PREP VOLLEYBALL: Minneota wonders: Will fifth time be the charm?

MINNEOTA – Heading to St. Paul for the fifth straight year, the Minneota volleyball team is looking to break free from bronze and silver and claim the top spot in the Class A State Volleyball Tournament.

The Vikings (29-3) have earned a second-place finish and three straight third-place finishes, having won its lone title in 2006.

“The girls realize that we still have a few things we would like to accomplish,” said Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen. “One of our biggest ones was winning the section and getting back to the state tournament, but we don’t believe that’s enough. We would like to get down there and do really well.

“We believe we can compete period. We know we’re going to have to play really well to medal there, but that’s our goal.”

Minneota enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed after finishing the season at the top of the coaches poll and second in the QRF rankings. The top seed in the tournament, Fillmore Central, trailed the Vikings in both polls.

“We talked about that a little bit,” Hennen said. “We were number one in the QRF for most of the season and towards the end we moved to second. We weren’t No. 1 in the coaches poll until the end. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what people are ranking you, you still have to go out and play.”

The quarterfinals will pit Minneota against Carlton (26-5). The two teams have never faced each other, but did have a common opponent in Lac qui Parle Valley. Carlton faced the Eagles in pool play of the Hancock Tournament while the Vikings met them in the Camden Conference season.

While both teams defeated Lac qui Parle Valley, the margin of victory was decidedly in Minneota’s favor.

“Carlton beat (Lac Qui Parle Valley), but they were much closer scores,” Hennen said.

The Bulldogs won Section 7, defeating McGregor in three. Carlton has a very young squad with the bulk of their team made up of sophomores.

“I believe they have one senior,” said Hennen. “We’re not exactly sure, but it looks like they are running a 6-2 from the stats we’ve been able to find.”

The fact that Minneota doesn’t have a lot of information on their opponent doesn’t faze the Vikings. They know that the key is to focus on what they can do.

“We believe that if we can control the things we can control, we’ll be OK,” Hennen said. “If we limit our errors, set the tempo where we want it, we have a shot at being successful on Thursday. “

Serving is one of the keys to success for the Vikings. With a team total 209 service aces, led by Taylor Reiss, Shelby Corbin and Payton Boerboom with 41, 41 and 40 respectively, finding that rhythm will be important.

“We believe if we serve well we do quite well,” said Hennen. “And if we can pass. If we can pass we can run our offense the way we want to and put good swings on the ball.”

In her sixth year as head coach of the Minneota program, Hennen would like nothing more than to see this group reach the pinnacle of achievement at the state tournament.

“That has been my dream for this bunch,” Hennen said. “They are nice girls, they are very talented, good in the classroom and fun to be around. They make each other better every day.”