Archive for DEL Sports

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Holy Family heats up late in win over Delano

VICTORIA – Delano boys basketball coach Terry Techam has seen a lot over his high school coaching career. He experienced something new this time as his Tigers hit the road for a Wright County Conference East matchup with Holy Family.

Delano had a tall task ahead of them taking on the Fire, one of the top teams in the state regardless of class. Despite a strong first half in which they led the entire way, Holy Family turned up the heat in the second half in a 66-43 win over the Tigers Friday night.

“I’ve been in high school basketball for nearly 30 years,” Delano coach Terry Techam said. “I don’t ever remember having a time where I had to prepare for playing against two very talented 7-footers.”

Delano, a team who loves to get out in transition and push the pace, came into the game with a new game plan and executed it to perfection to take a 28-21 lead into halftime. The Tigers slowed things down and controlled the tempo of the game but were unable to continue that in the second half.

Changing from their pressure zone, Holy Family switched to a man-to-man defense and sped up the Tigers to change the momentum. The Fire opened the second half on a big run including knocking down three 3-pointers in less than a minute to break things open. In the second half alone, Holy Family outscored Delano 45-15.

“I’m very proud of how we played,” Techam said. “I thought we competed well and played really well in the first half. We got them out of their zone and then they went man, we really struggled to score.”

Despite the loss, Techam learned a lot about his team. Sophomore JJ Longstreet entered the starting lineup while freshman Max Iversen (one of the team’s leading scorers) saw his minutes take a big hit as Delano slowed down the pace throughout the first half.

“We usually want to go up and down and we want the shot clock,” Techam said. “We want to play fast. We decided tonight that if we play fast, it just multiplies how many times we have to stop them which gets tough. Our best offensive lineup features three guys under 5-foot-10 which makes it tough to guard a team that has five guys 6-foot-2 and over.”

The change in the lineup and the rotation didn’t bother the team. Techam has his guys buying in where all they care about is winning.

“That’s what is fun about this team,” he said. “They’re all about the team. That’s one of the joys of coaching this team. Our slogan is we over me. It can be just a saying to some but our team really believes in that.”

Holy Family remains atop the WCC East standings with a record of 4-0 in conference play. Delano fell to 2-2 in the conference with the loss and sits at 13-6 overall.

YEAR IN REVIEW: A look back on the top sports moments for Delano Herald Journal coverage area

What a year 2022 was across the board in area sports. There was so much going on that I honestly feel like I only got to cover or experience a tiny bit of it.

To be honest, the 2022 coverage season was an absolute grind. Covering six schools and an endless amount of events really takes a toll on a guy. Between running to all the events, writing stories and taking photos, editing stories, and doing the layout for the newspaper, it was a long year for me to say the least.

At this time of year, things tend to slow down a bit here in the sports world due to the holidays. Each year around this time I take the time to look back on the past year of coverage. This year was a bit more fun to look back on all the things I covered. Usually, once I finish a week of coverage, there’s not much time to dwell on it. It’s moving on to next week so I often forget some of the stories or moments I’ve covered.

I want to thank everyone for following along with this exciting year of sports coverage and I hope you continue to do so in 2023. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the top sports moments from the coverage area in the past year.

Avery Lommel’s journey to a state title

It was by far my favorite story of the year to tell. There’s something special about a high school athlete overcoming adversity and making the most of things. That’s exactly what Delano senior Avery Lommel did for the Tigers this fall.

After losing sight in one eye, Lommel didn’t sit and feel sorry for herself. Instead, she worked even harder so that he could get back to the sport she loved. It paid off in a big way.

Not only did Lommel make it to the Class A state swim and dive tournament, but she also won the state title to cap off her inspirational story.

For those that know me or have followed my work over the years, there’s always one message I share. It’s more than a game. Lommel and her journey are a testament to that and it was an absolute blast and honor to cover her this past season and see how she turned adversity into inspiration for not only her but everyone who knows her.

Delano volleyball makes a magical run

All season long covering the Delano volleyball I knew there was a lot of talent and if they came together they could make a run at things. I just wasn’t sure if it would come together at the right time. Spoiler alert. It did.

I know the Tigers feel they came up short this season but the moments they provided in those final two matches against New Prague and Benilde-St. Margaret’s were some of the best I’ve ever seen in any sport. I’ll never forget those matches, especially the fifth set against the Trojans that sent them to the Section 6AA title game.

The section championship game didn’t disappoint either. Although Delano came up just short, it was an incredible match and atmosphere and one those players should remember forever. As a journalist, you’re supposed to remain as neutral as possible but there was no doubt I wanted to see Delano cap off their run with a section title. I played the what-if game throughout the state tournament wondering what could have been for the Tigers as I saw B-SM reach the state title match. Regardless, the run by the Tigers was one of my favorite moments I’ve ever covered.

The dominance of Delano softball

One of the best parts of covering high school sports is getting the variety of sports to mix things up. Being able to cover really good teams is also a huge plus.

One of the really good teams I covered this past year was Delano softball. No matter who they play, the Tigers hit the cover off the ball and it was a blast to watch.

Like the volleyball team, Delano’s season came to an end in the section championship game. While driving to the game I had a feeling the Tigers would be playing two games and breaking through against B-SM. It wasn’t meant to be but that team and the way they play the game was so much fun to watch over the course of the season.

Toby Hanson’s walk-off in Class C quarterfinals

The amateur baseball beat is one of my favorite things to cover. A lot of time, hours, and energy go into it but it’s all worth it.

After making several trips down to Faribault and Dundas for the Class C state tournament, there wasn’t a bigger moment for my coverage area than what Toby Hanson did for the Delano A’s.

Taking on one of the favorites (St. Patrick), Delano pulled off one of the most exciting finishes of the tournament. In the bottom of the ninth, Hanson delivered a walk-off home run to send the A’s to the Class C semifinals.

It was an absolute no-doubter for Hanson and a perfect way to cap off an incredible game between powerhouse programs. It was one of the games you’ll remember forever and one I’m glad I got to see and cover firsthand.

Loretto’s marathon with Bird Island

Continuing with the amateur coverage beat, the matchup between Loretto and Bird Island is a story all in itself. It’s a game I wish I was physically at.

I remember leaving Waconia and seeing that Loretto and Bird Island were still playing. They were about to head into extra innings as I turned them on. About five or six innings later, I thought about making the drive down in case things continued. I ultimately decided not to but looking back I wish I did.

The Larks and Bullfrogs ended up playing the longest game in state tournament history – 22 innings. I watched every single pitch over the final 13 innings. I ended up going to bed around 2 a.m. and then got up to work at the golf course at 5 a.m. Totally worth it.

An incredible game and an incredible part of what was an awesome tournament this year for the Minnesota Baseball Association.

Delano dance gets back to state

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about what it takes to be good at dance or what goes into dance. What I do know is the pure joy Delano showed as a team and individuals make it back to the state tournament last season.

A lot of time and hard work were put in by the coaches and athletes last season. It was fun to see their hard work pay off by competing on the state’s biggest stage. It was also a lot of fun to knock off a state tournament that I haven’t covered before.

 

PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Delano holds off Waconia for fourth-straight win

WACONIA – When the Delano Tigers and Waconia Wildcats square off, you can bet you’ll be in for a battle. The Delano boys basketball team knew that full well as they held off the Wildcats in a game filled with runs for an impressive 87-61 win on the road Tuesday night.

“That’s probably how we’re going to play this year,” Delano coach Terry Techam said. “When you play an up-tempo style like that, you have stretches where you score quickly and you have stretches where you don’t score. It was an up-and-down game, but that’s kind of the way I expect us to play this season.”

Delano came out swinging as they were knocking down shots early. The Tigers had five different players knock down at least one 3-pointer in the first half helping them take a 44-31 lead into halftime.

Despite Delano clicking on all cylinders early, Waconia fought back. A 14-point lead for the Tigers was trimmed to six with just over 11 minutes left but Delano never panicked.

“We’ve talked a lot about that,” Techam said about staying poised. “With the way we play this year, we can’t really worry about everything that goes on. We just have to be in that aggressive mode on both ends of the floor.”

With the Wildcats clawing their way back into things, Will Strandemo stepped up his game in a big way for the Tigers. The junior scored 10 straight points for Delano to push the lead back to 13 with just over seven minutes left to play.

“Will can just all of a sudden sometimes go on a streak to carry you,” Techam said. “I’ve coached for a long time. I haven’t seen many kids with a better pull-up jump shot than him.”

Delano sealed the game at the free throw line down the stretch going 8-for-9 from the free throw line down the stretch to pick up their fourth win in a row and possibly their best win of the season thus far.

“This was probably the best we’ve played all season,” Techam said. ‘We’ll see if we can keep it going.”

The Tigers may not have a ton of experience this year but things have been clicking early on. Guys are buying into their roles and it’s paying off as they’ve won four straight games since dropping their season opener at the buzzer.

“Other than Will and Jackson, pretty much everybody is in different roles or just getting their varsity experience,” Techam said. “That first game you could see some of that varsity jitters out there. I think we’re starting to see guys get into their roles.”

For the complete story and more Delano Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Dec.16 edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.  Subscribers have full access to this article and more by clicking here. Subscriptions start as low as $1.50 for a two-day subscription, the same price as a newspaper on a newsstand.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

KOVAR: A look at my Minnesota Dream 18 golf course

It appears the 2022 golf season in Minnesota has come to an end for good. It was a good run for golfers around the state as we once again had great weather late in October and even into November for a bit.

On a personal note, the 2022 season for me was a fun one. Of course, I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to (I’m sure that’s the case for everyone) I had a lot of fun this season while posting a wide range of scores. Playing new courses was one of my biggest goals this year and I think I accomplished just that. During the season, I played a round at nine new courses, some of which I never thought I would get the chance to. I got the chance to play TPC Twin Cities as part of the 3M Open festivities. I was lucky enough to play a few private courses such as Olympic Hills and Bent Creek. To top that off, I still got a few rounds in at some of my favorite courses around the area.

In the middle of the summer, I had the idea of putting together a Dream 18-hole course featuring some of my favorite holes I’ve played across the state of Minnesota. That’s what this column will be about.

To start, I came up with some rules. I didn’t want to include private courses because I wanted to feature holes across the area and state that most people would get the chance to play. I also wanted all 18 holes to add up to be a Par 72 course and I had to have played the course at least once in my life. I also decided to leave out resort courses as there certainly would be many of them on the list but it’s hard to judge and remember those if you’ve only played once or twice.

With the rules set, let’s hit the first tee and see where we’re headed.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 1)

Baker National Golf Course ~ Medina (Hole 1 – Par 4)

This might be one of the best opening holes in all of golf in Minnesota. An awesome Par 4 to get you started and welcome you into the course. Of course, anyone who has played this knows about the red barn that sits right of the green. That added aesthetic along with a fun hole on a great course is the perfect start to any round of golf.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 2)

Albion Ridges Golf Course ~ Annandale (Hole No. 2 Boulder – Par 5)

One of my favorite courses around the area is Albion Ridges Golf Course. A big reason I love playing there is the fact there are 27 holes of golf available. That means each time you play there you can assure it’s going to be a different round of golf. Albion Ridges is always in great condition, the pace of play has never been a problem, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best values in the area.

Out of the three sets of nine holes, Boulder is my favorite and the second hole is a beauty. The first Par 5 of the nine is a fun one in which your second shot will be tested. Long hitters can go for the green but missing could prove costly.

It’s a fun hole early in your round and a good birdie chance if you’re striking it well as it’s a long hole from the back tees. A creek cuts in front of the green about 100 yards in front making going for it in two a risk/reward. There’s also a pond on the right side with a large stack of boulders giving these nine holes its name.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 3)

Chaska Town Course ~ Chaska (Hole 3 – Par 4)

As you read more into this column you’ll find a common theme for me when it comes to Par 4s. I love a good Par 4 that makes you think off the tee and it’s not just pulling out your driver and swing away.

The third hole at Chaska Par 4 is just that. An interesting and quirky hole, there’s more than one way to attack this hole.

The safe play is to hit a mid-iron right of the big tree standing in the middle of the fairway to have a good look into the green. You could do that or try to fit the gap between the trees on the left and the big tree in the middle. No matter which way you end up playing it, it’s a fun hole that can be played in a variety of ways with different results. A true risk/reward hole.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 4)

Legends Golf Club ~ Prior Lake (Hole 13 – Par 3)

It’s time for the first Par 3 of the round and it’s not an easy one. As soon as one steps up to the tee box, the 13th Hole at Legends Golf Club is an imitating one. You must carry a large pond to a green surrounded by trouble as well. When playing better hope it’s not windy as the hole sits in one of the more open parts of the course as well.

Long is no good. Right is no good. Left is not good either. It takes a great shot to get out with a par. It’s one of those holes where when you step up to the tee box you tell your playing partners you’ll take a four right now if they give it to you.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 5)

Meadows at Mystic Lake ~ Prior Lake (Hole 4 – Par 4)

There is a lot of good golf in the Prior Lake area and the Meadows at Mystic Lake are a big part of that. A challenging course throughout, the Par 4 4th hole gives golfers a chance to make something happen.

The big hitters can let the driver eat and go for it off the tee. Playing it safe is also a good option to leave an easy shot in.

It’s a fairly easy hole but if you get too aggressive, you could find yourself making an unnecessary bogey. There’s just something about short Par 4s that I love and all the mental challenges that go with it.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 6)

Bluff Creek Golf Course ~ Chanhassen (Hole 12- Par 4)

It’s a hole that you could love when you’re playing well and despise it if you’re not. The 12th hole at Bluff Creek Golf Course takes two really good shots to have a chance at birdie or even par for that matter.

The best play is an iron off the tee that you’re comfortable with. You’ll need to make sure you have a good angle in on your second shot as trees are lining both sides of the green with a ravine sitting in front.

It’s not an easy hole by any means but it’s a unique one. A bogey on this hole is a great score and a par or better is a big bonus.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 7)

Wild Marsh Golf Course ~ Buffalo (Hole 7 – Par 5)

It’s a hole that I don’t think I’ve ever truly played well but still love it. The 7th hole at Wild Marsh Golf Course is a doozy.

Not only does it play 561 yards from the blue tees, but there are also a lot of decisions to be made on how to play it. Going for it in two is an extremely risky play but possible for the long-hitters. The smart play is to lay up on the second shot before the creek and then attack on your third shot. The third shot is not easy either. With little room to miss all around the green, it’s a demanding shot that makes this hole a real change. It’s a hole that you feel good if you have a par putt and you’ll gladly take a bogey.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 8)

ShadowBrooke Golf Course ~ Lester Prairie (Hole 15 – Par 3)

This one is more of a sentimental hole than a great hole. My first round of golf ever was at ShadowBrooke. It was with my father and since I’m left-handed and he is right-handed, the only clubs I had with me were a 7 iron and a putter.

I didn’t play all the holes since I was still new to the game but when we came upon the 15th hole, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

The hole is a Par 3 where you need to carry a large marsh to get to the green. I remember thinking how cool it would be one day to hit it over the marsh and get one on the green.

Later on in my golf career, I played in a tournament with my dad and owner Tom Schmidt, and his son Tyler. Prizes were being given out to people who hit the greens on Par 3s and sure enough, I hit the green on the 15th hole and got an entry in the drawing. I ended up winning tickets to a Vikings game, making me love that hole even more.

ShadowBrooke is one the more popular courses in the area and it’s a special place for me. The course has come a long way in the last few years as Tom and Tyler have put a lot of time and effort into everything out there. It’s a course that if you haven’t played in a while, give it a chance again as there are great deals pretty much whenever you want to play. Oh, and get a hot dog at the turn. The hot dog is worth playing there for that reason alone.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 9)

Timber Creek Golf Course ~ Watertown (Hole 3 – Par 4)

It seems like a pretty normal Par 4 at first but there’s a unique test ahead. There are two different greens on this hole and they could be switched each time you play. It’s a pretty cool feature you don’t see on too many courses around the area and makes for a fun time.

I think the green on the right makes it a much tougher hole. You’ll need a good tee shot to have an angle in. If you’re playing the left green, your second shot is a bit easier.

I’m all for being able to play the same course but add twists to it. This hole does just that and stands out in my mind.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 10)

Albion Ridges Golf Course ~ Annandale (Boulder No. 1 – Par 4)

Another one of my favorite opening holes in golf. When you play at Albion Ridges, you have the chance to play two different sets of nine holes. My favorite by far is Boulder.

The opening hole of Boulder is a fun one. Just like Baker National has the famous red bard, Albion Ridges has the silo sitting alongside the left side of the fairway. If you want to be aggressive, you can try and go over it or around it and attack the green. If you choose to go straight down the fairway, make sure you choose the right club because drive could be too much for the long hitters.

There are a lot of ways to play this hole and it’s really fun to get your round going or start your back nine depending on where you start.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 11)

Meadows at Mystic Lake ~ Prior Lake (Hole 3 – Par 5)

It’s a hole that when you play for the first time, you’ll want a second chance at it right away. If you’re striking the ball well, it can be a fun hole to put up a nice number. One bad shot and you could be staring at a double bogey or even once.

The tee shot can be a tough one with a skinny fairway and some strategically placed bunkers. Depending on where your tee shot ended up, the safe play for the second shot is to lay up in front of the pond/creek that cuts in front of the fairway. After laying up, you should have an easy wedge in to attack a not-so-easy green depending on where the pin is.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 12)

Ridges at Sand Creek ~ Jordan (Hole 13 – Par 4)

I finally got the chance to play this course for the first time this summer and it was a blast. After seeing some of the best golfers in the state for high school play there for the state tournament a bunch of times, I wanted to take a crack at it myself.

The Par 4 13th hole was one of my favorites on the course. A tough tee shot where you’re forced to carry it over Sand Creek but keep it short of trouble in front of the green. With two good shots, you could have a nice look at birdie. Just one bad shot though and this hole could get away from you quickly.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 13)

Chaska Town Course (Hole 10 – Par 4)

The 10th hole at Chaska Town Course is a really fun hole to get your back nine going. The 9th hole sits adjacent to the 10th giving golfers a chance to really go for it with the drive. I’ve only played this course a couple of times, but both times I’ve found myself on the edge of the 9th fairway. Even from over there, you have a shot at the green if you get the ball over the trees but it’s not an easy green to make the putt for birdie if you’re able to get it on.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 14)

Albion Ridges Golf Course (Hole 17 – Par 3)

My favorite Par 3 at Albion Ridges Golf Course regardless of which nine you play. An elevated tee box, golfers take aim at a tough green with nothing but trouble in front. If you’re fortunate enough to get on the green, it’s not an easy putt depending on where the pin is. If you miss the green, it takes a really good chip to get up and down for par.

Fun fact – I once hit my tee shot to four feet on this hole and ended up with a double bogey. Don’t ask how but just know it gets brought up every time we play that hole.

Kips’ Dream 18 (Hole 15)

Island View Golf Course ~ Waconia (Hole 13 – Par 4)

The only thing that could make this hole better would be if the trees behind the green and across were knocked down so you had a great view of Lake Waconia coming up to the green. Other than that, the 13th hole at Island View is a fun and challenging Par 4.

Drive is in play but long hitters must be careful. Depending on what yardage you’re comfortable with going into the green, a club other than the driver might be a good choice off the tee.

The pond sticks out early in the hole and jumps back in front of the green later on. It brings water to your mind on both your first and second shots making it a challenging hole that can be scored on if you’re striking the ball well.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 16)

Wild Marsh Golf Course ~ Buffalo (Hole 11 – Par 4)

When stepping up to the 11th hole at Wild Marsh Golf Course, it’s tempting to grab your driver and let it rip. You even have a nice retaining wall for a backstop if need be.

The smart play is to hit an iron and have an easy wedge in. Depending on how your round is going, you can play it safe or just let it fly. If you decide to grab the big stick and go for the green and miss, don’t worry. A neighborhood kid is waiting up there that’s gladly willing to sell your ball back to you. A fun hole and that added memory of asking for my ball back make this hole stick out.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 17)

Legends Golf Club ~ Prior Lake (Hole 17 – Par 3)

This is a fun hole for those playing some games with their fellow foursome. A scorable but tough Par 3 to close out the round, a match can be swayed in one way or the other with just one shot.

I played this course for the first time this year for my 30th birthday. We played a game of Wolf for the round and things got interesting after this hole heading into the final hole of the round.

Kip’s Dream 18 (Hole 18)

Pioneer Creek Golf Course ~ Maple Plain (Hole 18 – Par 5)

A fun way to close a round at a really fun and challenging course. The 18th hole at Pioneer Creek Golf Course is a tough one but it’s really fun at the same time. It runs along the 9th hole so when you’re playing that one you can get a sneak peek at what’s to come later on.

Standing on the 18th green you get a good look at the course you just battled. No matter who you played, it’s a view to take in and relive some of those shots you want back.

 

CLASS A STATE SWIM AND DIVE: Delano takes second at Class A state meet, Lommel wins diving title

MINNEAPOLIS – All season long depth has been a huge key for the Delano girls swimming and diving team. A season filled with hard work and determination paid off in a big way as the Tigers delivered another outstanding performance as a team to finish in second place at the Class A state meet at Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center Nov. 18.

“We’ve placed third a number of years so getting second is amazing,” Delano coach Karen Shallbetter said. “We knew it was going to be really close between us and Mound Westonka/Holy Family. We just kept telling them to move up and move up because that’s what we can do. When you move up a spot or two, those are big points.”

The second-place finish for Delano was highlighted by numerous impressive performances. One of the biggest ones was senior Avery Lommel claiming the state title in diving with a total score of 380.65 on 11 dives.

“I’m so happy right now,” Lommel said about wrapping up her career as the state champion. “This was the end goal and I can’t believe it really happened.”

Lommel came into the finals in third place but came through in her final dives for the Tigers.

“She earned it,” Shallbetter said. “She has been amazing all season. She’s broken records at almost every meet she’s at. She deserves it. She really does. She works really hard and her practices are near perfect. She just nailed it and had it down today. She knew with her advanced difficulty at the end it would give her a big boost and she nailed it.”

Heading into her final dive, Lommel began to feel the nerves. A quick meeting with her teammates Jennifer Coons and Amelia Nelson helped reassure her of what she needed to do.

“I was pretty nervous going into my last dive,” Lommel said. “ I just always go to them when I need encouragement.”

The quick meeting paid off as Lommel delivered in her final dive, claiming the state title in the process.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Lommel said. “I’m really proud of myself. I’m so grateful for my coaches and my teammates. My family has been huge and I couldn’t do without them.”

Delano’s impressive showings went into the swimming portion of the event as well. The final event of the meet was the 400-yard freestyle relay in which the team of Kaia Georges, Strobl, Abby Gierke, and Hannah Wadholm took second place to secure their runner-up finish.

“We have a really good section so it’s really fun to go up against competition like that,” Josie Strobl said. “Even swimming against our own team all season, that helps our confidence a lot. Our team pushes each other really hard in practice which gets us to where we are right now. We all race against each other so much every day. It just pushes each other every single day. It’s super fun to have that.”

The tough schedule all year long along with the competition every day in practice has been huge for Delano. It’s a big reason they finished the year as the runner-up in Class A.

“They’re very competitive,” Shallbetter said. “They push each other really hard in practice. We talk a lot about how your teammate isn’t your competitor. They’re your supporters. They’re the ones pushing you to become better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seventh grader or senior, they’re in the pool and they are all working hard.”

The Tigers also had strong showings in other events as well. The 200-yard medley relay team of Norah Seguin, Bella Kern, Abby Seguin, and Strobl took third place with a time of 1 minute and 49 seconds. In the 50-yard freestyle, Georges finished in a tie for fifth place while Norah Seguin took third in the 100-yard backstroke and Strobl finished fourth. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, Hannah Wadholm, Lydia Jostock, Shelby Benker, and Georges took third place.

“They did amazing at sections and it’s usually either hit or miss if you can continue that momentum here,” Shallbetter said. “We tapered everybody for sections so we weren’t quite sure what we would get. They dug in today and did amazing. That’s all of them. They didn’t give up. This was important to them and everybody stepped up.”

 Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports 

SECTION 6AAA VOLLEYBALL: Delano rallies to upset top-seeded New Prague in five-set thriller

NEW PRAGUE – There are 14 players on the roster for the Delano volleyball team. Some played the entire match, some played a little, and some didn’t see the floor. The Tigers needed all 14 players though as they came together as a team and put together their best performance of the season in a thrilling 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 27-25, 14-25, 15-8) comeback win over top-seeded New Prague in the Section 6AAA semifinals Friday night.

“It was a crazy fight,” Delano coach Becca Rue said. “It was definitely a team effort. It was just unreal. We needed everybody out there. Tonight, I thought they all brought it. We have the best bench around. They are definitely the seventh player giving us energy out there. I love these girls. They work so hard in practice. It takes everybody. Everybody accepts their role and they want to do what’s best for the team. They want it for each other and not for themselves.”

Delano set the tone early on that they wouldn’t be an easy out. A convincing 25-16 win in the opening set gave them a 1-0 lead, but the match was just getting started. New Prague would rally in set two for a 25-23 win to tie things up only to see Delano come through with big play after big play late in set three for a 27-25 victory.

“We just had so much energy going into it,” Tool said. “That was it. We just put it all out there and brought our best. Everyone is so capable of doing so much. When we can use everyone, it makes things so much tougher for the other team when they don’t know who we’re going to go to.”

Up 2-1 and looking to wrap things up, the Trojans showed why they were the No. 1 seed in the fourth set An 8-0 early followed by a 6-0 run late kept the season alive for New Prague in convincing fashion. After dominating the fourth set, the Trojans kept that momentum rolling in the decisive fifth set jumping out to a 7-3 lead. As bad as things looked for Delano, they never let up.

“In the set before, we were down a ton,” Taylor Tool said. “We just said we need to get some momentum going. That last set started a little rough but we stayed with it. We just believed in ourselves and it worked out.”

After the Tiger rallied to tie the set at seven, Tool took over the match and gave her team a spark. After back-to-back kills followed by a block, Delano all of a sudden had a 12-7 lead and was looking to pull off the upset. The Tigers would finish the set on a 12-1 run, completing the upset in thrilling fashion on the road.

“What I love about this team is that they never give up,” Rue said. “Even in that fifth set, we were down big. We never lost our composure. They just believed. That’s huge in a game like this. Mental toughness is just a piece to success.”

“We’re almost kind of known for starting off slow but we find ways to crawl back into things and find ways to win,” senior libero Ashlynn Kley said. “We had to get everyone involved tonight to get this going. I’m so proud of everyone on our team because we played our hearts out. We played as a team. We knew we were going to play hard and have fun and leave absolutely everything out there. This could have been our last game tonight so we tried to play as hard as possible.”

Delano came into the matchup with a chip on their shoulder. The Trojans were responsible for ending their season last year in the semifinals but this year they knew it would be different.

“We wanted to flip the script a little bit,” Kley said with a smile. “This is where things ended last year for us. This win just feels amazing.”

“New Prague was that one team that we wanted because of last year’s result,” Corbyn Menz said. “This year was just redemption for us. This is the best team I’ve played on in my four years here. I’m so proud of the girls and it was everything we wanted. We still have more to give.”

The combination of talent and chemistry has the Tigers one win away from the state tournament. All season long they’ve been a tight-knit group and they’ve only gotten closer as they’ve been making their postseason push.

“These underclassmen are just special. They are the most supportive group of girls and that makes our team better. Our energy has doubled from what we had last year. We’re a family. We love each other and give each other everything we’ve got.”

Delano will take on second-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Section 6AAA championship game Thursday, Nov. 3 at Waconia High School. One more win for the Tigers would have them back at the state tournament for the first time since 2013 when they finished as runner-ups in Class AAA.

“This has been my dream,” Kley said about playing for a section title. “I’m happy we’re going to be there but I’m not satisfied with just getting there. After playing how we did tonight, I think we can give them a run for their money. We want to make it to state.”