Uma Corniea won two consecutive girls' hockey state championships with Breck before losing last year with Edina.
Even worse, the sophomore goaltender feared, was the prospect of no state tournament this season — a real possibility after the Minnesota State High School League canceled fall state tournaments.
Corniea and thousands more winter sports athletes received the opposite news Thursday, when the league's board of directors approved state tournament dates, venues and formats during a virtual meeting.
It's game on starting in just over a month for Alpine and Nordic skiing and dance team. In the four weeks after that, championships will be held for boys' swimming and diving, gymnastics, wrestling, girls' and boys' hockey, and girls' and boys' basketball.
As long as COVID-19 numbers don't make public gatherings untenable.
"It was a letdown thinking I wouldn't get the chance to redeem myself," said Corniea, the netminder for the No. 2-ranked Hornets. "But everyone is excited that we at least have hope. State tournaments are a big dream for all athletes."
That dream takes new forms this time around compared to their predecessors in past years.
Girls' hockey, as well as boys' and girls' basketball, were stretched into two-week events. All hockey games are slated for the Xcel Energy Center, with both genders playing championships April 3.
The quarterfinals in basketball will take place either at high schools or small colleges, with semifinals and finals at Target Center on April 9-10. Third-place and consolation games are out for basketball and hockey.
Wrestling moves out of Xcel Energy Center to regional high schools to be determined, and the individual tournament in each of the three classes will be limited to eight wrestlers per weight class.
Dance team moves to Edina High School and gymnastics heads to Champlin Park High School, with format changes as well.
Another sport that will see fewer state-level competitors is Nordic skiing. The field at Giants Ridge in Biwabik will be limited to 88 skiers per gender, about 70 per gender fewer than past years, as only one team per gender will advance from each of eight sections.
Regardless where tournaments are held, crowds will shrink. Maximum permitted attendance is 150 spectators indoors, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
One exception is the boys' swimming and diving meet, where current plans call for no fans. Many hockey and basketball tournament games will be televised, while livestreaming options are being pursued for others.
Athletes in most winter sports will continue to wear masks while competing.
Coaches view the league's action as another positive step in a trying winter season, delayed for six weeks by the health department and Gov. Tim Walz.
"Our mind-set has been the same the entire time, we didn't know the final details but the carrot of a state tournament was always there," Minnetonka girls' hockey coach Tracy Cassano said. "We knew this season mattered."
Erich Martens, executive director of the Minnesota State High School League, said, "It is exciting to look forward to the championship experiences that are such a big part of high school activities for many of our students.
"There is much more to do, yet this is an important step in keeping the dream alive for students, coaches and schools."
Before fall sports resumed in August, the league approved a dramatically smaller 2020-21 budget that reflected no state tournaments. Recently the league received commitments of $433,000 from some of its corporate sponsors to be held in reserve for expenses related to 2021 winter and spring tournaments.
After canceling state tournaments in fall sports, the high school league committed to winter state tournaments unless public health circumstances determined otherwise. The last sport to hold a state tournament — girls' basketball — saw it canceled on March 13 midway through the semifinals. The boys' basketball state tournament never got started.
Winter sports teams started practice Jan. 4, with masks required. Games began 10 days later.
"Looking forward to something beyond just the section tournament is exciting," Hill-Murray girls' hockey coach Caesare Engstrom said. "But we have to remember that this season could still be canceled.".