It might have been as close to a perfect weekend as was possible for Wayzata's Lauren Houg.

The senior libero led the Trojans in two matches against some of the state's top teams in the Apple Valley Eagle Invitational.

After beating Bethlehem Academy and Eagan in Friday's opening rounds, Wayzata relied on Houg's gritty defense and passing to defeat Blaine and advance to the championship match against Class 3A, No. 1 Lakeville North.

The Trojans lost 25-18, 25-21, but that was about the only thing about the day that Houg didn't like.

"My hands have permanent bruises. I got blood on my jersey and had to wash it off," Houg said. "I loved it. If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat."

Staff writer Jim Paulsen spoke with Houg about excelling at volleyball's least glamorous position and her commitment to play college volleyball at Marquette.

Q First, why do you love playing libero?

A I started in my first year at Minnesota Select [volleyball club]. I was 8 years old and I was playing on a 12-year-old team. I wasn't as tall as the others, so I fit into that role. I realized how much I love playing defense and stopping the other team from scoring.

Q What does it take to be a good libero?

A You have to have confidence. You're the leader of the back row. It's a huge leadership role, as important to the defense as the setter is to the offense.

Q How about physically? What does a libero need?

A A lot of core strength. I do mostly agility drills, day in and day out. You have to have quick feet and quick muscle reaction.

Q You hit the floor a lot, digging balls. Do you get beat up?

A I have a couple of pretty bad battle wounds. It's pretty taxing on the body. Ice after practice helps a lot.

Q Why Marquette?

A The second I went there, I fell in love with the city [Milwaukee]. I had taken a couple of prior visits and I knew what I wanted. I could tell I was going to be able to get along with the coaches. All three of them talked about how much they enjoyed being there. I committed the next day.

Q Are there any volleyball players you admire?

A There is one and coincidentally, it's one of the players who will be going to Marquette with me, [Lakeville North's] Alyssa Goehner. In my opinion, she's the best hitter I've ever seen in my life.

Q Is it difficult playing her when you know you'll be teammates some day?

A I look forward to going to college with her, but I look forward to all of our matches now. We're competitive. She gets up there and swings and I dig it out and she just looks and shakes her head and smiles.

Q I suppose it goes both ways.

A We both know about each other and how to get each other in a competitive way. If she gets a kill on me, I do the same thing and then I tell myself she's not going to get this next kill.

Q Is it friendly off the court?

A After a match, we'll go and congratulate each other and hug and take pictures together. If I could be any volleyball player in the world, I would be Alyssa Goehner.

Q Is there anything you like better than volleyball?

A Probably sleep. And then more volleyball.