When you watch the Woodbury volleyball team, you see double. And triple. And what’s more, you see a very talented squad.
The easy headline for the Royals mentions all the sisters on the team: Identical twins Marika and Nicola Kim are senior hitters, and Sam, Nicole and Jenna Sullivan are triplets (Sam and Jenna are identical, adding to the fun). The Sullivans are also seniors. (In the photo below, 11-Jenna Sullivan and 7-Marika Kim team up for a block.)
I was in the Woodbury gym Tuesday night when the Royals played Bethlehem Academy from Faribault. Bethlehem Academy, the second-ranked team in Class 1A and the defending 1A state champion, pulled out an exciting 3-2 victory over the Royals, who are on the cusp of the top 10 in Class 3A.
In fact, I said to Royals coach Linda Crum after the match, “I don’t know why your team isn’t in the top 10.” Woodbury received some votes in this week’s coaches poll, but not enough to crack the top 10. That should change.
(To see more photos and a video from the match, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)
Tuesday’s match seemed like a prototypical matchup of 1A and 3A teams. Bethlehem Academy was undersized but highly skilled; Woodbury was taller at the net. The Kims are both 5-foot-11, and Royals seniors Cassie Cahill (5-9) and Jenna Sullivan (5-9) provide some clobbering power.
On the other side, Bethlehem Academy has 5-10 sophomore Maddie Borwege and 5-11 senior Taylor North, but the Cardinals’ strength is in their ball-control abilities. The back row of seniors Jena Budde and Victoria Nass and eighth-grader Payton Schlutz is tough to crack.
The game scores Tuesday night were 24-26, 25-22, 27-25, 22-25 and 15-9. The marathon match lasted 2 hours, 7 minutes.
“I thought they did an excellent job tonight of really staying consistent and staying in their game as far as ball-handling,” Crum said of the Cardinals. “They’re not necessarily flashy, but it’s more consistent.”
Bethlehem Academy won small-school state titles in the last four odd-numbered years: 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 and they were state runners-up in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Bethlehem Academy, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 1A behind Minneota, opened the season against the top teams in the Class 3A and 2A rankings. Lakeville North defeated the Cardinals 3-0 on Aug. 31 and Bethlehem Academy beat Marshall 3-0 last Thursday. (In this week’s rankings, Marshall fell into the No. 2 spot in 2A behind Hutchinson.)
“They have a lot of tradition and a great program,” Crum said. “And I think one of the things I enjoy about playing their team is that they’re going to be a great ball-handling team, they’re going to balance what they do offensively and they’re going to play smart. That’s what you need, that’s what teams are doing in November and it’s great to play against teams like that and see, ‘Where are we?’ ”
Woodbury came into Tuesday’s match with a 2-1 record. The Royals beat Andover and Eagan and lost a 3-2 decision to Burnsville. Woodbury has gone to the state tournament four times: 1992, 1994, 2004 and 2007.
The plan at BA every year is to work hard, play as tough a schedule as possible and be ready for the state tournament. As coach Franz Boelter told me during preseason workouts, “If it’s our fate to finish first or second in alternate years, that’s a pretty nice fate to have.”
After Tuesday’s tough victory (celebratory photo at left), Boelter said of Woodbury, “They’re pretty good. The biggest thing is that we survived, and a lot of it was we had to survive ourselves. We just had so many errors and just generally we didn’t play that well but we kept playing hard. Sometimes, with the type of team we have, we’re just going to have to outlast people. We hung in there, hung in there, hung in there, and at the end maybe we had a little bit more left than they did.
“We gave them enough chances, we reduced our errors and they ended up making the final errors. That’s what volleyball is; it’s a game of errors, and you’ve got to reduce your errors. And yet you have to stay aggressive, and sometimes I thought we weren’t very aggressive.”
When I stepped out of my car at the school, I heard the Woodbury marching band rehearsing in the football stadium. The tune was the AC/DC classic “Dirty Deeds,” wonderfully played.
The national anthem was beautifully sung by Mike Kim … father of Marika and Nicole.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 35
*Miles John has driven: 1,647
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