Cassie Koch is accustomed to appearing in the volleyball state tournament. She is hoping to guide the Belle Plaine program to uncharted territory later this fall.

Koch, whose maiden name is Wolpern, led the Tigers to three consecutive Class 2A state tournament appearances (1999, 2000 and 2001) as a player. She now has a streak of three consecutive trips (2012, 2013 and 2014) as their coach.

The one thing missing from those trips is an appearance in the championship match. The Tigers never have reached the finals. They also fell short on tournament trips in 1985 and 2005.

“The girls are hungry, and determined to get their chance at a state championship,” Koch said.

This year’s group has been ranked No. 1 from the outset of the season. It’s led by junior outside hitter Mariena Hayden, who missed the first half of last season because of a back injury.

“Having Hayden back in the driver’s seat has certainly made things a bit easier than the start of last season,” Koch said. “The benefit of her injury last season was the development in our other players. We have plenty of talented kids around her that now have the experience to perform and produce in any situation.”

Top performances

• The Lakeville North girls’ soccer team prides itself on defense. Junior goalkeeper Taylor Lock has recorded nine shutouts — two of them coming against teams ranked in the top 10 in Class 2A — in 11 games. Lock has allowed just three goals, two of which came in a 2-1 setback at the hands of Class 2A, No. 1-ranked Eagan.

• Senior quarterback Dan Pietruszewski ran for 161 yards on 15 carries and five touchdowns, leading South St. Paul to a 46-30 victory over Tartan in an East Metro Red Division matchup. Pietruszewski scored on runs of 8, 2, 5, 1 and 54 yards. He has run for 694 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.

Quote

“I’m pleased to have such a great group of young athletes from different sports. Most have never played soccer in their life, but always bring 100 percent work ethic every day. The first couple of games we got beat bad, but still got up and fought. No matter what the score is, we keep going until the last minute. We are still hungry, and building the foundation of Jordan soccer.” — Jordan boys’ soccer coach Jesus Camacho Ruiz after the Hubmen shut out Fairmont 2-0 for their first victory in the initial season of the program

Ron Haggstrom