There were times this season the Mayer Lutheran players couldn't keep from looking ahead.
Senior-heavy and already boasting one state title, the Crusaders sometimes found themselves daydreaming about the state tournament and a chance to win another.
"We were waiting for it all year," senior outside Sophia Heuer said. "We were like, 'Can this be state?' "
A bit impatient, perhaps, but they never let it affect their volleyball. On Saturday, Mayer Lutheran completed a dominant state tournament run, defeating Minneota 25-19, 25-16, 25-13 to capture its second consecutive Class 1A championship. The Crusaders did not lose a set in three tournament matches.
"We talk all the time about defense winning championships," Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. "Whether it's at the net or passing, our players knew what they needed to do."
The bedrock of the Crusaders defense is senior libero Mya Chmielewski. While the rest of the team gets the glory in terms of big kill or set assist numbers, Chmielewski toils in the background. With determination and consistency, she digs out balls and turns them into usable passes.
"Our setters are extremely blessed," Grimsley said. "It's very unusual to have someone back there like that. She gets frustrated when one ball gets by her. She's not going to let that ball drop."
Chmielewski, who earned all-state honors this season, finished with 25 serve receives and 11 digs, igniting the Crusaders' balanced offense. Madi Beck had 17 kills, Heuer chipped in with 13 and Madison Hucky added 10, along with 27 set assists. None of that would have been possible without Chmielewski doing the dirty work.
"We are very, very thankful for her," Hucky said. "She never lets us down."
Beck seconded Hucky's praise. "We can't get any kills or win any awards without her digging it up," she said.
When asked if she ever entertained thoughts of getting a little offensive glory for herself, the rest of the close-knit Crusaders chortled. "You should see her in practice," Heuer yelled. "She hits it so hard!"
Chmielewski blushed, but quickly recovered, responding as one who spent her entire career supporting her teammates.
"It would be fun," she said, "but I'm happy with the job I have."