The final match of the Breakdown's Side Out Classic on the East court at Hopkins' Lindbergh Center features two big-school programs looking to emerge from tough sections to get to the state tournament. Both programs (Edina and Waconia) have had success in the past, although the Hornets have never been to state out of the Section 6AAA meat grinder.
"We expect to have a solid team this fall, with several returning starters," said Edina coach Stephanie Chapek, whose team was 16-15 last year and is ranked No. 8 in the Breakdown's preseason poll. "I expect us to a be a physical team at the net. The keys to our success will be filling the setter position and having solid ball control."
The Hornets welcome in one huge piece of the puzzle — quite literally — as 6-foot-4 outside hitter Jordan Thompson is eligible. The Cincinnati recruit had to sit out last fall after transferring from Minneapolis Southwest. She joins a potent lineup that already has junior hitters Kathryn Graf and Natalie Haben, senior middle Grace Bettenga and sophomore outside hitter Kate Glavan. Bettenga has committed to North Dakota while Graf is headed to Purdue in another two years. That's a lot of firepower to contend with at the net.
Waconia has been a powerhouse the last few years under coach Jim Lee, but has languished in one of the toughest sections in the state (2AAA). Still, the Wildcats posted another great year last fall, winning 23 matches with a relatively young team. It should be another great year for the Wildcats, as Lee believes his team's "biggest strengths will be the improved team chemistry and our returning experience. The biggest key will be the ball control--the quicker that amps up, the faster we will excel."
Waconia has reached the state tournament as recently as 2010, but this year's Wildcats were just youngsters up in the stands at that point.
Senior Jessica Wolf is a veteran now, and the leader of the Wildcats. She pounded 388 kills last year and has a great arm swing which earned her honorable mention All-State honors as a junior. Younger sister Taylor Wolf, a sophomore outside, will also contribute with a well-rounded and versatile game. Senior Jenna VanDeVelde and junior middle Makayla Williams each had at least 180 kills last season, while senior setter Anna Schmitt racked up 909 set assists and is one of the premier floor generals in the state.
Why Edina will win:
Why Waconia will win:
Our pick: Waconia in five.