John's Journal
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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

*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 John Millea is on Twitter at
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.

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.


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.


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 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?

*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 John Millea is on Twitter at
Friday's Football Playoff Report From The Metrodome11/11/2011
Volleyball All-State Teams, Players Of The Year, Ms. Volleyball11/10/2011
The Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association has announced this year’s postseason awards. Here are the all-state players for each class, as well as the players of the year and the identity of this year’s Ms. Volleyball award winner…

Jessie Mathews, Junior, OH, Bethlehem Academy
Kalyn Biever, Junior, S, Wabasha-Kellogg
Maddie Borwege, Junior, MH, Bethlehem Academy
Jennifer Mundt, Senior, MH, Lewiston-Altura
Riley Nordgaard, Senior, OH, Canby
Erica Handley, Junior, S, Win-E-Mac
Riley Hanson, Junior, MH, Nevis
Kelsey Hennen, Senior, LIB, Minneota
Mackenzie Horkey, Sophomore, OH, Southwest Christian
Kendra Schmidgall, Senior, OH, Hancock
Jennifer Krentz, Senior, LIB, Mayer Lutheran
Tiffany Strand, Senior, MH, Ada-Borup
Katie Lubben, Junior, S, Southwest Christian
Abbey Thissen, Senior, MH, MACCRAY

Casie Baer, Senior, S, Canby
Teagan Molden, Senior, MH, MACCRAY
Tori Davidson, Junior, MH, Northern Freeze
Erin Radke, Senior, MH, Nicollet
Brittany Roelike, Junior, OH, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
Belle Sand, Sophomore, OH, Mabel-Canton
Olivia Kaster, Senior, MH, Win-E-Mac
Nicole Schmidt, Junior, OH, Mayer Lutheran

Emilee Gutzmer, Senior, S, Jordan
Kenzie Beekman, Sophomore, OH, Marshall
Kaia Buck, Senior, S, Kasson-Mantorville
Whitney Burmeister, Senior, OH, Jackson Co. Central
Morgan McKittrick, Senior, OH, Marshall
Kelsey Chambers, Senior, OH, Jordan
Emily Miron, Junior, MH, Wadena-Deer Creek
Brittney Noon, Senior, OH, Wadena-Deer Creek
Brooke Decker, Senior, S, Maple Lake
Alexandra Duxbury, Sophomore, LIB, Chatfield
Hannah Tapp, Junior, MH, Stewartville
Haley Fogarty, Junior, OH/S, Belle Plaine
Abby Wolpern, Senior, MH, Belle Plaine

Stephanie Bandelin, Senior, MH, Esko
Jillian Krier, Junior, S, Byron
Emma Lange, Junior, MH, Caledonia
Anne Debertin, Junior, OH/RS, Visitation
Samantha Schlangen, Junior, S, Albany
Jessica Thelemann, Junior, OH/MH, LeSueur-Henderson
Sydney Griffin, Sophomore, MH/S, Marshall

Karlie Hauer, Senior, OH, Andover
Julianne Blomberg, Senior, OH, Chanhassen
Taylr McNeil, Sophomore, OH, Eagan
Sydney Dimke, Senior, RS, Blaine
Anna Pioske, Junior, OH, Waconia
Leigh Pudwill, Senior, OH, Centennial
Taylor Dordan, Senior, LIB, Blaine
Claire Sames, Senior, MH, Shakopee
Julia Doyle, Senior, S, Wayzata
Monica Turner, Senior, MH, Lakeville South
Sarah Wilhite, Junior, OH, Eden Prairie
Alyssa Goehner, Sophomore, OH, Lakeville North

McKell Anderson, Senior, OH, Lakeville South
Alex Berger, Senior, LIB, Shakopee
Maren Loe, Senior, OH, Apple Valley
Lydia Dimke, Sophomore, OH/RS, Blaine
Maggie Ewen, Junior, OH/MH, St. Francis
Jocelyn Youngdahl, Senior, OH, Hill-Murray

Class A Player of the Year – Riley Nordgaard, Canby

Class AA Player of the Year – Whitney Burmeister, Jackson County Central

Class AAA Player of the Year – Leigh Pudwill, Centennial

2011 Ms. Baden Minnesota Volleyball – Leigh Pudwill, Centennial
A Familiar Name On The Radio And Other Volleyball Tidbits11/10/2011
Gordy Kosfeld, veteran play-by-play man for KDHL radio in Faribault, has a special guest commentator for state tournament coverage of the Bethlehem Academy volleyball team: Bethany Boelter, daughter of Cardinals coach Franz Boelter.

Bethany, a 2005 Bethlehem Academy graduate who went on to play volleyball at Minnesota State Mankato, played on the Cardinals’ 2003 Class 1A state title team and proudly wears a championship ring. The ring was made by Josten’s, where she works in the finance department.

Her initial radio gig came courtesy of her father. During a Bethlehem Academy fundraiser in the spring, KDHL offered opportunities to sit in as a color commentator during various Bethlehem Academy sporting events. Franz purchased the volleyball spot and gave it to Bethany.

She sat alongside Gordy during a regular-season match and did a great job, because afterwards Gordy asked her, “Would you like to do the state tournament?”

The top-seeded Cardinals narrowly avoided an upset loss in Thursday’s quarterfinals, winning the first two games against Win-E-Mac and losing the next two before winning the fifth and deciding game.

“That was nerve-wracking,” said Bethany, who coaches the Cardinals during the club volleyball season. “I felt like a parent. My dad keeps his cool better than I do.”

--I knew the volleyball tournament was going to be barrels of fun just by the Twitter chatter on Wednesday evening. These two tweets come from a member of the MSHSL Student SID program and a guy who works on the security detail at the Xcel Energy Center…
*“I'm ready to rep the MSHSL SID program @MSHSLjohn ....waiting for the moment I get my hands on the press pass :D #state #Ada-Borup”
*“@MSHSLjohn see you at the X Thurs-Sat. I will be working the floor from 7am til everyone leaves all 3 days. Looking forward to it!”

--I’ve been working at the MSHSL for more than a year and a half. The job change is old news for me, but word doesn’t always travel fast. One of the coaches involved in the volleyball tournament saw me at the Xcel Center Friday and told me that one of my co-workers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune had told her I would be covering the event for the newspaper. A little mixup, no big deal.

--The Ada-Borup pep band was at the volleyball tourney Thursday and will be back Friday, but facing a busy day. The band will play during the pregame portion of the Cougars’ 1 p.m. state semifinal match against Bethlehem Academy, then scoot up Interstate 35 to Duluth, where the Cougars football team will play Bigfork at 5 p.m. in the Nine-Man state quarterfinals.

--Diet Coke, Part I: I was sitting at courtside looking down into my laptop during the Ada-Borup vs. Cherry match when the call went out: “Heads up!” This urgent message signifies an incoming volleyball. Before I could lift my eyes, the ball bounced off the table in front of me. It missed my opened can of Diet Coke, as well as other less important items like my camera, cell phone and computer.

--Diet Coke, Part II: This thing has been wacky for a long time, and we reached a new level Thursday at the Xcel Center. Michael Isola, a good guy from Wadena who has a great website called, came to the volleyball tourney bearing a gift for me. The photo tells the story …

--Saving The Worst For Last Dept.: Each member of the volleyball media received a paper copy of MSHSL interview guidelines for the tournament. They spell out areas where interviews can and can’t be done. In explaining how to get from the courts to the locker room area, the instructions included this: “DO NOT exit through the vomitories behind the bench area.” Yes, vomitories. Why? I have no idea.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 147
*Miles John has driven: 4,784
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the state volleyball tournament, 26 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at