John's Journal
State Volleyball Update: Class 3A Semifinals Are Set11/12/2015
The Class 3A quarterfinals were the first order of business Thursday during the state volleyball tournament at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The top four seeds in 3A all advanced to Friday's semifinals; the quarterfinals in Class 1A and 2A followed.

Here is a Class 3A quarterfinal recap...

Prior Lake 3, Hopkins 0/ The top-seeded Lakers, at state for the first time in history, played the part of the team to beat with their victory over the Royals. Prior Lake (27-4) rarely trailed, falling behind the Royals (17-14) 1-0 in the first set and 3-2 in the third set. Ella Francis had 11 kills and 13 digs for Prior Lake and Ellie Veldman had 37 assists. For Hopkins, Jasmyn Martin had 12 kills, Tara Lee had 21 assists and Lauren Ortiz had 11 digs.

Roseville 3, Moorhead 1/ Fifth-seeded Moorhead (26-5) won the first set before the fourth-seeded Raiders (24-6) rallied to take the next three and advance to Friday’s semifinals against Prior Lake. Roseville’s Alivia Garbe had 24 kills and 16 digs, Bre Maloney had 41 assists and 12 digs, Sara Hain had 13 kills and Haley Kauth had 17 digs. Moorhead’s Kenna Taylor had 24 kills and 13 digs, Britta Hanson had 25 assists, and Kortney Carney had 19 assists and 13 digs.

Champlin Park 3, North Branch 0: The third-seeded Rebels (28-4), who finished fifth at state last year, reached the semifinals with their victory over the Vikings 24-6). Sydney Hilley and Jenae Alderson had nine kills each for Champlin Park, Izzy Ashburn had 11 assists, and Alderson and Kaitlyn Weimerskirsch each had six digs. For North Branch, Morgan Coleman had 14 assists, Cianna Selbitschka had four kills and seven digs, and Courtney Selbitschka had four kills and six digs.

Eagan 3, Rochester Mayo 1: The second-seeded Wildcats (26-4) had to battle against the Spartans (27-3) in advancing to face Champlin Park in the semifinals. Brie Orr had 17 kills, 23 assists and 15 digs for Eagan, Kennedi Orr had 16 assists and Ally Murphy had 12 kills. For Mayo, Kate Holtan had 15 kills and 19 digs, Anna Winter had 13 kills and Lexie Lang had 39 assists.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,705
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
For Sebeka, The First Time Is The Third First Time 11/12/2015
Sebeka’s trip to the Class 1A state volleyball tournament added an extra exclamation point to a fall season that has been spectacular for the town of 693 souls that’s located between Brainerd and Detroit Lakes.

Three fall sports teams made it to state this year, the first time in history for each. The football and cross-country teams are cooperative squads with Menagha under the banner of United North Central.

The football team went 9-3 and reached the Class 2A state semifinals before losing to Pipestone, which will meet Caledonia in Friday’s state championship game.

In cross-country, the United North Central girls team placed 13th at last Saturday’s Class 1A state championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

And in volleyball, unseeded Sebeka fell to second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 1A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. The Trojans will meet Ada-Borup in Friday’s consolation bracket.

FOR ADA-BORUP SENIOR Morgan Miller, playing in a state tournament is nothing new. She and her Cougars teammates lost to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals. Morgan, who also is on the Ada-Borup basketball and track teams, has now played in nine state tournaments.

In fact, she has been to every state tournament in her three sports since her freshman basketball season; three in hoops, three in track and now two in volleyball.

The Fargo Forum’s Chris Murphy wrote about Morgan on Thursday. Ada-Borup volleyball and track coach Ruth Hayden told him, “That is amazing. Not many can tell their kids that story.”

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--In Class 3A, the top four seeds all advanced to Friday’s semifinals. Top seed Prior Lake defeated Hopkins 3-0, second-seeded Roseville held off fifth-seeded Moorhead 3-1, second-seeded Eagan defeated Rochester Mayo 3-1 and third-seeded Champlin Park beat North Branch 3-0. The semifinal matchups will be Prior Lake vs. Roseville and Eagan vs. Champlin Park.

--The high seeds also advanced in Class 1A. No. 1 seed and defending champion Bethlehem defeated Cook County 3-0, second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton beat Sebeka 3-0, No. 3 seed Waterville-Elysian-Morristown beat Ada-Borup 3-0 and fourth seed Heritage Christian Academy of Maple Grove beat Verndale 3-1. In Friday’s semifinals it will be Bethlehem Academy vs. Heritage Christian and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

--In the Class 2A quarterfinals, top seed Belle Plaine beat Perham 3-0, second-seeded Concordia Academy-Roseville beat Hermantown 3-0, No. 3 seed Rocori beat Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 3-2 (in the day’s only match that went to a fifth set) and fourth seed Stewartville beat Hill-Murray 3-1. Friday’s semifinal matchups are Belle Plaine vs. Stewartville and Concordia vs. Rocori.

Championship matches in all three classes will be played Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,705
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Prep Bowl XXXIV Schedule11/12/2015
At the University of Minnesota

Friday, Nov. 13
10 a.m.: 9-Man/ Underwood (13-0) vs. Grand Meadow (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 2A/ Pipestone (13-0) vs. Caledonia (13-0)
4 p.m.: Class 4A/ South St. Paul (11-1) vs. Becker (12-0)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Osseo (9-3) vs. East Ridge (11-1)

Saturday, Nov. 14
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (12-0) vs. Minneota (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ Jackson County Central (10-2) vs. Pierz (12-0)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ St. Thomas Academy (11-1) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (11-1)
An Early Hockey Challenge Is Something To Build On 11/10/2015
The high school hockey season is a long one. Girls teams began practicing on Oct. 26 and the season will culminate with the 2016 state championship games on Feb. 20. In between are 17 weeks of practices, games and lessons.

Those games at the end of the season will be played under the brightest lights and heaviest glare of attention. But the games played early on are just as vital, setting the tone for what is to come.

Case in point was Tuesday night’s game between Blake and Hill-Murray at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. This was a match between heavyweights: Hill-Murray, playing its season opener, is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and owns the last two state championships. Blake, playing its second game after beating Cretin-Derham Hall 4-1 on Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and won state championships in 2013 and 2014 before falling to Thief River Falls in last season’s title game.

The verdict Tuesday was straightforward. Hill-Murray scored power-play goals in the first and second periods and added an even-strength goal before giving up one to Blake with 14 seconds remaining in the third. The final was Pioneers 3, Bears 1 and both teams came away with lessons that can be carried forward.

“It’s kind of a typical first game of the year,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser. “It’s a little frazzled at times but there’s something to be said for learning how to win and it doesn’t have to be fancy sometimes.”

Both teams are loaded with high-end talent. Jac Kaasa had a goal and an assist for Hill-Murray, and Laura Anderson and Kate Smith also scored. Carly Bullock scored the late goal for the Bears.

Bullock will play college hockey at Princeton along with teammate Sylvie Wallin. Blake’s Lucy Burton will play at Yale, as will a teammate who has not yet made that news public.

Mekenzie Steffen, who had an assist for the Pioneers, will play at Wisconsin and fellow defender Kenzie Prater will play at Quinnipiac.

The shots-on-goal in the game were dead even at 23 apiece and both coaches came away impressed with the competition.

“I saw Hill-Murray play a very disciplined game,” said Blake coach Shawn Reid. “They are tough, they’re great defensively, they block tons of shots, it’s hard to generate any offense. And the couple times we did generate offense, they had a great goalie (senior Mari Johnson).”

Schafhauser said of the Bears, “They have great skill. Over the last couple of years they’ve beaten us in overtime in some really good games. It could have easily gone that way again. We had some really good goaltending. It’s a good start.”

Afterwards, the coaches talked to their teams about this fact: it’s a long season, one game is just one game, and there is much to learn.

“That’s exactly what we said,” Reid said. “We don’t need to overreact to this. It’s one game against a very good team and what we need to do is find lessons in that. What can we learn and how can we improve?”

Schafhauser said of his players, “They never gave up. It was frustrating at times. I know a lot of them understand the level that they’re used to and it just doesn’t happen overnight. That’s when you kind of lean on your seniors. We have kind of a new experience this year with nine seniors; we’ve never had that many. And we had some young kids today who were a little overwhelmed. But they’re good players and it’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Time? Oh, there’s plenty of time.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 234
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,665
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Hasz Sisters Finish 1-2 One More Time; Seventh-Grader Makes History11/7/2015
NORTHFIELD -- The third time was a charm for the Hasz sisters from Alexandria. Then again, the first and second times were pretty charming, too.

The 18-year-old senior twins capped their high school cross-country careers by finishing first and second Saturday in the Class 2A state meet; Bethany was first and Megan second. Last year the finish was Megan first and Bethany second, and two years ago it was Bethany first and Megan second.

“Megan could have just as easily won,” Bethany said Saturday. “It could have gone either way.”

Bethany’s winning time Saturday over 5,000 meters was 17 minutes, 32.2 seconds. Megan finished in 17:38.9 and Claire Boersma, a junior from Marshall, placed third in 17:51.1. (They are pictured here, left to right: Bethany, Megan and Claire.)

Saturday’s race, the Hasz sisters’ fifth time at the state meet, capped an illustrious autumn career that will continue on the track in the spring before they begin college at the University of Minnesota. They first went to state in 2011, when they were eighth-graders. Megan placed fourth and Bethany was fifth. As freshmen, Bethany was third and Megan sixth.

In track, Bethany won the Class 2A 1,600- and 3,200-meter state titles last spring. As sophomores the twins placed second (Megan) and third (Bethany) in the 1,600 and third (Bethany) and fourth (Megan) in the 3,200.

Megan did not run at the state track meet last spring due to a stress fracture in her left tibia. The injury resurfaced this fall after she raced in the season’s first meet, and she sat out until later in the campaign. Bethany and Megan finished 1-2 in the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8 meets, and the Alexandria team qualified for state for the first time since 2011.

“We’re just sad that it’s our senior year, “Bethany said. “We’re going to miss our coaches and our team. It’s weird that this is our last state cross-country meet.”

Boersma was all smiles after crossing the finish line behind the twins.

“This feels amazing,” she said. “It feels like a dream. Once we finished I was kind of star struck around (the Hasz sisters). They’re so amazing, they’re like celebrities. People joked around, ‘Oh, are you going to beat the Hasz sisters?’ But that wasn’t really a goal of mine this year. I was just trying to finish right behind them.”

In the team competition, Edina won the title with 68 points, followed by Marshall (76) and Willmar (119).

IN THE CLASS 1A GIRLS RACE, Winona Cotter’s Grace Ping made history by becoming the youngest state champion in history. She is a seventh-grader who turned 12 in July. No seventh-grader -- male or female, Class 1A or 2A -- had ever won a state cross-country title before Saturday.

Her time of 17:52.0 was 50 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Breck eighth-grader Morgan Richter (18:42.7). Placing third was Watertown-Mayer senior Hannah Truniger in 18:46.7.

Ping, who won the Section 1 championship with a margin of two minutes, two seconds, came into Saturday’s race as the top-ranked runner in Class 1A. Before Saturday, her watershed victory had come in September at the Roy Griak Invitational. The field in that race consisted of 419 girls from 49 teams in 10 states. The Griak was her first 5K as part of a high school team, although she has been running 5K since she was eight.

Ping’s victory Saturday gives her the possibility of becoming the first six-time state cross-country champion. The only five-time state champion is Carrie Tollefson of Dawson-Boyd, who won five titles from 1990 through 1994 and went on to become an NCAA all-American at Villanova and an Olympian.

Perham won the 1A girls team championship with a score of 74, followed by Annandale (99) and Trinity School at River Ridge (118).

BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP RACES

Wayzata senior Jaret Carpenter carried the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A into Saturday’s race and finished that way, too. His time of 18:26.5 was less than two seconds better than runner-up Micah Mather (15:28.2), a senior from St. Paul Highland Park. Stillwater senior Eli Krahn was third in 15:32.3.

Hopkins claimed the 2A boys team title with a score of 34, followed by Minneapolis Washburn (67) and Stillwater (87).

In Class 1A, La Crescent junior Zack Emery won the state title with a time of 16:07.8. Mora junior Michael Schwinghamer was second in 16:11.1 and Lake City junior Carl Kozlowski was third in 16:17.4.

Mora won the team title for the second year in a row with a score of 43, followed by Perham (94) and Annandale (166).

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 232
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,607
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn