Despite a gimpy left side -- from a sprained left ankle and ligament damage in her left wrist -- nothing was going to keep Shakopee captain Carlee Hoppe from playing for the Sabers in their first state tournament since 2009.
Hoppe, who missed the first half of the season because of her injuries, provided 13 kills, 27 digs and a gymful of leadership as Shakopee outlasted Roseville 26-24, 11-25, 25-19, 17-25, 15-13 at Xcel Energy Center in the most closely contested match of the Class 3A quarterfinals.
"It turned out great that I missed the first half," Hoppe said. "I got to see our middle hitters develop and watch how our team played. But it also feels great to be back."
Shakopee coach Matt Busch, a tournament veteran, said having Hoppe in the fold in a tight match was vital. "Her confidence out there was keeping things under control," he said.
The match was so even that the outcome was less about who won than about who didn't lose.
"It was a game of errors, really," Busch said. "As prepared as you think you are for this thing, you can tell the nerves were still there."
Momentum shifted quickly from the outset, each team giving it back nearly as fast as it took command. After the teams split the first four sets, the deciding fifth set was just as close. With the score tied 13-13, Shakopee (19-12) turned to its defense and forced a pair of Roseville hitting errors to win the set and match.
"It's really hard to lose a match like this because there were so many positives," Roseville coach Greg Ueland said. "This is a special group and that's why we're down here. They support each other. That makes it really hard to lose."
Lakeville North 3, Anoka 0:The luxury of having a deep and talented lineup is appreciated by Lakeville North coach Walt Weaver, considered a legend in volleyball coaching circles. In the wake of the Panthers' convincing 25-16, 25-22, 25-14 victory over Anoka, Weaver rejected the notion that the Panthers' biggest worry can be complacency.
"No," he said succinctly when asked if he ever worried about his 30-1, top-seeded team getting too comfortable.
Then he backtracked a bit. "That's the way these girls play. I'm not worried about them. They might not have been as polished on some things as they could have been, but that's just the way they are. They have a composure about them."
The Panthers' past successes, said senior middle hitter Haley Walker, contribute to their current mindset. They know what's needed, it's simply a matter of execution.
"We have so many good players," she said. "Walt doesn't really need talk to us about what we do wrong. It's just about taking things point-by-point. All he tells us is to worry about the next point. We know what we have to do."
Blaine 3, Bemidji 0: Blaine, the No. 2 seed, and Eden Prairie, the No. 3 seed and defending Class 3A champion, performed as expected, each winning a quarterfinal match in straight sets.
Three Blaine players -- Lydia Dimke, Jessica Jorgensen and Taylor Morgan -- had 10 kills each as the Bengals (30-1) downed Bemidji 26-24, 25-11, 25-19. It was a much better outcome than in 2011, when then top-seeded Blaine was upset in the quarterfinals.
"We try not to talk about what happened before. That's over and done and we're a different team," Blaine coach Celeste Gorman said. "We talked about just focusing on the next ball and not where we're at, and I think we did that."
Eden Prairie 3, Owatonna 0: Eden Prairie (27-4) appeared ready to defend its title, crushing Owatonna 25-4, 25-18, 25-11.
"It helps to have players who have been here before," coach Chad Becker said.
Elizabeth Mohr had 25 kills and 10 digs for the Eagles, and Sarah Wilhite 24 kills.