In picking a favorite to win the Class 3A state volleyball title, there are two clear choices. Lakeville North and Shakopee are both 25-1 -- they split two meetings -- and have traded off at the top spot in the 3A coaches association rankings.
With section tournaments getting under way this week, every team is dreaming of a spot in the state tourney. But only eight will make it in each of three classes.
Lakeville North (and its predecessor, Lakeville High School) is tournament-tested, having advanced to state the past five years and placing second in 2003, 2004 and 2006. On the other hand, Shakopee is new to this, having never played in a state tournament. But a dream matchup for the state title won't happen. If both teams advance to state, they could meet in the semifinals.
Section 3: Top-ranked Lakeville North has been a regular at state for years now, and the Panthers are the clear favorite to win this section. They were in Section 1 for a number of years, but the competition here will be a step up. Third-ranked Eagan, No. 9 Burnsville and No. 11 Eastview look like the best of the rest.
Section 2: No. 2 Shakopee faces intense competition. Fourth-ranked Eden Prairie has had a solid season, and No. 7 Chaska is the two-defending state champ. Those three should reach the semifinals, along with Waconia or Hutchinson.
Section 1: No. 8 Owatonna is the only ranked team in this field. Look for Farmington to make some noise, as well as Faribault and Rochester Mayo.
Section 4: Five teams come in with at least 17 victories this season, making this a great field. No. 12 Woodbury holds the highest ranking, followed by No. 14 Hill-Murray.
Section 5: No. 5 Blaine, last year's third-place team at state, looks good here, although No. 13 Totino-Grace might have something to say about that.
Section 6: There are no ranked teams here, but one of them will emerge with a berth at state. Wazyata is gunning for a repeat trip to state.
Section 7: No. 6 Andover and No. 10 Forest Lake went past the 20-victory plateau this season, marking them as the favorites to come out of this group.
Section 8: No. 15 St. Michael-Albertville and No. 16 Alexandria look like the teams to watch.
Jordan, from Section 2, is the defending state champ and the odds-on favorite to claim another title. The top-ranked Jaguars' only loss this season came against Shakopee.
Marshall, which moved down from 3A this season, is in Section 3 and shares the No. 3 ranking in 2A with St. Cloud Cathedral from Section 6. Also in Section 3 are No. 5 Pipestone, No. 8 Jackson County Central and No. 13 Montevideo. Marshall has played in the past six Class 3A state tourneys, and that kind of experience and tradition might pay off in 2A.