Last fall, Delano upset favored Chaska in the Section 2AAA final and then ran all the way to the Class AAA championship match before falling to Eagan. With much of the same lineup returning, the Tigers should prove to be plenty tough again this fall, something that Blaine will test in the 5 p.m. match on the Main court at Hopkins' Lindbergh Center for the first annual Side Out Classic.
"We have an experienced nucleus returning, but we definitely have some shoes to fill with the graduation of (Shelby) Seurer and (Elle) Heinonen," admitted Delano coach Rebecca Rue. "Last season was a season to remember, and ultimately our team would like to have that experience again. If we stay healthy, remain focused, and believe in one another, great things could happen. Our section is full of tough competition, so we know we will have to be playing our best ball when it comes to section tournament play. Leadership, passing, and court communication will be keys to our success."
Don't feel too bad for the Tigers. They still have great hitting options in middle Alex Wittinger and outside hitters Bria Barfknecht and Tori Hanson. Add in an experienced setter in Kristin Kreklow and it's certain Delano will again be a top contender.
"This season will be a tester," admitted Blaine coach Celeste Gorman, whose program reached great heights the last few years, but has now suffered steep graduation losses. "We will be inexperienced in that this group has not played together much. Despite losing so many talented players to graduation we will continue to keep our expectations of the team high."
Gorman's keys to having a successful season always weigh on the ability to control the ball so, "we will spend a great deal of time working on that. We also have two strong leaders in our senior captains, Taylor Morgan and Rebecca Hawkins. Our other seniors are also capable of pushing each other so this group is capable of keeping us focused on our goals, on the big picture - team work."
Why Delano will win:
Why Blaine will win:
Our pick: Delano in four.