Simley’s softball team hadn’t reached the state tournament since 1982. That also was the lone appearance in the history of the program.

That didn’t keep this year’s squad from setting a lofty goal at the season’s outset of getting back to the tournament 34 years later.

“Making the state tournament was our goal since Day 1,” Simley coach Nikki Jung said. “We started talking about it at our preseason meeting.”

That expectation came to fruition when the Spartans took the field for the Class 3A state tournament Thursday in North Mankato. They won nine of their last 10 games to advance to the field of eight.

“We really worked all year to peak at the right time, and I think that’s exactly what we did,” Jung said.

She attributes the late-season success to three regular season setbacks — a pair of 6-5 losses to Hastings and a 2-1 loss to North St. Paul.

“Some of our most valuable games this season were losses,” Jung said. “In those games we really proved to ourselves that we could play with anyone.”

The Spartans had four seniors on the roster in Jaclyn Bergum, Tiffany Boyer, Abby Kain and Gina Nehmer.

“We play in such a tough conference, and we’re such a young team, that we knew we would take some lumps,” Jung said. “It means so much to this program, especially to these seniors. They’ve worked hard and set a great example for the underclassmen.

“I’m confident that making state this year will make the underclassmen even more hungry to repeat the performance next year. The future of this program is very bright.”

Top performances

• Senior Nick Kuefler was the winning pitcher in all three games, and had three hits and four RBI in the championship as Dakota United beat Rochester 13-7 for the physically impaired division title in the adapted softball state tournament at Coon Rapids High School. He delivered a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning. Kuefler was coming off a four-hit performance in a 5-4 triumph over Anoka-Hennepin in the semifinals.

• Junior midfielder Ashley Steffes became Farmington’s all-time leading scorer in girls’ lacrosse in a 15-8 victory over Lakeville North in the Section 1 semifinals. She had two assists in the game, giving her 166 career points. Steffes has netted over 100 goals in her career. Shelby Klotz was the previous record holder with 165 points.

RON HAGGSTROM