John's Journal
Nine-Man Teams Combine For Nine Seniors 11/14/2019
The football teams from Hancock and Mountain Iron-Buhl have just enough combined seniors to field a baseball team. Nine-Man teams are always small in numbers, but for the Owls and Rangers to extend outstanding seasons all the way to the state semifinals – and for Hancock to the Prep Bowl in two weeks – with a total of nine seniors is a measure of their talent and commitment.

The Hancock Owls (13-0), who have six seniors on a 28-player roster, defeated the Rangers 65-32 in the first of 14 semifinals to be played through Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mountain Iron-Buhl (10-2) has three seniors among 26 players (including 12 freshmen and two eighth-graders).

"Everybody counted us out all year because we were so young; we have three seniors, three juniors and only one of those juniors starts," said MIB coach Dan Zubich. "We've got freshmen and sophomores who start."

The Rangers, who also lost in the semifinals last year, cannot be counted out a year from now and beyond based on their youth and big-game experience. Hancock, on the other hand, had never played at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Owls last played in the state football tournament in 1990.

Hancock's Tyler Timmerman had a big day with five touchdowns Thursday, running 22 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns and also scoring on a 61-yard pass and a 75-yard kickoff return. Tyler's father was a running back on the Owls' 1990 team.

After Thursday's game, Tyler was asked to put what has happened into words. His reply: "It means everything. It's the best experience of my life with my friends."

The feeling was similar for the Rangers (10-2) despite the loss. Senior running back Dillon Drake, who ran for 101 yards and a touchdown, called advancing to the state semifinals two years in a row "sort of a dream come true.”

Class 2A: Minneapolis North 44, Paynesville 32

The Polars (12-0) trailed 18-14 at halftime but outscored the Bulldogs 30-14 in the second half to advance to the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2016, when they won the Class 1A title.

North's Terrance Kamara rushed 30 times for 205 yards and four touchdowns. Paynesville’s Grady Fuchs completed 15 of 24 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Both teams lost in last year’s state semifinals; Caledonia beat Paynesville 40-6 and North defeated Barnesville 34-20. Caledonia went on to beat Barnesville 21-0 in the Prep Bowl and those two teams will meet again in Friday’s other 2A semifinal.

Class 4A: SMB 22, Hutchinson 16

SMB, which is a cooperative program with students from St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake, outlasted Hutchinson in a game between unbeaten teams. Defending state champion SMB is averaging 38 points per game and the Tigers’ average is 40, but the defenses dominated.

Jalen Suggs carried 20 times for 88 yards and completed 16 of 27 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns for SMB. Hutchinson was led by Tyler Schiller, who rushed 25 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Class 6A: Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

The Rebels knocked off the defending state champions by taking a 21-0 first-half lead and maintaining control the rest of the way.

Champlin Park’s Jaice Miller completed 20 of 32 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 37 yards and two touchdowns. The Rebels will play in the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2002.

Quote of the day

Minneapolis North coach Charles Adams, asked about this year’s two-week time period between the semifinals and Prep Bowl, referred to players who also play basketball for Hall of Fame North coach Larry McKenzie: “I'm not a fan of it. I’ve already got a fight with Coach Mackenzie for all these dudes that play basketball. So Lord forgive me, I don't know how I'm going to figure that out because he's the big dog over there.”

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis 44, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

9-MAN/ Win-E-Mac (12-0) vs. Mountain Lake (12-0), 9 a.m.
2A/ Barnesville (12-0) vs. Caledonia (12-0), 11:30 a.m.
5A/ Coon Rapids (8-3) vs. Chaska (10-1), 2 p.m.
4A/ Rocori (9-2) vs. Winona (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Wayzata (11-0) vs. Lakeville South (10-1), 7 p.m.

1A/ BOLD (12-0) vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley (10-1), 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup (10-1) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-0), 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale (11-1) vs. Dassel-Cokato (9-3), 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz (12-0) vs. Jackson County Central (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River (11-1) vs. St. Thomas Academy (10-1), 7 p.m.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Another Chapter In Minneota’s Championship Story 11/10/2019
Hayley Fruin will be the first person to tell you that she's a very fortunate coach. She has been in charge of the Minneota volleyball team for three years, and the Vikings recorded their second consecutive Class 1A state championship on Saturday.

Their 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 victory over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown capped a spectacular 33-3 season; the Vikings’ only loss to a Class 1A team came at the hands of BOLD in a tournament, with the other defeats against Class 3A teams
Northfield and New Prague.

The 2018 and 2019 titles aren’t the only Minneota state championships Fruin has had a hand in. When the Vikings won their first volleyball title in 2006 she was a member of the team.

And here’s something that portends well for Year 4 of the Haley Regime: The Vikings will return in nearly full force in 2020. The only senior who played significant minutes in the tournament was Morgan Hennen, with classmates Reese Gillund and Madison Sorenson providing strong competition in practice and great bench support.

"I've had Morgan on my team for four years,” said Fruin, who coached the B squad before becoming head coach. “She started on the B squad my first year and I give her a lot of heck because we're related, but she's a great kid. We’re going to miss her.

“Madison Sorensen is just a big goofball and I love that kid. She’s always providing so much energy to this team and I think that can go unnoticed; people don't realize how much the bench plays into it. And then we have Reese and she's doing the same thing. Everybody knows their role and everybody bought into it. And I know for a senior it might be hard if you're not playing, but those two kids, day in and day out, they're giving it their all in practice and making these kids better, and also on the bench when we're a little bit exhausted, they're always yelling and cheering for the next point.”

Stewartville outlasts North Branch in 2A

Stewartville won its fifth state title and first since 2014 with a five-set victory over defending champion North Branch in Class 2A. Both teams played five sets in Friday’s semifinals and the Tigers came out on top Saturday 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12.

Wayzata Claims 3A Title

The final match of the volleyball season was emblematic of the state tournament, a five-set marathon that went back and forth before Wayzata defeated Eagan 25-20, 14-25, 21-25, 25-19, 16-14 for the Class 3A championship. Of the six semifinals and three championships matches during the state tournament, five of the nine went to five sets in one of the most exciting tourneys in memory.

The title was the first for Wayzata, which was the state runner-up in 2009 and 2010. Eagan, losing for the only time all season, was playing in its 12th state championship match. The Wildcats have now been the state runner-up for three years in a row.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Claire Vekich, Greenway; Emma Kniefel, Kinsey Cronin, Medford; Toryn Richards, Ellie Ready, Delaney Donahue, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown; McKenna Yost, Abby Hennen, Natalee Rolbiecki, Morgan Hennen, Minneota.

Class 2A: Mikayla Coops, Morgan Kruger, Belle Plaine; Kira Fallert, Concordia Academy; Logan Sherman, Marshall; Lily Welch, Erin Lamb, Kaitlyn Prondzinski, Stewartville; Paige Sheehan, Cianna Selbitschka, Paige Peaslee, North Branch.

Class 3A: Halle Wolfe, Lakeville North; Skyler Germann, Minnetonka; Lauren Stenman, Jenna Rubbelke, North St. Paul; Elizabeth Helmich, Olivia Johnson, Sophie Jesewitz, Wayzata; Abby Moe, Sienna Ifill, Kennedi Orr, Eagan.

Saturday’s Matches

Class 1A
Fifth place: Greenway defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-17, 25-21, 25-18
Third place: Medford defeated Fosston 25-16, 25-16, 25-17
Championship: Minneota defeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 25-19, 25-19, 25-20

Class 2A
Fifth place: Marshall defeated Watertown-Mayer 25-19, 25-21, 25-15
Third place: Belle Plaine defeated Concordia Academy 26-28, 17-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-9
Championship: Stewartville defeated North Branch 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12

Class 3A
Fifth place: Lakeville North defeated St. Louis Park 25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18
Third place: North St. Paul defeated Minnetonka 25-22, 23-25, 25-19, 25-9
Championship: Wayzata defeated Eagan 25-20, 14-25, 21-25, 25-19, 16-14

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
This Week’s Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium11/10/2019
9-MAN/ Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Hancock, 11:30 a.m.
2A/ Paynesville vs. Minneapolis North, Thursday, 2 p.m.
4A/ SMB vs. Hutchinson, 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Lakeville North vs. Champlin Park, 7 p.m.

9-MAN/ Win-E-Mac vs. Mountain Lake, 9 a.m.
2A/ Barnesville vs. Caledonia, Friday, 11:30 a.m.
5A/ Coon Rapids vs. Chaska, 2 p.m.
4A/ Rocori vs. Winona, 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Wayzata vs. Lakeville South, 7 p.m.

1A/ BOLD vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley, 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup vs. Blooming Prairie, 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale vs. Dassel-Cokato, 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz vs. Jackson County Central, 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River vs. St. Thomas Academy, 7 p.m.
No Surprise: Eagan, Wayzata Advance To 3A Finals 11/8/2019
When the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds meet to decide the state championship, it's a scenario that shouldn't surprise anyone. That will be the situation Saturday at Xcel Energy Center when Eagan and Wayzata square off for the Class 3A volleyball title.

Among those who aren't stunned is Wayzata coach Scott Jackson.

"If you had told me on August 11 (the day before practice started) that this was going to be the final, I wouldn't have been at all surprised," he said after the Trojans defeated North St. Paul 25-16, 25-22, 27-25 in Friday's semifinals.

Top-seeded Eagan advanced with a five-set struggle for survival against Minnetonka. The Wildcats trailed 2-1 before rallying to win 22-25, 28-26, 25-27, 25-18, 15-13. Eagan, which had lost only six sets all season prior to Friday, will play in the championship match for the seventh year in a row.

"It was a battle from start to finish," said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen of the semifinal victory. "And we have a lot of battles like that in our own gym. So I kind of think the girls fall back on training, and that match today was real typical of what happens in our practices."

Minnetonka coach Karl Katzenberger said, “I think they deserve to win because they outplayed us by a whisker today. But I'm incredibly proud of these kids and you can see there's no disappointment. This is one of the rare, fun years where the sum is greater than the total parts, plain and simple. And I think it goes back to the respect level we all have for one another and the way we treat each other.”

Eagan (31-0) and Wayzata (30-3) did not meet during the regular season. The Skippers' losses this year were against Northfield (twice) and Minnetonka.

Eagan has played in 11 previous state championship games, winning gold in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2013, 2015 and 2016; the Wildcats were the state runner-up most recently in 2017 and 2018. Wayzata, making its seventh state appearance and first since 2010, was the runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

“I thought North St. Paul was fantastic,” Jackson said. “When I shook hands with their staff at the end I meant it when I told (Polars coach) Steph (Blanda) that this is the best defensive team we played against all season. They dug a lot of balls that we normally get kills on.”

Wayzata is among the tallest teams in the state. Their kills leaders Friday were the 6-foot-2 Elizabeth Helmich with 16, the 6-4 Sophie Jesewitz with nine, the 5-11 Kate Long with eight and the 6-4 Katelyn Empkey four. North St. Paul’s Lauren Stenman, at 5-foot-10, led the Polars (24-6) with 15 kills.

“It feels a little bit intimidating when most of your front line is just over five feet and their front line is six feet,” Stenman said with a smile. “And it can feel like they're taking a lot from you, even if it's not true and it can just be a mental thing.”

Stewartville vs. North Branch in Class 2A

Top-seeded Stewartville got out fast before having to rally to defeat Concordia Academy 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 15-7 in the 2A semifinals. The Tigers (29-4) will face defending champ North Branch (29-4) in Saturday’s championship match.

Third-seeded North Branch advanced with a 25-19, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9 victory over unseeded Belle Plaine in Friday’s last semifinal matchup.

Minneota vs. W-E-M in Class 1A

The top two seeds – No. 1 Minneota and No. 2 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown -- also will meet in the Class 1A title round Saturday.

Defending state champion Minneota rallied from a first-set loss to defeat Fosston 23-25, 25-14, 25-7, 25-10. The Vikings (32-3) will play in the state title match for the third year in a row.

Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (34-2) defeated Medford 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 in the semifinals. The Buccaneers have played at state once prior to this year, winning the title in 2015.

A year ago, Minneota defeated Medford 3-0 in the championship match.

State Volleyball Tournament
Friday’s Semifinals
Minneota defeated Fosston 23-25, 25-14, 25-7, 25-10
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown defeated Medford 25-21, 25-20, 25-20

Stewartville defeated Concordia Academy 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 15-7
North Branch defeated Belle Plaine 25-19, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9

Eagan defeated Minnetonka 22-25, 28-26, 25-27, 25-18, 15-13
Wayzata defeated North St. Paul 25-16, 25-22, 27-25

Saturday’s Matches
Class 1A
9 a.m. fifth place: Greenway vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
11 a.m. third place: Fosston vs. Medford
1 p.m. championship: Minneota vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown

Class 2A
11 a.m. fifth place: Watertown-Mayer vs. Marshall
1 p.m. third place: Concordia Academy vs. Belle Plaine
3 p.m. championship: Stewartville vs. North Branch

Class 3A
9 a.m. fifth place: St. Louis Park vs. Lakeville North
3 p.m. third place: Minnetonka vs. North St. Paul
5 p.m. championship: Eagan vs. Wayzata

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Playing At State And Treating Each Other Right11/7/2019
The Minnetonka volleyball team had a great opening day at the Class 3A volleyball state tournament, defeating Moorhead 3-1 Thursday in the quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. It was the Skippers' first trip to state since they claimed the 2A title in 1976, the third year of the tournament.

They defeated the Spuds 21-25, 26-24, 28-26, 25-23 in a hard-fought match. Afterwards, Skippers coach Karl Katzenberger talked at length about what matters most to his team: Treating each other well and being good people.

"This team really holds onto one of our kind of core values; let's treat each other the right way and good stuff happens," he said.

"Number one, we want to make sure that we have personal relationships and treat each other the right way, and everything else comes secondary after that. There's an interesting question we posed: in an average season if there are 100 hours, how many hours do we spend talking about volleyball strategy and how many hours do we spend talking about preparing to be a good person out in the world?"

An answer came from Skippers senior Skyler Germann, who will play college volleyball at Long Beach State and was seated next to Katzenberger in the postgame media session: “60-40,” she said, “40 being the volleyball part and 60 focusing on everybody else.”

The coach added, “Chasing outcomes -- state champion, conference champion, section champion -- that's a byproduct of what we're chasing. We want to be the best team, we want to be there for one another. The good stuff will come if you just have your processes. We're going to treat each other the right way to play the right way.”

The Longest Match of the Day

In the wildest contest of the tournament's opening day, Fosston went the distance in holding off Mounds Park Academy 22-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-17, 15-9 in the Class 1A quarterfinals.

It was Mounds Park Academy's first state appearance and the first for Fosston since 2004. In other words, playing in the big NHL arena in downtown St. Paul was a very new experience for everyone.

As Fosston junior Taylor Kroening explained, “It's huge. We’re very excited to be here.”

Greyhounds coach Sarah Dryburgh said one way to overcome nerves is to give it everything you’ve got.

“It can be a lot of pressure and the nerves can play a factor and we just wanted to play hard,” she said. “Whatever happens, we're down here, let's show what we’ve got. And let's go for it and just play our best game. We can walk away from this court if we lose and feel good about it, so you don't want them to play tight and get nervous. The girls stepped up into that.”

As with many teams from smaller towns, the excitement of going to state is a big thing in Fosston.

“We've been able to hear from a lot of our community with well wishes and support,” Dryburgh said. “Some of our local businesses painted windows, brought treat bags for the girls. A lot of our young students have been supporting the girls and cheering them on. Our community is just really excited for these girls and it was a fun week. We really appreciate all that support.”

Tournament Tidbits

--With Medford and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown both winning Class 1A quarterfinal matches Thursday, they will meet in Friday’s semifinals. The teams are very familiar with each other since they both are members of the Gopher Conference. They met once in conference play and twice in tournaments this season, with W-E-M winning all three times.

--The distance from St. Louis Park High School to Xcel Energy Center is 15 miles, and 11 buses carrying fans of the Orioles made the drive Thursday. St. Louis Park, in its first trip to state in school history, lost to Eagan in the Class 3A quarterfinals and will meet Moorhead in Friday's consolation round.

State Volleyball Tournament
Thursday’s Quarterfinals

Minneota defeated Greenway 25-22 25-15 25-19
Fosston defeated Mounds Park Academy 22-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-17, 15-9
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown defeated Henning 25-11, 25-21, 25-18
Medford defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-22, 25-18. 25-10

Stewartville defeated Annandale 25-17, 25-12, 25-21
Watertown-Mayer defeated Concordia Academy 25-19, 25-18, 25-12
Belle Plaine defeated Marshall 25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22
North Branch defeated Pequot Lakes 25-21, 25-11, 25-18

Eagan defeated St. Louis Park 25-16, 25-12, 25-16
Minnetonka defeated Moorhead 21-25, 26-24, 28-26, 25-23
Wayzata defeated Elk River 25-14, 25-23, 25-16
North St. Paul defeated Lakeville North 25-21, 25-22, 25-19

Friday’s Semifinals
9 a.m.: Eagan vs. Minnetonka
11 a.m.: Wayzata vs. North St. Paul

1 p.m.: Minneota vs. Fosston
3 p.m.: Waterville-Elysian-Morristown vs. Medford

5 p.m.: Stewartville vs. Concordia Academy
7 p.m.: Belle Plaine vs. North Branch

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.