As he was getting into bed Wednesday, Prior Lake coach Mike Dean's thoughts turned to the movie "Hoosiers." His Lakers might have been the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A volleyball tournament field, but they also were making their first trip to the state tournament. That kind of new experience has been known to play havoc with even the best of teams.
"I didn't get the tape measure out like they did in the movie, but when I got in the locker room, I said 'Look, the net is still [7 feet, 4 inches]. It's the same court, 30 by 30 [feet],' " Dean said. "The things you can't control are a lot different, but everything else is the same."
The Lakers looked every bit the part of the top seed, rolling over youthful and error-prone Hopkins in three sets, 25-14, 25-17, 25-11, at Xcel Energy Center.
"They were a well-oiled machine," Hopkins coach Vicki Swenson said. "They really have no weaknesses. And that wasn't our best effort, either."
Prior Lake readied itself for the tournament by playing one of the state's most difficult schedules. Its four losses were to teams ranked in the final top 10 in Class 3A. That experience paid dividends Thursday.
"I think there was a little bit of nerves at the start, but I think we turned that into excitement and went out and played our game," said senior outside hitter Ella Francis, who led the Lakers with 11 kills and 13 digs. "It was really cool, walking out into the X, with your fans and all of the bands. It just added to the excitement."
As well as Prior Lake played, however, Dean insisted there is still room for the Lakers to get better.
"I know we can play better," Dean said. "There are definitely things we can clean up and I hope we can."
Roseville 3, Moorhead 1: The fourth-seeded Raiders advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year, defeating the Spuds 16-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-22, but it took a shaky first set to get Roseville moving.
"I think we were still over at the Holiday Inn," Roseville coach Greg Ueland said.
The Raiders struggled to defend against the Moorhead offense early as the Spuds took the first set.
According to senior libero Haley Kauth, the slow start was just that. Nerves weren't an issue. "Coach said that court is still the same size, and after set one, we realized that," Kauth said.
Senior middle hitter Sara Hain admitted to starting tentatively. "In set two, I decided to block for a point instead of just to help defense," Hain said. "I thought of blocking as an offensive effort instead of defense."
Junior outside hitter Alivia Garbe only had three kills in set one but turned around to add 21 more before the match ended.
Champlin Park 3, North Branch 0: After the Rebels' 25-19, 25-9, 25-15 victory over the Vikings, Jenae Alderson's trademark smile was visible throughout the arena.
Alderson, a senior outside hitter who possesses some pretty impressive hops, had five of her 10 kills in the first set, helping the No. 3-seeded Rebels through some early jitters. Important, because it was nerves that contributed to Champlin Park's five-set, first-round loss in 2014.
"Last year was more about settling the nerves," Alderson said. "This one was more business. We knew what to do. Last year, our goal was getting to state. This year, we have a bigger goal in mind."
Champlin Park coach John Yunker credited Alderson's leadership — and demeanor — as being a big part of the victory.
"She's just an amazing player and a great leader," Yunker said. "She's leading all the time. Obviously, you see her physical talents. And that smile. You can't help but smile every time you look at her."
Eagan 3, Rochester Mayo 1: No seniors? No problem for the Wildcats, who advanced to the semifinals with a 25-12, 24-26, 25-17, 25-17 victory over the Spartans.
"Chronologically our age is young, but our volleyball age is not," said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen, who explained that most of her players have played in the state tournament before.
Still, the thrill of the tournament hasn't worn off, sophomore outside hitter Ally Murphy said. "It's still nerve-racking," she said.