PREP VOLLEYBALL: Vikings looking to keep winning tradition alive

ST. PAUL – The Minneota volleyball program has also been a respected, top-notch one for the last 13 years. The Vikings made their first state volleyball trip in 2001, returning home with Class A runner-up honors.

Minneota also made appearances at state in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, the team took second place again and improved as state champions the following year. Since earning the runner-up trophy in 2009, the Vikings have taken third place the past four years.

“In Minneota, we believe that winning breeds winning,” Vikings head coach Steph Hennen said. “We haven’t necessarily had the best teams in the sections each year and we’ve been able to make it down here because we were the best team that night. There were a couple of years in there, for sure, that people thought we weren’t going to get out. And the kids just battled and proved them wrong.”

Minneota has had its share of outstanding athletes, including junior middle hitter Taylor Reiss and senior setter Megan Larson, who both earned All-State honors the last couple of years, along with being named to the 2013 All-State Tournament team in St. Paul. Senior outside hitter Molly Hennen was named All-State honorable mention the last two years. Along with a handful of other seniors and some steady underclassmen, the Vikings have been able to consistently compete at a high level.

“I’m proud of my team,” Molly Hennen said. “A lot of teams never get up here and we’ve been fortunate to get back here. It’s different being a senior this year, but I plan to come back here next year to watch the (Minneota) girls play up here again.”

The Vikings (31-4) had high hopes of ending the 2013 campaign with a state volleyball title, but had to settle for third-place after suffering a heart-breaking fifth-set loss to eventual champion Chaska Southwest Christian in the semifinals. It took a lot of heart and courage to come back and earn a convincing sweep against Win-E-Mac in the third-place contest.

“(Saturday) morning, there were a few tears in the locker room, but then they kind of focused again,” Coach Hennen said. “We really wanted to send our seniors home with a medal. We tried to do everything we could to get them that.”

Next season, the Vikings will have a different look, but expectations will still be high, Coach Hennen said.

“We have a lot of spots to fill, so we’ll have to see what happens,” she said. “We’ll have a lot of work cut out for us. But we’ve got a good group coming back that have had a taste of the state tournament. They’ll want to get back here, too.”

2013 Class A Volleyball

All-State Tournament Team

Taylor Reiss, middle hitter, Minneota; Megan Larson, setter, Minneota; Megan Norby, middle hitter, Nevis; Shelby Kaster, middle hitter, Win-E-Mac; Mackenzie Horkey, outside hitter, Chaska Southwest Christian; Abby Palkert, middle hitter, Chaska Southwest Christian; Rachel Carlin, setter, Chaska Southwest Christian; Taylor Case, outside hitter, Harmony Fillmore Central; Morgan Malley, setter, Harmony Fillmore Central; Tori Peterson, right-side hitter, Harmony Fillmore Central.)