A few years ago, Maple Lake coach Marty Kiebel invested in a volleyball book, "Winning State Volleyball."
"I thought, 'Well, I'll spend the $12.95 and two boxtops and see if I can pick up a couple of things from there,' " Kiebel said.
Of course, it takes more than a book to win a state championship, and Maple Lake had all the requisite parts in an impressive 25-16, 25-17, 25-19 victory over Concordia Academy in the Class 2A title match.
There was junior Linsey Rachel with 21 kills and a whopping .486 hitting percentage. And the two-headed setting tandem of Olivia Marquette and Amber Klug combined for 37 set assists. And a team that committed just one error on its serve receive.
"Within the first 10 points of set one, I was kind of saying, 'We're playing really well,' " Kiebel said. "We controlled the ball very well; we were playing the next play. I told the girls in the locker room, that might have been one of the easiest matches I've coached. They did it."
Part of the reason was that Concordia, a finalist in 2015 as well, was coming off an emotional five-set victory over No. 1-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingoa on Friday in the semifinals. The letdown was obvious.
"The girls gave everything they had last night and they did today, too, but it just wasn't our day," Concordia coach Kim Duis said.
"It was tough because it was so emotionally and physically draining [on Friday]," Concordia outside hitter Erin Fallert said. "We were all obviously very excited to play today, but at the same time, it was hard to refocus and get going."
Concordia's upset victory was not lost on the Maple Lake players.
"When we played Kenyon early, it wasn't good," Klug said of a two-set regular-season loss in the Minnesota AA Showcase. "We were prepared to play Kenyon, but when Concordia took them out of the way, it definitely helped us."
Klug said that the coach's book made appearances occasionally during the season.
"We saw it a couple of times," she said.
Kiebel explained further. "It stayed away for most of the season," he said with a laugh. "I'm superstitious. But I think I pulled it out during the playoffs. A lot of it is about the mental game. Finding that inner big dog in yourself. We used that to remind them of the great plays they've made."