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John's Journal: Trip To State Is A Surprise, Even To The Coach

Barnesville Reaches The Show For First Time In 39 Years

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2022 - 6:29 PM


Pequot Lakes players celebrate a point at the state volleyball tournament.




Shirley Mustar of Grand Rapids cheered equally for granddaughters playing for Grand Rapids and Mahtomedi. (Photo via Anne Campbell.)

Most coaches have a fairly standard answer when asked if they were confident in their team’s ability to get to the state tournament. It goes along the lines of, “Yes, absolutely, I knew the kids could do it.”

Barnesville volleyball coach Megan Askegaard is not one of them, at least this season. The Trojans are playing at state for the first time in 39 years and Megan admitted Thursday that she didn’t expect it.

“I think this was one year that my kids really proved me wrong,” she said. “We graduated a full starting squad last year. You kind of pick those teams out that you think are going to take you to the state tournament and this was not one of them. We kind of hit that point in the middle of our season and they said, ‘You know what, we're sick of losing. Let's turn this around,’ and they did from then on. So it's been fun to bring 11 seniors with us to the state tournament.”

The Trojans came to state with a record of 20-9 and fell to top-seeded Pequot Lakes 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 2A quarterfinals. They will meet Belle Plaine in Friday’s consolation round.

When asked if there was a point during the season when she was confident that a state berth was possible, Askegaard said, “I don't know if I did, to be honest. We got the number one seed in the section and you kind of go, ‘We're kind of in a good spot right now.’ We had Hawley (in the Section 8 semifinals), and they beat us last year to come to the state tournament. So we wanted some redemption and we came out a little hungry for that game. And once we got that one I think we kind of knew the end was near and we could get this thing in our hands if we wanted it.

“It's still surreal. You really don't take it all in until maybe that first game is over and you move on to the next. It's been fun.”

Barnesville seniors Emily Riddle and Emily Smith said the state tourney experience, including playing at Xcel Energy Center, was very special.

“It's kind of unreal. We worked hard for it and it really paid off,” Riddle said.

Smith added, “It's crazy. This big gym, it’s awesome. We played so hard and we wanted this really, really bad. It was really fun.”

Pequot Lakes played at state most recently in 2019, so the coaches and a few players knew what to expect this week. With Barnesville holding no such experience, that was an advantage for the Patriots.

“When you come down here, there is just the unknown,” said Pequot Lakes coach Christine Ganley. “Even the elevator ride down (from the concourse to the court level). Some of us had done it and the other kids knew about us doing it. We talked a lot about it to the kids, about the process, and even the pregame things; you go in a locker room and you're there for this amount of time and they don't let you on the floor until a certain time. And it does matter. So I'm sure when Barnesville gets down here again, they'll be even more ready.”

Five Sets Is Worth It

In one of the most compelling matches of the tournament, Concordia Academy defeated Belle Plaine 3-2 in the 2A quarterfinals. The match was filled with the ebb and flow of great competition, and the Beacons said they were ready to be tested.

“Our team is very good at lifting each other up,” senior Kyla McTeague said. “When the other team makes a really good play we know to move on to the next play, we know to encourage each other if someone makes a mistake. We go to the next play and I feel like the team is very good at supporting each other and knowing that we can get the next one.

“In between sets we usually have a quick team huddle without the coaches and a couple players usually step up and we get our team going and fired up. And then when the coaches come in, we all get calmed down and ready for the next set. I think those breaks and timeouts in between really help our team.”

Concordia Academy will meet Pequot Lakes in Friday’s 2A semifinals, with Cannon Falls and Annandale in the other semifinal.

Class 4A Title Match Is Set

Wayzata and Lakeville North posted victories in Wednesday’s Class 4A quarterfinals and Thursday’s semifinals, setting up the state title match between them on Saturday night.

The semifinals in the other three classes will be played Friday.

That’s One Great Grandma

The busiest grandmother at the tournament might be Shirley Mustar of Grand Rapids. She has two granddaughters playing this week, and their teams went head to head in Wednesday’s Class 3A quarterfinals. Olivia Mustar plays for Grand Rapids and Ellie Mustar plays for Mahtomedi; both are seniors. Shirley played everything right down the middle for that match, wearing a sweatshirt that bore the names and nicknames of both schools. Grand Rapids defeated Mahtomedi 3-0.

--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, 2022: Day 2 Recap