John's Journal
11/10/2018
State Volleyball Tournament

CLASS 1A


Championship
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.

CLASS 2A

Championship
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.

CLASS 3A

Championship
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

CLASS 1A

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

Saturday
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

CLASS 2A
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

Saturday
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

CLASS 3A
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

Saturday
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

CLASS 1A
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

CLASS 2A
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

CLASS 3A
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
MSHSL, Second Harvest Heartland Join Efforts to Sack Hunger in Minnesota11/5/2018
The Minnesota State High School League and Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest, most efficient and most innovative hunger relief organizations, have joined forces to fight hunger in Minnesota.

The MSHSL/Second Harvest “Sack Hunger” campaign will kick off in conjunction with Minnesota State High School League football semifinal and state championship games in November. During this pre-Thanksgiving period, schools whose teams advance to state semifinals (November 15-17) and the Prep Bowl (November 23-24) are encouraged to accept donations of non-perishable food at their schools and in their communities, which will be distributed to those in need by Second Harvest Heartland and partner organizations around the state.

The campaign is being spearheaded by MSHSL media specialist John Millea via his Twitter account (@MSHSLjohn) and the League’s other social media platforms. Participating schools are encouraged to Tweet photos of their efforts to John so they can be shared around the state.

“The MSHSL and its member schools are proud to partner with Second Harvest Heartland to help provide hunger relief across Minnesota,” said MSHSL executive director Erich Martens. “Knowing that hunger affects children and families in every community, our member schools are happy to harness the excitement of playoff football as a way to help feed those in need. We encourage fans to donate food items at their local schools and in their communities, and to consider making monetary donations to Second Harvest Heartland.”

Like games on the field, the Sack Hunger campaign will be a competition to see which schools contribute the most food to those in need. With donations measured by weight, the top schools will be publicly recognized by the MSHSL and Second Harvest Heartland, with schools that donate the most food being recognized as Champion Hunger Fighters.

Schools are also encouraged to have friendly competitions within their communities, with grade levels, school buildings or civic groups vying to see who can donate the most food.

“Fans can kick off the season of giving by filling the plates of hungry Minnesotans, including the one in six children who face hunger each day,” said Marsha Shotley, Chief Philanthropy Officer for Second Harvest Heartland. “The holidays—like a great day on the football field—are better shared with your neighbors. Second Harvest Heartland and the communities and agencies we serve are grateful for the support of those joining forces to sack hunger.”

Second Harvest Heartland is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that helps feed people across the country. Second Harvest Heartland sources, collects and provides food for individuals who worry about having enough to eat, touching the lives of more than half a million people every year. Second Harvest Heartland serves children, parents, seniors and working adults.

Second Harvest Heartland helps the one in 11 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin who face hunger every day. In 2017, Second Harvest Heartland helped provide a record 81 million meals to more than a half million people. They will continue to leverage their unique position in the emergency food chain to advocate, educate and provide food until everyone in the service area has what they need to thrive. For more information, visit 2harvest.org or call 651.484.5117.

The Minnesota State High School League is a voluntary, nonprofit association of public and private schools with a history of service to Minnesota's youth since 1916. Today, more than 500 schools are members of the League, providing opportunities for athletics and fine arts competition for more than 200,000 high school students statewide each year. More information about the MSHSL is available at www.mshsl.org
Washburn’s Covert Operation: Be True To Your School11/4/2018
NORTHFIELD -- Emily Covert was smiling, which is nothing new. The Minneapolis Washburn senior is known for her smile, whether she’s preparing to run, running or post-race. This time, Saturday at St. Olaf College, the smile came on the heels of a second consecutive Class 2A cross-country state championship and was grounded in a grateful attitude.

“Honestly, I feel so blessed to be able to be here and compete among all these amazing and talented women,” she said. “It’s so humbling to know that there are so many people cheering me on and cheering everyone on. It makes the experience so much more amazing.”

Emily’s winning margin was 25 seconds. The Farmington duo of senior Lauren Peterson and sophomore Anna Fenske (the 2016 champion) were second and third.

Two girls state cross-country titles have been won by runners from Minneapolis public high schools, and both belong to Covert (pictured). On the boys side, which has held state championships since 1943 (girls have been running at state since 1975), runners from Minneapolis public schools have won 16 state titles. The first was Clarence Johnson of Minneapolis Southwest in 1946 and the most recent was Hassan Mead of Minneapolis South in 2006.

Representing her neighborhood school means a lot to Covert, who ran training mile after training mile with her teammates around the Minneapolis chain of lakes.

“I love Minneapolis,” she said. “When I was in seventh grade my parents asked if I wanted to transfer to a really strong running school. And I said, ‘No, I want to go to Washburn and I want to help the team at Washburn.’ I know if you talk about it and you get young girls out there, they’re just going to keep on having fun and keep on wanting to do more.”

The state championship meet capped a busy period for Emily, who had announced six days earlier her intention to study and run at the University of Colorado. She’s also an accomplished track athlete, winning a big-school state title at 3,200 meters and finishing second at 1,600 last spring.

“The mindset was just to have fun and have a smile on my face throughout this race, knowing that it’s my last cross-country race on Minnesota soil,” she said. “I just wanted to kind of cap off my high school career with a bang, I guess. It was just fun to be out here and have fun.”

Covert is the kind of athlete who inspires other athletes, whether it’s congratulating fellow finishers, working with younger runners or encouraging girls to give cross-country a try.

“I just want young girls to know that the sport is so much fun,” she said. “If you’re not having fun, then there’s no point in doing it. And honestly, the cross-country running community is so great. I have never been in a sport with this much hype and so many positive vibes around it. It’s just awesome.”

Roseville senior Acer Iverson, who will attend Harvard, won the Class 2A boys championship in a tight finish. His time of 15 minutes, 14.8 seconds was less than a second ahead of runner-up Andrew Brandt of Wayzata, and Edina’s Max Manley was third.

Sophomores won titles in Class 1A. Winona Cotter’s Grace Ping, who won the event as a seventh-grader, added another gold medal, with her eighth-grade sister Lauren placing second (22 seconds back) and Murray County Central-Fulda sophomore Morgan Gehl third. Two-time defending champion Tierney Wolfgram, a sophomore from Math & Science Academy in Woodbury who had placed sixth among females in the Oct. 7 Twin Cities Marathon, did not finish Saturday’s race.

On the 1A boys side, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin’s Geno Uhrbom was the champion with an 18-second margin over second-place Cooper Lenox, a junior from Mora. Third was Staples-Motley sophomore Emmet Anderson.

Perham became the first school in Class 1A history to win the girls and boys team titles in back-to-back years. The Yellowjackets boys had 64 points to easily outdistance second-place West Central Area (140), and the Perham girls had a 94-99 edge over runner-up Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted.

St. Michael-Albertville won its first girls Class 2A team title with 70 points, five ahead of Wayzata. In the 2A boys team race, Edina’s score of 88 was enough to hold off Mounds View at 99.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn