The Sauk Centre volleyball team is hoping its dream season will have a happy ending.
The Mainstreeters maintained their unbeaten record with their 31st victory of the season, a 3-1 win over Dassel-Cokato in the Section 6-2A final on Saturday.
That win propelled Sauk Centre into in the Class 2A state tournament, the team’s third consecutive appearance in the competition and seventh in school history.
“To be honest, I think we would have been disappointed if we wouldn’t have been able to make it back to state, especially considering the number of girls that we have on this team that have already been there,” said Mainstreeters head coach Jim Klaphake, who said reaching the state tournament has been a goal for his team since day one.
“It wasn’t necessarily a goal of ours to go undefeated,” he said, “but the state tournament certainly was.”
Sauk Centre’s quarterfinal opponent will be St. Croix Lutheran (29-2), the Section 4-2A champion and the No. 16-ranked team in Minnesota Class 2A. that quarterfinal match will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Mainstreeters are the tournament’s only unbeaten team, and they enter as the No. 3 seed. They haven’t seen St. Croix Lutheran this season, but the Crusaders have just two fewer wins this season than the Mainstreeters.
After a first-round exit at state in 2011, Klaphake insists that his team is capable of getting a quarterfinal victory this time around against unfamiliar opposition.
“That sort of thing happens every year in tournaments,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us to be matched up against a team we’ve never seen before. I’m just thankful that I have smart kids that will be able to adjust.”
Senior captain Macy Weller, who had five blocks and 32 kills in Sauk Centre’s Section 6-2A final victory over Dassel-Cokato, insists that she and her teammates are confident ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinal clash and that maintaining their perfect record puts no added stress on the team.
“I don’t think it puts any additional pressure on us,” Weller said. “It gives us more confidence going in knowing that we haven’t lost yet. But mentally, the record doesn’t have any effect on us.”
“For us now, whoever is up next is next,” Klaphake said. “Whoever that may be, we’ll be ready for them, and we’re not even going to mention the fact that we’re 31-0. We just need to go out and make sure we’re prepared for our next opponent.”
One thing that Klaphake believes will be an advantage for his team this season is a wealth of veteran leadership. The Mainstreeters’ roster consists solely of upperclassmen: 10 seniors and five juniors.
“We’ve brought a lot of experience back this season, which has helped us this season in close games,” Klaphake said. “This team battles until the last point in every game. That’s a unique thing about this group of players. They play their best when it means the most.”
For Sauk Centre, the key to the pursuit of a state championship is to be well-prepared and stay focused.
“The games we’ve played down the stretch have prepared us for this,” Klaphake said. “We faced some quality opponents in our run to get to where we are now, and that will continue to help us. Now, we just need to stay focused on who’s next.
“Right now, I’d put my team up against anyone.”