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.
Sixth-ranked Hibbing also moved down from 3A. The Bluejackets look like the pick to win Section 7. Second-ranked Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton should emerge from Section 8.
Section 3 is the roughest, with a field that includes No. 1 Windom, No. 2 and defending state champ Minneota and No. 4 Renville County West. Section 1 is pretty packed, as well, led by No. 3 Bethlehem Academy and four teams (Goodhue, Mabel-Canton, Wabasha-Kellogg and Kenyon-Wanamingo) that received votes in the rankings.