The paths people take can be quite interesting. Case in point: Cambridge-Isanti volleyall coach Vicki Courts and her husband/assistant coach Mark Courts.
Vicki, who grew up in Bay City, Michigan, was a standout volleyball player at Michigan State, serving as team captain in 2000, her senior year. After she graduated she met a professional fisherman named Mark Courts; he was fishing in a tournament on Saginaw Bay.
Mark is a native of Monticello, Minnesota. Vicki moved to Minnesota, went to graduate school at Bethel University and earned two teaching licenses and a masters degree. They got married and they live in Harris, which is in the Cambridge-Isanti school district.
Vicki (pictured), a special eduation teacher, became an assistant coach for the Bluejackets volleyball team 10 years ago. A year later she was named head coach. The fact that Cambridge-Isanti had never been to state until this year was not lost on anybody, including the coaching staff.
“We spent endless hours in the gym, which all coaches do, but really getting in to work with the youth (was crucial),” Vicki said after the unseeded Bluejackets lost to third-seeded Eagan 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.
“These seven seniors were 9-10-11 years old and I just started dragging them around with me; as managers, on buses, to meals, camps. We tried to just hang in there, and it wasn’t all that easy.”
Building a successful program never is easy. But when Cambridge-Isanti defeated North Branch in the Section 7 final last week at Chisago Lakes, it was, well, it was …
“It was pandemonium,” Vicki said. “Just breaking that cycle of never going to state. We were knocking on the door last year and lost to Grand Rapids by four points in the section final match, and the girls were just relentless about getting there. That’s what we talked about every day. It was the best feeling in the world. Those kids were thrilled. It was the best bus ride ever.”
Mark Courts, who has been a professional angler for 15 years, said joining Vicki on the volleyball court was an easy decision.
“This is about the only opportunity we get to spend time together,” he said. “I’m on the road 200 days a year, so if I’m not in the gym with her we don’t get time together.”
BACK TO GOOD HEALTH, BACK TO STATE
A year ago I wrote about Taryn Tumbleson (pictured), a volleyball player from Martin County West who sat out the 2013 state tournament because of injuries sustained in a car accident early in the season. The story was headlined “The Miracle Of Martin County West.”
She was driving on a gravel road when she lost control and the vehicle rolled several times. Her injuries included 11 broken ribs, a compression fracture in her back and a serious concussion. She wore a back brace at state last year and watched from the bench as the Mavericks finished sixth.
Last year at state Taryn told me she would back in 2014, in uniform and on the court. “Next year, definitely,” she said back then.
When we talked after the Mustangs defeated Browerville 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals, she smiled and said, “I was going to Tweet you and remind you that I said I was going to be back.”
No Tweet was necessary, because seeing her on the court and playing well was more than enough.
“It’s a lot more fun to be on the court,” she said with a big smile. “It was good motivation from last year. It’s great to be back. I think that it was kind of an eye-opener to not take life for granted. I appreciate the coaches and players and every moment I have on the court. It’s great to be here in my senior year.”
ANOTHER COMEBACK STORY
The most famous elbow in Faribault belongs to Bethlehem Academy senior Payton Schultz. She is as veteran as they come, starting for the Cardinals since seventh grade and being part of three state championship teams. A year ago she suffered a knee injury in the second match; this year she blew out her left elbow in the 14th match of the season and didn’t return until the Section 1 title match (in which she entered to serve the final two points).
She was in action Thursday as the Cardinals defeated Kittson County Central 3-0. Schultz had two digs in the match; “I’m not supposed to fall or anything, which is kind of difficult for me,” she said. “Doctor told me to be careful.”
There’s a scar on the elbow, and she wears a brace on it when playing. The injury occurred when she went down for a ball and landed wrong. Bones were broken in three places.
“If you watch the video it doesn’t seem like it should have caused damage, but it was just one of those freak things,” coach Franz Boelter said. “They were able to put it back together nicely. She was given permission to play yet to be cautious. … Today we just wanted to get her in there a little bit in every set and kind of see how things went. I told her, ‘If I put you out there it’s because I care about you, and if I don’t put you out there it’s because I care about you.’ ”
Chaska beats Bemidji 25-10, 25-11, 25-19
Roseville beats Champlin Park 26-24, 27-25, 22-25, 18-25, 15-13
Eden Prairie beats Rochester Mayo 25-12, 25-18, 22-25, 25-13
Eagan beats Cambridge-Isanti 25-12, 25-21, 25-22
Stewartville beat Mora 25-19, 25-17, 25-22
Maple Lake beat Concordia Academy 16-25, 17-25, 25-17, 25-16, 15-13
Marshall beat Thief River Falls 25-23, 25-12, 25-20
Belle Plaine beat Rocori 24-16, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22
Bethlehem Academy beat Kittson County Central 25-12, 25-15, 25-13
Martin County West beat Ada-Borup 14-25, 25-18, 25-14, 26-24
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton beat Browerville 25-11, 25-15, 25-13
Mayer Lutheran beat Carlton 25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 25-17
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,961
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn