2023 Volleyball Championship Recap
Posted: Saturday, November 11, 2023 - 10:23 PM
The Minnesota State High School League’s Girls Volleyball State Tournament concluded its fourth day of action on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. Here is a look at all of the action:
- Championship: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton’s 2023 season was marked by two losses to defending Class A champion Minneota, but then a reversal of that when the Knights defeated the Vikings for the Section 3AA final. Entering the state tournament, the Knights were tapped with the top seed in the Class AA field. But even that was tenuous as Russell-Tyler-Ruthton had to go to dramatic lengths in the semifinals to keep hopes for a state championship alive. Now, a season of firsts doesn’t just stop at a first state tournament trip, it also includes a state title as well. Senior middle blocker Camry Swanson put the finishing touches on a magical season by providing the final kill in Russell-Tyler-Ruthton’s 25-13, 32-30, 17-25, 25-22 victory over No. 2 Mayer Lutheran in the championship match. Senior outside hitter Abigail Carr powered the Knights (30-6) with 21 kills and senior middle blocker Allyson Nelson added 15. Senior middle blocker Danica Martin had 19 kills for Mayer Lutheran (28-7), who finished runner-up for the second consecutive season.
- Third place: New Life Academy finished the season on a winning note with a 14-25, 25-21, 26-24, 23-25, 15-13 victory over Mabel-Canton for the third-place trophy. Junior outside hitter Makenna Lilly led the way for the Eagles (22-11) with 22 kills and sophomore right side hitter Marisa Michaelis added 16. On the other side of the net, sophomore hitter had 32 kills for Mabel-Canton (37-2).
- Consolation: Ely, the Section 7A champion, secured another trophy to end the season following a 25-20, 25-15, 25-21 victory over West Central Area in the consolation final. Senior outside hitter Hannah Penke had 17 kills and junior outside hitter Clare Thomas added 10 for the Timberwolves (28-6). West Central Area (24-11) was paced by junior outside hitter Mya Foslien, who had 11 kills.
- Championship: A year ago, Pequot Lakes lost in straight sets to Cannon Falls for the Class AA championship. The loss was a motivator throughout the 2023 season as the Patriots again journeyed to the state tournament. Mindful of the setback and determined to not allow history to repeat itself, No. 2-seeded Pequot Lakes raced to a 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 victory over No. 4 Rush City in the Class AA championship match. Senior outside hitter Ella Kratochvil made sure of that with 20 kills, including the clincher that gave the Patriots their first crown in four state tournament trips. Teammate Aubrey Larsen, a senior setter, had 27 assists for Pequot Lakes (30-5). Rush City (30-3), which upset top-seeded Southwest Christian to earn a berth in the championship match had 15 kills from senior outside hitter Lydia Bengtson.
- Third place: Southwest Christian rebounded from an upset loss to Rush City late Friday night in the semifinals to record a 20-25, 26-24, 25-14, 25-20 victory over Caledonia in the third-place match. Senior hitter Elizabeth Coleman powered the Stars (28-6) with 16 kills. Senior outside hitter paced Caledonia (28-7) with 17 kills.
- Consolation: Annandale, the third-place finisher in 2022, recorded a 23-25, 25-20, 25-15, 17-25, 15-11 victory over Redwood Valley in the consolation final. Senior hitter Presley Kenning led the Cardinals (24-9) with 21 kills and junior setter Emerson Helget had 52 assists. Junior middle hitter Kendall Huhnerkoch had 19 kills for Redwood Valley (31-4).
- Championship: Marshall proved worthy of its top seed with a 25-22, 25-13, 25-19 victory over No. 2 Delano in the Class AAA championship match. Senior outside hitter Brielle Riess was a force with 18 kills, sophomore outside hitter Reese Drake added 10 and sophomore setter Brooke Gillingham directed the attack with 37 assists. It is the ninth championship for Marshall and second time the Tigers have won three consecutive state titles. Delano (30-3) finished as the runner-up for the third time. Sophomore middle hitter Cassie Wegman had 10 kills for Delano, the Section 6AAA champion.
- Third place: It took five sets to decide the recipient of the third-place trophy and it went to Byron, who stormed back from a two-set deficit to claim a 16-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-18, 15-13 victory over Detroit Lakes. Senior middle hitter Alexis Nelson and ninth-grade middle hitter Kaydence Fjerstad had 14 kills each to pace the Bears (25-5), who staved off match points en route to finishing the season on a winning note. Detroit Lakes (26-9), the Section 8AAA champion, was powered by senior outside hitter Grace Gunderson, who had 23 kills.
- Consolation: Grand Rapids needed four sets before securing the third-place trophy with a 25-16, 25-19, 27-29, 25-12 victory over Monticello. Sophomore middle hitter Alaina Barrick and senior setter Braya LaPlante had 10 kills each to pace a balanced attack for the Thunderhawks (24-10). Sophomore hitter Alayna Opatz had 13 kills for Monticello (20-13).
- Championship: Wayzata had nothing left to prove when the 2023 season concluded late Saturday night, Nov. 11 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The top-seeded Trojans, ranked anywhere from No. 5 to No. 11 nationally depending on the poll, completed a season of dominance with a 25-20, 25-23, 26-24 victory over No. 2 New Prague in a riveting Class AAAA championship match that was a final display of powerful play from elite-level players. University of Minnesota recruit Olivia Swenson, a senior outside hitter, led a balanced attack with 14 kills and junior middle hitter Katie Kelzenberg added 10. Senior setter Stella Swenson, Olivia’s twin sister and fellow Gophers recruit, ran the show with 32 assists. It was Wayzata’s fourth consecutive big-school state championship, the first school to do so since Robbinsdale Armstrong won a streak of five from 1980-1984. In Wayzata’s 34 victories without a loss this season, the Trojans lost just three sets, the last time on Sept. 26 to Champlin Park. But New Prague (27-6), playing its first season in Class AAAA, was not intimidated by Wayzata’s lofty status. New Prague pushed Wayzata, as the scores indicate, with impressive play of its own. Senior right side hitter Avery Klein had 12 kills and senior setter Annalise Wilson had 25 assists. New Prague, which scored the first point of the match, made Wayzata work for everything in pushing the four-time champions.
- Third place: Anoka, making its first state tournament trip since 2012, made this appearance a memorable one with a third-place finish following a 25-10, 25-18, 25-17 victory over Stillwater. Sophomore Hayden Reeder ignited the Tornadoes (27-4) with 13 kills and senior Carmen Shimek had 33 assists. Senior hitter Mackenzie Peters had six kills for Stillwater (20-11).
- Consolation: Rogers rallied from an upset loss to Stillwater in the quarterfinals with two victories in the consolation round, including a 26-16, 22-25, 14-25, 33-31, 15-11 marathon win over Eagan in the consolation final. Junior right side hitter Anya Schmidt had 37 kills to power the Royals (30-4). Junior outside hitter Isabel Purrington had 15 kills for Eagan (23-10).