Best team ever?
While most other football programs wade through the ebbs and flows that go hand-in-hand with young athletes, Eden Prairie has managed to stay on or near the top of the prep football world for nearly two decades. The Eagles showed no signs of relinquishing their crown — in fact, they may be getting better — with a convincing 28-7 victory over Rosemount in the Class 6A championship game. Eden Prairie’s third consecutive large-school state title — and 10th overall — was unprecedented, capping a 12-0 season in which they won every game by at least 16 points. Their performance had some asking whether the 2013 Eagles were the best Minnesota high school team ever.
Long game’s journey into night
Minnetonka’s third consecutive Class 2A girls’ hockey championship did not come easily. The Skippers needed six overtimes to defeat Lakeville North 4-3 in the state tournament semifinals. Clocking in a 113 minutes, 29 seconds and concluding at 1:04 a.m., it was longest girls’ hockey game ever played. Fatigue, however, played no part in the follow-up game for either team. Lakeville North defeated Eden Prairie 3-2 for third place and Minnetonka won the title with a 3-1 victory over Hill-Murray.
Epic tennis finale
It may have been low on the sports radar for most, but there was no better example of grit, determination and stellar play than the Class 2A girls’ tennis singles’ championship match. Edina junior Caitlyn Merzbacher battled exhaustion brought on by a three-set semifinal match to outlast defending champion Summer Brills of Mounds View 1-6, 6-2, 7-5. Momentum surged back and forth throughout the match, both players taking turns elevating their play, before Merzbacher fought off numerous match points and won the final three games for the victory. “That was what they call ‘epic,’ ” Edina coach Steve Paulsen said.
An unsatisfactory tie
The prep wrestling world buzzed last winter with notions that, finally, Apple Valley would be dethroned after seven consecutive Class 3A team championships. A once-in-a-lifetime team at St. Michael-Albertville was expected to end the Eagles’ reign but found out just how tough it is to defeat a champion. After a season of being ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Knights could not close out Apple Valley in the championship match and the two teams settled for a 28-28 tie. It resulted in a Minnesota State High School League-mandated co-championship for both teams and leaving fans pining for a definitive result.
National champs at Wayzata
With a convincing victory in the Class 2A girls’ cross-country state meet, Wayzata show it was clearly the best girls’ team in Minnesota. Just how good the Trojans were became evident a month later, when they won the Nike Cross-Country Nationals in Portland, Ore., ending the seven-year championship reign of Fayetteville (N.Y.)
Small school, big results
A longtime volleyball power in Class 2A, Delano became the smallest school in terms of enrollment when it moved up to Class 3A in 2012. No matter. The Tigers showed the Minnesota volleyball world that student enrollment doesn’t matter by advancing to the state championship match. They took Eagan to five sets before falling 25-13, 27-29, 26-24, 21-25, 15-12. ‘‘I thought at the start of the season we could do it, but to really get that close to our goal was kind of surreal,” Delano coach Rebecca Rue said.
As the basketball spins
Rife with intrigue and speculation, the world of college basketball recruiting at the highest level took center stage. In addition to Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones committing to Duke, DeLaSalle forward Reid Travis dashed the hopes of University of Minnesota basketball fans by selecting Stanford over the Gophers in a well-attended announcement. Meanwhile, Rashad Vaughn, another top 40 recruit, left Cooper to spend his senior year barnstorming the country as a member of the mens’ basketball program at Findlay Prep (Las Vegas, Nev.)
From state champ to Olympic hopeful
Hopkins’ Jakob Ellingson missed a couple of weeks of the Nordic ski racing season because he was in Austria, competing as a member of the U.S. Junior National Biathlon team. Ellingson rejoined the Royals in time to qualify for the state meet, then went out and won the state individual pursuit championship. His victory included a sparkling time of 14:41 in the 5K freestyle portion. That proved to be enough to help him hold off Eden Prairie’s Thomas Bye in the classic portion of the race for the title. Ellingson’s star continues to rise as he was recently named one of seven Team USA “Next Generation” future Winter Olympic hopefuls by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
It’s only fun until …
A flash mob of Mound Westonka students performed and filmed their version of the Harlem Shake dance in the school cafeteria, leading school administrators to suspend students responsible, including six hockey players. The team subsequently lost a section playoff game as a result of the missing players, resulting in an outcry by parents and community members over the incident. The aftermath resulted in the resignation of athletic director Dion Koltes.
Defense? What defense?
Waconia’s up-tempo style lead it to a 111-104 victory over St. Anthony in the Hamline Invitational in late November. The game set a girls’ basketball state record for combined points in a game (215). That record lasted barely a month and again the size-challenged Wildcats were involved. This time, however, they lost to Buffalo 112-104. In Waconia’s first nine games, either the Wildcats or their opponents scored 100 points or more seven times. Stay tuned. There’s still more than two months of basketball left to play this season.