Tegan LaBerge and her teammates on the Northern Lights 18-1 club volleyball team were far from home, competing in the prestigious Pordenone (Italy) memorial tournament in the last week of March.
Midway through a tough semifinal match against a team from Slovenia, they were energized to hear "U-S-A, U-S-A" coming from the stands.
"There was an American soccer team ... staying in our hotel," said LaBerge, a middle blocker from Maple Grove. "It was raining and their game was canceled. So they came to our game and started cheering for us. It gave us chills."
The motivated Northern Lights team went on to win the tournament, a first for an American women's team. It was the latest in a long string of victories for arguably the most successful club volleyball team in Minnesota history.
It's led by reigning Metro Player of the Year Alyssa Goehner of Lakeville and four future University of Minnesota players: Sarah Wilhite of Eden Prairie, Hannah and Paige Tapp of Stewartville, and Samantha Seliger Swenson of Hopkins. The team won the AAU National Championship last year and is undefeated this year.
"It's unreal to grasp," said Seliger Swenson, a setter who competed for Team USA in the World Championships last summer. "Some of the things this team has done are pretty incredible. I don't think it's hit us yet."
LaBerge is one of four players new to the team this year. The others are Katherine Hawkins of Blaine, Nora Reed of Hopkins and Lauren Houg of Wayzata. LaBerge said her biggest surprise was the group's level of teamwork and camaraderie.
"These are some ridiculously talented players, yet they cooperate so well," she said. "I've been on teams with great players before, but great players that don't work together aren't a great team. This is a great team. I'm humbled to be a member."
Northern Lights leaves in June for Orlando for the AAU National Championships. "We're not done yet," LaBerge said.
Tough road for Legacy Christian
The Legacy Christian Academy boys' golf team will have a tough road if it wants to repeat last year's Class 1A state championship. The Lions, who finished second in their section last year, won the state championship behind two seniors, Andrew Peterson and Luke Yaeger.
The graduation of those two all-state competitors has thinned the team's ranks as a result. "They were so consistently strong it's going to be hard for us to put down the real low score. Last year we were able to shoot a 300; that's going to be really difficult without those guys," head coach Mark Yaeger said.
Trent Anderson is back for his senior season after earning all-state honors last year. .