know him, they were cheering hard for him when he got his plaque last season," Munter said.

With the football season underway, Lamb is busy helping set things up for practice and doing whatever else needs to be done to help the team. He told Diediker last spring that this season, his 20th, will be his last as a football manager (although he plans to continue working as a timer with other sports).

"He wanted to keep it a secret," the coach said. "The next day probably 1,600 people knew.

"He's a good human being and the kids love him."

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea? wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Welcome To The 2019-20 Year In MSHSL Activities8/12/2019
Here's wishing everyone great experiences and lifelong memories as a new year of Minnesota high school activities begins Monday. Work hard, treat others well and don't forget to smile. I can't wait to tell your stories.
Medford Volleyball: New Season, New Expectations8/12/2019
MEDFORD – With 365 days of clear-eyed hindsight, it's apparent that things were very different at Medford High School on the first day of volleyball practice in 2019 as opposed to 2018. The Tigers worked out in the school gym Monday from 7 to 10 a.m., taking the first steps toward what they hope will be a successful and memorable season.

A year ago, Day One may have been better described as day one, because expectations – at least outside the team – were not supremely high. Medford had a record of 14-13-2 in the 2016-17 season and in 2017-18 the Tigers finished with an 18-11 mark and a first-round postseason loss. That's a two-year record of 32-24-2.

And then last season happened. Or more aptly described, Last Season Happened.

A 23-5 regular season was a splendid effort, but the real earthquakes took place in the postseason. The Tigers swept through always-tough Section 1 in Class 1A to qualify for their first state tournament. And the shockers continued at Xcel Energy Center, with unseeded Medford knocking off second-seeded and two-time defending state Mayer Lutheran in the state quarterfinals and third-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the semifinals before falling to No. 1 seed Minneota in the championship match.

It was a remarkable run.

"I don't even know if it’s hit me yet," said coach Missy Underdahl, a 1996 Medford graduate. "Am I dreaming? Did that really happen?

“To see the girls believe in themselves the way they did and trust each other to take them to that level, the energy they brought to the Xcel Energy Center was something I’ll never forget. We went in with no expectations; we wanted to come home with a trophy and we really didn’t care if it was first, second, third, fifth.”

The best quote of the tournament may have come from the Tigers’ Emma Kniefel, who is a senior this year: “We do so many things together. This is the best chemistry I think I’ve ever been on a team with. We just know each other. We know each other’s secrets, we know each other’s boyfriends, we just know everything. We trust each other.”

That chemistry and trust will be vital as a new season begins. Medford lost three seniors to graduation (middle hitter Rachael Luebbe and defensive specialists Meredith Gillis and Journey Anderst); the 2019-20 senior class consists of Kniefel, Izzy Reuvers, Morgan Langeslag, Kiley Nihart and Alyvia Johnson (who transferred from Owatonna to Medford).

“It's still fresh in our minds that like, holy moly, we went to state, we were unranked, no one knows who we were,” Reuvers said. “I’m pretty sure if you're not in our conference or around us, you didn’t know who Medford was. And we just worked our butts off.”

The season opener, in the Aug. 24 Breakdown Side Out Classic at Edina High School, will be a test when the Tigers meet Minneota again. Medford is second in the Class 1A preseason rankings provided by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association. The No. 1 team is Kenyon-Wanamingo, which like Medford is in Section 1. Other Section 1 teams in the top 10 are No. 6 Mabel-Canton and No. 8 Caledonia. Minneota is ranked fourth.

“The expectations are quite a bit different,” Underdahl said. “I think the girls are a very good group who are competitive in a positive way with each other. We’ve said last year was exciting, last year we worked really hard, and we have to work as hard or harder to get back to where we were.”

The process in 2019-20 will be similar to last season, but the expectations are higher and every opponent will be aiming to knock off the Tigers.

“Everyone knows us and we're not the underdog anymore,” Nihart said. “People know what we can do and they want to take us down, which means we have to keep up our level, no matter who we're playing.”

--To see a photo gallery from Medford volleyball, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Class 3A Volleyball Rankings8/6/2019
The preseason Class 3A volleyball rankings, provided by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 3A
1. Eagan
2. Lakeville South
3. Wayzata
4. Champlin Park
5. East Ridge
6. Stillwater
7. Prior Lake
8. Lakeville North
9. New Prague
10. Hopkins
Others Receiving Votes: Hutchinson, Minnetonka, Moorhead, Northfield, North St. Paul