John's Journal
State Football Semifinal Schedules At U.S. Bank Stadium11/13/2018
Daily Schedules

Thursday, Nov. 15
11:30 a.m. Nine-Man: Cromwell-Wright vs. Spring Grove
2 p.m. Class 2A: Caledonia vs. Paynesville
4:30 p.m. Class 4A: SMB vs. Waseca
7 p.m. Class 6A: Eden Prairie vs. Blaine

Friday, Nov. 16
9 a.m. Nine-Man: Mountain Lake Area vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
11:30 a.m. Class 2A: Barnesville vs. Minneapolis North
2 p.m. Class 5A: Elk River vs. Owatonna
4:30 p.m. Class 4A: Willmar vs. St. Paul Johnson
7 p.m. Class 6A: Lakeville North vs. Lakeville South

Saturday, Nov. 17
9 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
11:30 a.m. Class 1A: Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield
2 p.m. Class 3A: Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes
4:30 p.m. Class 3A: Perham vs. Fairmont
7 p.m. Class 5A: Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy

Class-By-Class Pairings

Cromwell-Wright vs. Spring Grove, Thursday 11:30 a.m.
Mountain. Iron-Buhl vs. Mountain Lake Area, Friday, 9 a.m.

BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie, Saturday, 9 a.m.
Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

Paynesville vs. Caledonia, Thursday, 2 p.m.
Barnesville vs. Minneapolis North, Friday, 11:30 a.m.

Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Perham vs. Fairmont, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

SMB vs. Waseca, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Willmar vs. St. Paul Johnson, Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Elk River vs. Owatonna, Friday, 2 p.m.
Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy, Saturday 7 p.m.

Eden Prairie vs. Blaine, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Lakeville South vs. Lakeville North, Friday, 7 p.m.

Tears And Cheers On Volleyball’s Championship Saturday 11/11/2018
There’s a quiet tradition in high school athletics and activities. It comes when the season ends, whether that happens at a state tournament, a first-round section game or at the close of the speech or debate or marching band season. It doesn’t happen with every team everywhere, but when it does it’s worth a few words.

The main theme? Tears, often from the winning team. I first experienced this years ago at the state volleyball tournament. Bethlehem Academy, a Class 1A school in Faribault, had a tremendous run of volleyball success starting in 2002; the Cardinals played for state championships eight years in a row and 12 times through 2015.

In one of those championship years, coach Franz Boelter exited the locker room with tears in his eyes. A few minutes later as the players came out, they also had been crying. But they won? Why the tears?

The coach explained that everyone was sad that their time together as a team had ended, that the seniors had played on the team for the last time, and they wouldn’t be going to practice the following Monday. (Pictured are happy team members from Ada-Borup after a third-place finish in Class 1A Saturday).

We saw several similar episodes on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. After Minneota defeated Medford 3-0 in the Class 1A championship match, Medford coach Missy Underdahl began the post-match media session apologizing for wiping away a few tears.

“These aren't tears of sadness,” she said, beginning to smile. “These are tears of our season has come to an end, and you’re going to miss these girls so much because it’s just been an incredible season. I’m not having tears of sadness here, it’s tears of the reality that I won’t get to see these girls.”

In their first trip to state, the Medford Tigers were the story of the tournament. They came in as one of three unseeded teams in the 1A field and beat No. 2 seed Mayer Lutheran and No. 3 seed Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to reach the finals against top-seeded Minneota.

As Medford senior Rachael Luebbe said, “My goal at the beginning of the year was to get to (the late rounds of the Section 1 playoffs in) Rochester. I could never dream of getting this far.”

Junior teammate Izzy Reuvers added, “We’re amazed that we made it this far.” And Izzy wore a big smile when she said that.

In the Class 2A championship match, North Branch – like Minneota a state runner-up last season – battled with Marshall before winning a 3-2 decision for the Vikings’ first state title. While the North Branch players were posing for photos and celebrating with their fans, Marshall coach Dan Westby gathered his team together on the court.

This was a private moment for the team. There were tears and smiles as the coach spoke to the girls. Later, I told Dan that it was none of my business but I was curious about what he said. He was emotional as the two of us stood alone in a quiet corridor.

“I just said, because of the fact that they’re such good kids (he hesitated to gather himself) … I could not do this anymore and I would be fine, but I just wanted them to experience that feeling. I’ve had it, it’s not about me, I don’t need to do it, but I just wanted them to experience it. They’re good kids.”

Marshall was playing at state for a record 28th time. The Tigers have won six state titles (most recently in 2013) and finished second seven times.

Westby again talked about his players in the postgame media session.

“They’re great kids. I know that sounds like a cliché, but they really are,” he said. “I recall our assistant coach Alex Boddy saying on the first day of practice, ‘There’s not one kid in here who’s ever going to bother me on a given day. These are great kids.’ And she’s right. They’re leaders in our school and in our community.”

Erica Jones, one of six Marshall seniors, said she was “currently disappointed, but looking back it was a great season.”

One of the best postgame celebrations I have seen came after Champlin Park defeated Eagan 3-2 in the Class 3A championship match.

Eagan has been a regular at state, winning seven titles since 1997 and finishing second three times, including last season. Champlin Park was making its sixth trip to state, finished second to Eagan two years ago and had never won it all.

It was the Rebels’ first state championship in any team sport since the school opened in 1992. After posing for a team photo, the players carried the championship trophy to the stands and sang the school song with their classmates, friends and family members. Before the final note faded, everyone cheered.

It was grand.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Volleyball Tournament


Minneota defeated Medford 3-0
Third place: Ada-Borup
Fourth place: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
Fifth place: Mayer Lutheran
Sixth place: Carlton

Wells Fargo All-Tournament team: Olivia Tjernagel, Mayer Lutheran; Allison Gruber, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa; Kora Kritzberger, Ivy Johnson, Ada-Borup; Emma Kniefel, Kinsey Cronin, Kiley Nihart, Medford; Abby Hennen, Lydia Sussner, Morgan Kockelman, Natalee Rolbiecki, Minneota.


North Branch defeated Marshall 3-2
Third place: Kasson-Mantorville
Fourth place: Concordia Academy-Roseville
Fifth place: Belle Plaine
Sixth place: St. Cloud Cathedral

Wells Fargo All-Tournament team: Mikayla Coops, Belle Plaine; Taylor Brunn, Concordia Academy-Roseville; Peyton Suess, Emilee Terry, Kasson-Mantorville; Paige Sheehan, Cianna Selbitschka, Kylie Kline, North Branch; Mia Schnaible, Paige Andries, Bria Morris, Marshall.


Champlin Park defeated Eagan 3-2
Third place: Lakeville South
Fourth place: Stillwater
Fifth place: Shakopee
Sixth place: Moorhead

Wells Fargo All-Tournament team: Rachel Kilkelly, Shakopee; Maddie Whittington, Stillwater; Alena Moldan, Lakeville South; Ellie Husemann, Kaylyn Madison, Kennedi Orr, Eagan; Izzy Ashburn, Jordan Stalpes, Emma Schmidt, Kaitlyn Weimerskirch, Champlin Park.
Battling Though The Meat Grinder At State Volleyball11/9/2018
The 2018 volleyball season will come to a close Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, with state championships decided in all three classes. The entire endeavor started when practices began on Aug. 13 with every team in Minnesota dreaming of glory at the finish line.

The season was still young when the team from Champlin Park played at Lakeville North. On a warm Tuesday evening in mid-September, the visiting Rebels lost a five-set match, after which Champlin Park coach John Yunker talked about his team’s challenging schedule.

“It’s a meat grinder when you play teams like this, and it’s in preparation for the postseason,” he said then.

Champlin Park’s only other defeat this season came in the championship match of the Shakopee Invitational on the final day of the regular season. The opponent was Eagan … and those are the teams that will decide the Class 3A state title in the big barn at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and West 7th Street.

Eagan defeated Stillwater 3-1 in Friday’s semifinals and Champlin Park got past Lakeville South (the team that beat Lakeville North in the Section 1 final) by the same 3-1 score.

Afterward, Yunker was asked what he most liked about his team’s performance.

“The battle factor,” he said. “They just competed. … they battled.”

I haven’t seen any team t-shirts bearing the phrase “Battle Though the Meat Grinder” but that’s a fair theme for this sport at this level.

Eagan, the top seed, will play in the title match for the sixth year in a row. The Wildcats own seven state championships since 1997, including 2015 and 2016. Champlin Park, the No. 3 seed, lost to Eagan 3-1 in the state final two years. The Rebels are seeking their first title.

“Honestly, this is high-level volleyball,” Yunker said. “Eagan has been in this match, for what, six years in a row? It’s not new to them and they’re here for a reason. They keep graduating people and everybody goes, ‘Oh, they’re going to be down.’ Well, they’re not. Their program’s an outstanding program.

“I think that’s us this year, too. We’ve been very fortunate to have the group we have. When we’re on, it’s very low-error and a lot of high-level volleyball players. We’re very fortunate with the kids we have.”

Eagan coach Kathy Gillen said her team has never assumed it would be playing for another title and that's not been stated as a team goal.

"Never. I would never put that on a kid. That’s too much.

“We never take it granted. This was a battle today, every match is a battle, every point is a battle. It’s a great way to end your season, playing on that court. And we hope we bring our A game tomorrow.”

The Wildcats’ Ellie Husemann, a 6-foot-3 senior who will play at the University of Minnesota, said, “Every team’s going to bring their best against us. We know that in these big moments we have to bring our best. Every game is a big game.

“This place is such a cool environment to play in and we don’t want to take anything for granted. We just want to go out and give 100 percent every single point.”

Back on that warm September evening, Champlin Park libero Kaitlyn Weimerskirch talked about the need to keep grinding away.

“The goal right now is to continue to get better and believe in the process and just grind it out,” she said. “But obviously we want to make it all the way to the end, because we know that we have what it takes to make it there.”

And here they are.

In Saturday’s other championship matches, it will be Minneota vs. Medford in Class 1A and North Branch vs. Concordia Academy-Roseville or Marshall in Class 2A.

State Volleyball Tournament


Thursday’s quarterfinals
Minneota defeated New York Mills 3-0
Ada-Borup defeated Carlton 3-1
Medford defeated Mayer Lutheran 3-2
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa defeated 3-0 New Life Academy

Friday’s semifinals
Minneota defeated Ada-Borup 3-1
Medford defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 3-1

9 a.m. fifth place: Carlton vs. Mayer Lutheran
11 a.m. third place: Ada-Borup vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
1 p.m. championship: Minneota vs. Medford

Thursday’s quarterfinals
Kasson-Mantorville defeated St. Cloud Cathedral 3-0
North Branch defeated Watertown-Mayer 3-2
Concordia Academy-Roseville defeated Belle Plaine 3-1
Marshall defeated Park Rapids 3-1

Friday’s semifinals
North Branch defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-2
Marshall defeated Concordia Academy-Roseville 3-1

11 a.m. fifth place: St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Belle Plaine
1 p.m. third place: Kasson-Mantorville vs. Concordia Academy
3 p.m. championship: North Branch vs. Marshall

Thursday’s quarterfinals
Eagan defeated Forest Lake 3-1
Stillwater defeated Shakopee 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Moorhead 3-0
Lakeville South defeated Edina 3-1

Friday’s semifinals
Eagan defeated Stillwater 3-1
Champlin Park defeated Lakeville South 3-1

9 a.m. fifth place: Shakopee vs. Moorhead
3 p.m. third place: Stillwater vs. Lakeville South
5 p.m. championship: Eagan vs Champlin Park

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Medford Makes History In State Volleyball Debut 11/8/2018
When Medford High School’s volleyball team won the Class 1A Section 1 championship last week, the Tigers knew they would play at state for the first time in school history. When the seedings and brackets were announced Sunday, they realized something else: Their opening-round opponent would be Mayer Lutheran, a team that was playing at state for the 14th time, had earned the No. 2 seed, and for good measure was the two-time defending state champion.

The thinking outside the Tigers team was probably something along the lines of, “Uh, good luck with all that.”

Inside the team it was more like, “OK, let’s play and let’s have fun and let’s see what happens.”

The result could be heard in the ear-splitting hysteria from the Medford fans when the Tigers rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Crusaders 3-2 Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. The scores were 25-18, 14-25, 21-25, 25-15, 19-17. The victory gave Medford a record of 28-5.

Afterwards, coach Missy Underdahl and junior hitter Emma Kniefel (pictured) were brought to the postgame interview room, adding one more chapter to all the firsts.

“I’m sorry, this is kind of new,” a smiling Underdahl said, sitting on a raised platform in front of reporters, microphones and bright lights. “I’ve never been here before. It’s kind of a lot to try to process when you come off of a game like that.”

Indeed, it was quite the match. But if there were any jitters on the Medford side of the court, it didn’t show.

“As far as our nervousness goes, honestly I thought we did a really good job,” Emma said. “I feel like our freshmen were the most nervous, but we’ve all played on some pretty big stages and we all just took that pressure and we were like, ‘We have to trust in each other, go out and have fun.’ This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We just knew that if we went out there and tried our hardest, we would be satisfied no matter the outcome.

“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 kind of trust, the coach said, can be crucial at stressful times, especially when her team trailed 2-1.

“We talked about totally believing that we deserved to be here and that we’re not going to go down without a fight,” she said. “I thought the girls did a great job."

“We’re rookies here,” Underdahl added. “No one in our school has ever been to the state tournament. So sometimes the pressure can get to the girls emotionally, mentally, not knowing how we would be able to acclimate to that kind of setting. We struggled in that second game, and we kind of had a talk going into the third game, that we needed to believe in each other and believe in ourselves. That second game we had a lot of downs, we didn’t have a lot of ups. We talked about that, saying we have to stay up, we have to let things go and we have to play our game.”

The Tigers are one of three volleyball teams playing at state for the first time. The others are Edina in Class 3A and Park Rapids in Class 2A. Edina lost to Lakeville South 3-1 in the quarterfinals, and Park Rapids met Marshall later in the day.

Tournament Tidbits

--Marshall qualified for state a record 28th time. And Richard Tuttle, the band director at Class 1A Ada-Borup, has taken Cougars pep bands to 28 state tournaments (in several sports) over the years.

--My favorite family-related fact from the volleyball state tournament: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa senior Allison Gruber has four sisters, and now all five have played at state.

*Katie Class of 2007
*Sarah Class 2008
*Maggie Class of 2011
*Becca Class of 2014
*Allison Class of 2019

State Volleyball Tournament

Thursday’s quarterfinals
Minneota defeated New York Mills 3-0
Ada-Borup defeated Carlton 3-1
Medford defeated Mayer Lutheran 3-2
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa defeated New Life Academy 3-0

Friday’s semifinals
1 p.m.: Minneota vs. Ada-Borup
3 p.m.: Medford vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa

Thursday's quarterfinals
Kasson-Mantorville defeated St. Cloud Cathedral 3-0
North Branch defeated Watertown-Mayer 3-2
Concordia Academy-Roseville defeated Belle Plaine 3-1
Marshall defeated Park Rapids 3-1

Friday’s semifinals
5 p.m.: Kasson-Mantorville vs. North Branch
7 p.m.: Concordia Academy-Roseville vs. Marshall

Thursday’s quarterfinals
Eagan defeated Forest Lake 3-1
Stillwater defeated Shakopee 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Moorhead 3-0
Lakeville South defeated Edina 3-1

Friday’s semifinals
9 a.m.: Eagan vs. Stillwater
11 a.m.: Champlin Park vs. Lakeville South

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn