Jim Klaphake is a farmer who just happens to coach the Sauk Centre volleyball team.
He nearly lost a toe Friday in a farm accident and in the process almost missed the Mainstreeters’ Section 6-2A championship match.
His right pinky toe was nearly severed when it was caught in an auger while he was loading soybeans on his farm about 5 miles west of Sauk Centre off Highway 28.
A trip to a doctor in Sauk Centre preceded a further trip to St. Cloud Hospital late Friday.
Options were weighed. Klaphake was told there would be surgery. A pin could be put in the toe.
The key for Klaphake, though, was whether he could be at Sauk Centre’s section final at 2 p.m. Saturday at the College of St. Benedict.
At first, doctors weren’t sure.
“Hell, cut it off,” Klaphake said. “I told them it’s not that big a deal.
“To be honest, I told them I was leaving at 1 o’clock whether they cut it off or not.”
The surgery was done. Klaphake rushed over to St. Joseph and coached the Mainstreeters to their third straight state tournament. They beat Dassel-Cokato 3-1, with Klaphake limping around courtside.
“I think the girls were distracted a little,” Klaphake said. “To be honest, I feel like we could have lost the first two games.
“I think after that, we settled down and played our game.”
Klaphake said he would have been devastated had the Mainstreeters lost.
“That would have hurt worse than my toe,” he said.
Sauk Centre (31-0) earned the third seed in the state tournament. The Mainstreeters play St. Croix Lutheran (29-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
He said being courtside Saturday was important to him, but that he knows assistants Kellie Wehrman and Molly Neal would have ably handled coaching duties.
“They are both good coaches,” Klaphake said. “We would have been in good hands there.”
Klaphake said he sent a text to Wehrman as he was leaving the hospital Saturday.
He said he sent “On my way.” and she replied: “I’ll never be so happy to see you.”
St. Croix Lutheran is located in West St. Paul and has an enrollment of 411 in grades 9-12, according to the Minnesota State High School League website.
Klaphake said the Crusaders are led by setter Afton Sobasky and have an outstanding libero in Cayla Fogle.
Like Sauk Centre, they’re not particularly tall, with no starters over 5-foot-11.
St. Croix Lutheran’s two losses are to Simley, a Class 3A program, and to Eau Claire (Wis.) Regis.
Sauk Centre, meanwhile, has beaten two teams in the state tournament, fifth-seeded Thief River Falls and Maple Lake.
“We’re fired up to play,” Klaphake said.
Six Mainstreeters played in last year’s state tournament and four players have been in two state touranments. They are Ashley Kollman, Kendra Zenzen, Macy Weller and Jena Klaphake. Jena is the coach’s daughter.
Klaphake said he’s doing fine. He keeps the foot elevated and is supposed to stay off of it. That’s not too hard, he said, until the match starts.
“You know me,” he said. “I can’t sit still. I’ve got to be standing up.”
* Ridgewater’s Kelsey Stommes earned Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division all first-team volleyball honors. Stommes is a sophomore from Rocori.
Earning MCAC Southern Division second-team honors was St. Cloud Technical & Community College’s Rachel Johnson.
Earning MCAC Northern Division second-team honors was Central Lakes College’s Lindsay Monson, who is from Pierz.
* Foley’s Benjamin Greener was a finalist for the Minnesota Wendy’s High School Heisman State Awards. Greener was one of 20 state finalists for the award, which celebrates hard work, dedication and exception records in athletics, academics and community leadership, according to a Wendy’s news release.
Minnesota’s finalists are Riley Hanson of Nevis and Steffan Stroh of Underwood.
They were chosen from 45,000 applicants and are candidates for the national award, which is run in conjunction with the collegiate Heisman Trophy.
* St. Cloud Cathedral’s Austin Poganski is headed to Switzerland to play for USA Hockey at the U17 Four Nations Tournament. Poganski will play in three games for the United States in Monthey, Switzerland.