John's Journal
Eden Prairie Marches On11/18/2011
Eden Prairie rolled past Totino-Grace in Friday's 5A semifinals, and Luke Sleeper has the report...

Eden Prairie 49, Totino-Grace 7
Lots Of Action This Weekend, And You Can See It11/17/2011
This will be a big weekend of high school sports in Minnesota, and you and your computer can watch much of the action live.

Football will take over the Metrodome on Friday and Saturday, with six state semifinal games held each day. The girls state swimming and diving championships are underway at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center (diving preliminariesThursday, swimming prelims Friday, finals on Saturday).

All 12 football games, as well as Saturday’s swimming and diving finals, will be streamed lived on the internet. Go to http://prep45.com/, click "Live Schedule" and find your favorite event.

The state adapted soccer tournament also will be held this weekend. Competition in the CI and PI divisions will be held Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 127
*Miles John has driven: 4,844
*Diet Coke Count: 0 for the day, 38 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Things To Know About The State Football Semifinals11/15/2011
Every high school football player in Minnesota dreams of playing in the Metrodome, and 24 teams will do just that this weekend. The state semifinals will be held Friday and Saturday, with six games each day.

Here is the schedule …

Friday
8 a.m. Nine-Man/ Ada-Borup (11-1) vs. Edgerton-Ellsworth (12-0)
10:15 a.m. 1A/ Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (9-3)
12:45 p.m. 4A/ Bemidji (11-0) vs. Mankato West (11-0)
3:15 p.m. 3A/ Annandale (7-5) vs. Fairmont (11-1)
5:45 p.m. 2A/ Moose Lake/Willow River (12-0) vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (11-0)
8:15 p.m. 5A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Totino-Grace (11-1)

Saturday
8 a.m. Nine-Man/ Kittson County Central (9-2) vs. Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (11-1)
10:15 a.m. 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (12-0) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-1)
12:45 p.m. 4A/ Rocori (10-1) vs. Hill-Murray (9-2)
3:15 p.m. 3A/ Providence Academy (10-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (12-0)
5:45 p.m. 2A/ Warroad (9-2) vs. Caledonia (11-1)
8:15 p.m. 5A/ Wayzata (11-0) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (11-0)

This week’s winners will return to the Metrodome a week later for Prep Bowl XXX. The state championship games will be held over two days, with the 1A, 2A, 3A and 5A games on Friday, Nov. 25 and 3A and 4A on Saturday, Nov. 26.

Here are some facts, figures and assorted tidbits to prepare us for this weekend’s games…

Defending State Champions
--2A Caledonia
--5A Wayzata, Totino-Grace (4A champ last year)

Undefeated vs. Undefeated
--2A/ Moose Lake/Willow River (12-0) vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (11-0)
--4A/ Bemidji (11-0) vs. Mankato West (11-0)
--5A/ Wayzata (11-0) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (11-0)

Other Undefeated Teams
--Nine-Man Edgerton-Ellsworth (12-0)
--1A Mahnomen (12-0), Dawson-Boyd (12-0)
--3A St. Croix Lutheran (12-0)

No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Associated Press Rankings
--2A/ No. 1 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown vs. No. 2 Moose Lake/Willow River
--5A/ No. 1 Wayzata vs. No. 2 Cretin-Derham Hall

Unranked Teams Still Alive
--1A Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s
--2A Warroad
--3A Annandale, Providence Academy
--4A Hill-Murray

State’s Longest Current Winning Streak
--Wayzata, 22 games

First Time at State
--Nine-Man Bigfork
--1A Dawson-Boyd
--3A Annandale, Providence Academy
--4A Faribault

First-Year Head Coaches
--2A Gabe Richards, Warroad
--4A Brooks Bollinger, Hill-Murray

Former Head Coaches Who Played in the NFL
--4A Brooks Bollinger, Hill-Murray (Jets, Vikings, Cowboys, Lions)

Nickname vs. Same Nickname
--3A Warroad Warriors vs. Caledonia Warriors
--4A Annandale Cardinals vs. Fairmont Cardinals
--5A Eden Prairie Eagles vs. Totino-Grace Eagles

Most Unique Nickname Matchup
--Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks vs. Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms

Longest Distance Between Opponents
--506 miles between Warroad and Caledonia

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 127
*Miles John has driven: 4,844
*Diet Coke Count: 38 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Behind The Championship: Pain, Guts And Volleyball Glory For Eden Prairie11/12/2011
The headlines, the talk and the memories from Eden Prairie’s first state volleyball championship will center on the length of Saturday’s match. The Eagles and Lakeville North played through five games and then beyond the standard first-team-to-15-points-is-the-winner plateau in the decisive Game 5.

Yes, the two teams traded punches for 2 hours, 6 minutes at Xcel Energy Center in a duel that will long be remembered for thunderous kills by Eden Prairie’s Sarah Wilhite and North’s Alyssa Goehner. The high-flying duo absolutely hammered the poor volleyball; Wilhite had 33 kills and Goehner had 34, but the outcome of the final match of the 2011 high school volleyball season probably hinged more on one thin little wrist than on the thumpers at the net.

During the second game, Eagles setter Maddie Reese smacked into a teammate. Hard. As Maddie told me afterward, her left wrist “kind of got crushed a little bit.” Eden Prairie coach Chad Becker called a timeout and team trainer Gary Smith gave Reese’s wrist as much treatment as was possible in about 60 seconds.

This was trouble, big trouble for the Eagles. A setter with a bad wrist? That’s like a baseball pitcher with a bad elbow. A bowler with no thumb. A one-legged punter.

“Maddie is a gutty player,” Becker said as he described to me what took place during that second-game timeout. Lakeville North, the defending state champs, had won the first game 25-22 and a 2-0 deficit would be a steep uphill climb for Eden Prairie. When Becker called timeout, the Eagles held a 16-14 lead but Reese was in pain. Lots of pain.

Maddie (pictured) had tears in her eyes. Her teammates were worried about her, and Becker was worried that they might lose their focus on playing volleyball.

“We’d battled some demons where we just don’t play loose and relaxed all the time,” Becker said. “And we’d been battling that, losing game one and going into game two. Right at that moment, when I called that timeout, I said, ‘These are situations we’ve been put in all year long. We’ve responded all year long. Maddie will be fine, we’re going to respond.’

He thought about having other players take over setting duties, at least temporarily, until – or if – Maddie was good to go again.

“I had planned to have the right side set that next rotation and then (Smith) kind of worked (the injury) out. When Maddie was going back out I said, ‘Can you set?’ And she said, ‘Yeah.’ And I think that just relaxed everyone. You could tell the team wasn’t concerned about maybe the score or the match, they were more concerned about their teammate. And I think that allowed them to relax and just play together.”

The Eagles won the second game 25-21and Smith wrapped Reese’s wrist in red athletic tape before the next game began. The teams split games three and four. The fifth game went Eden Prairie’s way by a 22-20 score, but only after ties and angst at 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. The clinching point came on a kill by Wilhite and a set assist by … who else? Reese finished with 52 of her team’s 59 set assists.

“I just kind of fought through it, because I really wanted this for my team,” Maddie said. She admitted that it hurt every time she set the ball, but then again, what choice did she have?

“I knew we could do this,”she said, wearing a gold medal around her neck. (In this photo, Maddie stands with teammate Anna Domalewski during the postgame ceremony.) “We worked really hard all season.”

Did she ever think about coming out of the game? “No. No way.”

And then here came Smith, carrying a bag of ice. He put it on Maddie’s wrist, wrapped some tape around it … and the celebration continued.

MARSHALL, BETHLEHEM ACADEMY WIN

While Eden Prairie’s 3A championship was the Eagles’ first in two state tourney appearances, the champions of 2A and 1A are familiar with going to state and finishing first.

In 2A, Marshall beat Stewartville 3-1 as the Tigers captured their fourth state title in 23 trips to state (the other championships were in 2004, 2007 and 2009).

And in 1A, Bethlehem Academy beat Nevis 3-0 to continue its pattern of winning state titles in every odd-numbered year since 2003. That’s right, the Cardinals previously won championships in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. What’s more, they were the state runner-up in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Their streak of state appearances was interrupted last year when they lost to eventual 1A champ Wabasha-Kellogg in the Section 1 final.

SISTER ACT
When Marshall won the 2A championship it completed a family threepeat. The Tigers’Kenzie Beekman wears number 14 and was part of a state championship team as a sophomore, as were her big sisters Amanda and Dani.

PREGAME SONGS
The team from Nevis wins the prize for most enthusiastic pregame singing. In a corridor just off the Xcel floor, the Tigers belted out oldies such as “Hey Baby” and “Splish Splash.” The volume was exceptional, the pitch was perfect.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS
CLASS 1A: Nico Schmidt, Mayer Lutheran; Erica Handley, Win-E-Mac; Tiffany Strand, Ada-Borup; Taylor Reiss, Kelsey Hennen, Minneota; Riley Hanson, Megan Norby, Nevis; Maddie Borwege, Jessie Mathews, Payton Schultz, Bethlehem Academy.

CLASS 2A: Macy Weller, Sauk Centre; Emily Miron, Wadena-Deer Creek; Kelsey Chambers, Emilee Gutzmer, Jordan; Kenzie Beekman, Morgan McKittrick, Sydney Griffin, Marshall; Hannah Tapp, Paige Tapp, Danielle DeGeus, Stewartville.

CLASS 3A: Lauren Schlobohm, Owatonna; Karlie Hauer, Kaytlin Turner, Andover; Sara Carlson, Ellie VanDeSteeg, Hutchinson; Sarah Wilhite, Ellen Piechowski, Eden Prairie; Alyssa Goehner, Jessica Wolf, Sami Flattum, Lakeville North.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 127
*Miles John has driven: 4,844
*Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 38 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
More Familiar Volleyball Faces Are Popping Up All the Time11/11/2011
I know I’ve been around for a while, but it seems like there’s another reminder of how quickly time passes every time I turn around at the state volleyball tournament.

I’ll see a young lady who I thought was playing high school volleyball a year or two ago, and she’s a college graduate now working as a radio analyst (see the previous John’s Journal entry). I saw Marshall assistant coach Amanda Beekman on the sideline and recalled her playing for the Tigers not long ago … but she too is a college graduate. Sigh.

I thought I noticed a familiar face on the Eden Prairie bench, and sure enough it was another blast from the past. In 2004 – which seems like last week -- I wrote about Eden Prairie senior Courtney Cowles when she was named the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s metro player of the year. She’s now 24 years old and has returned to her high school as an assistant coach. She coached last year at Bloomington Jefferson and was hired by Eden Prairie head coach Chad Becker this season.

My player of the year story about Courtney, published November 9, 2004, began like this…

Eden Prairie volleyball coach Mark Kaschke first saw Courtney Cowles when she was playing the game in junior high. Even then, the thing that stood out in the little squirt was her competitive spirit.

“She had the fire in her eyes,” Kaschke said of Cowles, this year's selection as the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. “She was such a great, competitive athlete even at that age, and she just continued that through her high school career. She is just pure guts, pure courage.”

The 5-8 senior setter is the matchstick that has ignited the third-ranked Eagles (27-3) to new heights this season. (end of excerpt.)

Two years later, Courtney’s sister Hailey was named metro player of the year; Hailey is now a senior on the University of Minnesota volleyball team.

Courtney played volleyball at North Carolina-Charlotte and returned to the Twin Cities after college because, as she told me, “I missed Minnesota.”

The only previous Eden Prairie team to reach the state tournament was in 2004 when Courtney was a senior. The Eagles finished third in Class 3A that year.

“She’s certainly made a big difference in our staff,” said Becker, who was an Eden Prairie assistant coach when Courtney was in high school. “She’s worked really hard and the experience she has, being in the state tournament, has really helped our kids understand what it’s going to be like and what to expect and what to go through.”

Courtney, who is working on a master’s degree at the University of St. Thomas, said once you’re an Eagle you’re an Eagle for life.

“Eden Prairie really does a nice job of from when you’re 5 years old to when you graduate, you’re an Eagle,” she said. “So there’s some deep-rooted pride there.

“We had a new team this year, with only three girls that were on varsity last year. So just being another set of eyes and someone that’s been there and played against these teams and been in these situations; you know they’re stressful but you have to know that you’re going to remember these moments for your entire life and that you just have to have fun.”

--One player’s family didn’t have any trouble getting to the arena for the volleyball tournament … or knowing where to park. Lakeville North junior Laura Larson’s father is Jack Larson, vice president and general manager of the Xcel Energy Center.

TWITTER UPDATE
I had some enjoyable Twitter back-and-forth with football players at the volleyball tournament. I noticed Lakeville North footballers in the crowd watching their team and issued this tweet:

*“Lakeville North football players here at the X, just sitting. No jumping/screaming, saving energy for #mshsl playoff game tonight vs Cretin.”

Before long, this Tweet was sent to me …

*”@MSHSLjohn Hey we’re here too”

My reply: “Yes, Cretin football players are in the house, too. Panthers-Raiders will kickoff at the dome at 5 p.m. in #mshsl 5A game. I'll be there.”

And they played a heck of a football game. Things went back and forth until Cretin-Derham Hall won the game on a field goal with three seconds to play.

FROM ONE TWIN CITY TO ANOTHER

After six hours at the volleyball tournament Friday, I left the Xcel Center at 3 p.m., hit a drive-through just off Interstate 94 to collect something for dinner and arrived at the Metrodome at 3:45 p.m. for a football doubleheader. That was 45 minutes for a nine-mile drive. Thank you, slow traffic.

I HATE TO REVISIT THIS TOPIC, BUT …

Due to interest from John’s Journal readers (I am not making that up), here is further information on the word “vomitories” as used in the previous edition…

From merriam-webster.com: VOMITORY: an entrance piercing the banks of seats of a theater, amphitheater, or stadium. Origin: Late Latin vomitorium, from Latin vomere; from its disgorging the spectators. First Known Use: 1730.

Can we stop now?

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 127
*Miles John has driven: 4,804
*Diet Coke Count: 7 for the day, 33 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn