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John’s Journal: Mainstreeters Go From Good To Great

Sauk Centre Advances To First State Championship Match

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2021 - 5:22 PM

Gator chomp

Fans cheer for the Badger/Greenbush-Middle River Gators.

The question, posed to Sauk Centre volleyball coach Jim Klaphake after the Mainstreeters had advanced to Saturday’s Class 2A state championship match, was simple: “Jim, was there a time maybe before the season or during the season when you thought this team was good enough to be playing on the last day of the season?”

The veteran coach, in his 18th season, admitted Friday that he is just a bit surprised by what has transpired.

“I thought this was going to be a good team, and it’s a great team,” he said following a 3-0 semifinal sweep of Hawley. “We’ve got six seniors that play, a junior, a couple freshmen that play, and the freshmen have just been getting better and better. I think they’ve just improved all the time and I think that's been a lot of mentoring from the seniors and upperclassmen. I thought we were going to be good.”

Sauk Centre is at state for the seventh time – the first since 2012 – and will play in its first state championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, facing Jackson County Central. In another first, those two teams have never met, according to Klaphake.

Sauk Centre has no all-state players, they weren’t ranked in the coaches poll until midway through the season, and they were seeded third by the coaches in the Class 2A state tournament despite having the best record (30-1) in the eight-team field. No. 1 seed Southwest Christian and No. 2 seed Cannon Falls both lost in the state quarterfinals; Jackson County Central (29-6) is seeded fourth.

"To be honest with you, I think there’s probably been a little bit of a chip on our shoulder for a long time,” said Klaphake, whose career record is 447-93. “That's kind of been a card I’ve been playing with the girls, that we’re just a little bit disrespected. But at the same time, we had a great match with Pequot Lakes (a 3-2 win) in the section championship. We were fortunate to get out of there.”

The Mainstreeters have not lost since the first day of their season, falling to Watertown-Mayer 2-1 in a tournament way back on Aug. 27. They have lost only eight sets this season. And here they are, playing in a state championship match for the first time in history.

“This is what drove me since I started playing,” said Sauk Centre senior Emma Kittelson, who had a team-high 12 of the Mainstreeters’ 39 kills against Hawley. “It's always been my dream of being in the championship, and it doesn't seem real to me. I’m excited, I'm very proud of my teammates.”

State Volleyball Tournament

Friday’s Semifinals

Class A

Mayer Lutheran defeats Bethlehem Academy 25-16, 25-7, 25-19

Minneota defeats Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 25-18, 25-21, 25-14

Class 2A

 Jackson County Central defeats Mounds Park Academy 25-21, 24-26, 25-13, 25-14

Sauk Centre defeats Hawley 25-23, 25-15, 25-23

Class 3A

Marshall defeats Grand Rapids 25-8, 25-11, 25-12 

Kasson-Mantorville defeats New Prague 25-19, 21-25, 25-17, 25-22

Saturday’s state championship matches

1 pm: 1A/ Mayer Lutheran vs. Minneota

3 pm: 2A/ Jackson County Central vs. Sauk Centre

5 pm: 3A/ Marshall vs. Kasson-Mantorville

7 pm: 4A/ Wayzata vs. East Ridge

For brackets, information on tickets, streaming and more, click here:

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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Volleyball State Tournament: Day 3 Recap