John's Journal
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
Class 2A Volleyball Rankings8/6/2019
The preseason Class 2A volleyball rankings, provided by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 2A
1. Stewartville
2. North Branch
3. Concordia Academy
4. Belle Plaine
5. Marshall
6. Kasson-Mantorville
7. Sauk Centre
8. Pequot Lakes
9. SW Christian
10. Watertown-Mayer
Class 1A Volleyball Rankings8/6/2019
The preseason Class 1A volleyball rankings, provided by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 1A
1. Kenyon-Wanamingo
2. Medford
3. Mayer-Lutheran
4. Minneota
5. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
6. Mable-Canton
7. Ada-Borup
8. Caledonia
9. Carlton
10. Henning