Few programs in the last nine years have been better than the Marshall Tigers.
Last year they finished second in the Class 2A state tournament to Jordan. The year before they beat St. Cloud Cathedral for the state title. In 2004, they won the Class 3A state title.
This year marks the 21st state trip, and ninth straight, for the Tigers, the longest of any of the 24 teams in the tournament.
That's what is in store for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines, who enter their second straight state tournament.
Marshall, the top seed, and W-DC will square off at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.
"We know this is their ninth straight state trip and they've won the tournament in both 3A and 2A," said Wolverines head coach Sue Volkmann. "They have a program that is very good and very successful. They are the No. 1 seed in the tournament."
The Tigers enter the quarterfinal with a 28-3 record. Their three losses came against Class 2A's top-ranked Jackson County Central (3-2 on Sept. 10), Apple Valley (2-1 Sept. 25 at the Apple Valley tournament) and Class 3A's fourth-ranked Lakeville North (2-0 Oct. 10 at the Lakeville North tournament).
Since then they have rattled off eight straight wins, including a 3-0 sweep of Montevideo in the Section 3-2A final and a 3-1 win over Jackson County Central in the section semifinals.
The Tigers are led by senior outside hitter Rachel Westby, who has 306 kills and 52 blocks. Senior setter Kayla Wallerich has 251 kills and 52 ace serves and senior outside hitter Dani Beekman has 247 kills.
"We have a veteran team," said Marshall head coach Dan Westby. "Three of our players (Tina Tauer, Kayla Wallerich and Rachel Westby) have played in four state tournaments and three of our players (Dani Beekman, Kelsey Deragisch and Amy Full) have played in three state tournaments."
Deragisch, Wallerich and Westby were named to the All-Southwest Conference team, Wallerich and Westby were named to the all-tournament team for the 2007 and 2008 state tournaments as well as the coaches association all-state team this year. Westby made the all-state team last year.
"We will have to play our very best game and they have to be overlooking us a little bit," said Volkmann, when asked what it will take to knock off Class 2A's second-ranked team.
W-DC was ranked 10th in the final poll and enters the tournament with a 28-4 record. The Wolverines' four losses came against Annandale, Mabel-Canton, Alexandria and Bemidji.
Wadena-Deer Creek vs. Marshall
What: Class 2A state volleyball quarterfinals
When: 5 p.m. Thursday
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
"We have a lot more depth this year," said Volkmann. "Last year Brigetta Berg was just an outstanding player who could put the ball away. This year we have a couple of different players that can put it away. Not as consistent, but we have more options. Defensively we're better and we're a better serve receive team.
"Overall, I would say this team is better prepared for this tournament."
Sophomore outside hitter Brittney Noon leads W-DC with 323 kills to go with 130 digs, 31 blocks and 34 ace serves. Junior Kelsi Crawford has 225 kills to go with 81 digs and 40 blocks. Junior middle hitter Rachel Craig has 106 kills and a team-high 220 blocks and junior outside hitter Rachael Carlisle has 105 kills, 132 blocks and 63 digs.
In charge of distributing the ball to all of those components is four-year starter Courtney Volkmann. The junior setter has 776 set assists to go with 250 digs, 128 ace serves, 98 blocks and 127 kills.
"Last year we were just happy to be there," said Sue Volkmann. "This year they're a little more determined to go down and to win a game. They know they belong there. It's completely different this year."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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