MARSHALL - Without any doubt, the 2013 Molten Southwest Minnesota Challenge is a high school volleyball tournament with a fitting name.
Played at Marshall High School and at Southwest Minnesota State University today and Saturday, the field of 32 teams features three defending state champions, seven state tournament qualifiers in 2012 and 15 squads currently ranked in the latest Minnesota and South Dakota prep volleyball state polls.
"We're very excited about the field of teams that we've been able to assemble this year," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "There is a good mix of teams from all three Minnesota classes. We feel that it should be a great experience for all of the teams involved. It will be great competition for everybody."
Founded in 2005, this is the eighth season of play for the Southwest Minnesota Challenge. The teams competing this year have more than 160 state tournament appearances between them.
Marshall, which has qualified for 12 consecutive state tournaments, is the two-time defending MSHSL Class AA state champion. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in their class this season.
Marshall is scheduled to meet Canby at 5 p.m. today in a first-round match on Court 1 at Marshall High School.
"We really like how our (season) schedule plays out. We play in three regular-season tournaments and they are each spaced two weeks apart. We like to use those as checkpoints to see how we stack up throughout the season. Our tournament, this weekend, is the first of those before we go to tournaments at Apple Valley and at Lakeville (North),"?Westby said.
MSHSL Class AAA defending state champion Lakeville North is a five-time champion of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge. The Panthers are rated No. 1 in their class this year.
Lakeville North is slated to play Yellow Medicine East at 6:15 p.m. today in a first-round match on Court 1 at MHS.
"The Southwest Minnesota Challenge is unquestionably one of the premier high school volleyball tournaments in the nation," said Panthers head coach Walt Weaver, a 1996 Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall-of-Fame inductee. "Dan Westby and his staff have worked tirelessly to provide an experience for young volleyball athletes that is unique in the high school season. The 32-team field attracts many of the best teams in the state, the sites are excellent, and, in my experience, the overall organization is without parallel."
South Dakota High School Activities Association Class AA defending state champion Sioux Falls Roosevelt, which is making its first Southwest Minnesota Challenge appearance, is ranked No. 1 in its class this season.
The Rough Riders are set to play LeSueur-Henderson at 6:15 p.m. today in a first-round match on Court 3 at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Four other 2012 state tournament qualifiers are in the field, including Minneota (third place in Class A); Owatonna (consolation semifinal round loss in Class AAA); West Fargo, N.D. (fourth place in the North Dakota High School Activities Association state tournament); and Jamestown, N.D. (sixth place in the NDHSAA state tournament).
Minneota is ranked No. 3 in Class A this year. Owatonna is unranked despite its state tournament run last season. North Dakota does not have a statewide prep volleyball poll.
"We can't wait because we love it (playing in the challenge of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge," said Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen. "This is a great tournament and a great opportunity for our kids to participate with other (vollyeball) programs that we, typically, wouldn't see."
In addition, 11 more ranked teams are competiting in the Southwest Minnesota Challenge. They are Chaska (Class AAA No. 2), Wayzata (Class AAA No. 8), Champlin Park (Class AAA No. 13), Burnsville (Class AAA No. 15), Waconia (Class AAA No. 16), Lakeville South (Class AAA No. 18), Fergus Falls (Class AA No. 2), Kasson-Mantorville (Class AA No. 5), Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (Class A No. 6), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (Class A No. 12), Southwestern United (Class A No. 13).
"For volleyball, this is one of the best tournaments in the state," Tracy-Milroy-Balaton head coach Katie Gervais said. "We're excited to face some great teams. The level of play and the speed of the game is going to be that much higher."
Other teams invited to play in the 2013 Southwest Minnesota Challenge are Andover, Bloomington Jefferson, East Ridge, Eastview, Hutchinson, New Prague, Northfield, Perham, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, St. Michael-Albertville and Totino-Grace.
"Last year we had another tough draw, seeing as we started with the No. 1 seed (in Class AAA) in Lakeville North. But we gave them a run for their money starting out and I think it helped," Russell-Tyler-Ruthton head coach T.J. Williams said. "The girls kind of thought, 'Hey, if we can play with these guys we can play with pretty much anybody.' I got that instilled in them and helped them all the way through the season."
Marshall volleyball fans might recognize Jamestown head coach Sara Hegerle and the Bluejays' Josie Hegerle. Both lived in Marshall until moving to North Dakota four years ago.
In 2012, Sara Hegerle guided Jamestown to a record of 27-11 and was named the NDHSAA West Region Coach of the Year. Josie Hegerle also earned postseason awards last season, including All-West Region, All-West Region Tournament team, and All-State first team.
At Marshall High School
In Bracket Order
Marshall (4-0) vs. Canby (1-2), 5 p.m., Court 1
Totino-Grace (0-2) vs. Hutchinson (1-2), 5 p.m. Court 2
Lakeville South (2-2) vs. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (3-0), 5 p.m., Court 3
St. Michael-Albertville (1-1) vs. Champlin Park (2-0), 5 p.m., Court 4
Lakeville North (3-0) vs. Yellow Medicine East (1-4), 6:15 p.m., Court 1
Jamestown, N.D. (6-1) vs. Northfield (4-0), 6:15 p.m., Court 2
Kasson-Mantorville (2-0) vs. Perham (3-0), 6:15 p.m., Court 3
Fergus Falls (2-0) vs. Eastview (0-3), 6:15 p.m., Court 4
Championship Second Round
Marshall/Canby winner vs. Totino-Grace/ Hutchinson winner, 7:30 p.m., Court 1
Lakeville South/Tracy-Milroy-Balaton winner vs. St. Michael-Albertville/Champlin Park winner, 7:30 p.m., Court 2
Lakeville North/Yellow Medicine East winner vs. Jamestown, N.D./Northfield winner, 8:45 p.m., Court 1
Kasson-Mantorville/Perham winner vs. Fergus Falls/Eastview winner, 8:45 p.m., Court 2
Consolation First Round
Marshall/Canby loser vs. Totino-Grace/ Hutchinson loser, 7:30 p.m., Court 3
Lakeville South/Tracy-Milroy-Balaton loser vs. St. Michael-Albertville/Champlin Park loser, 7:30 p.m., Court 4
Lakeville North/Yellow Medicine East loser vs. Jamestown, N.D./Northfield loser, 8:45 p.m., Court 1
Kasson-Mantorville/Perham loser vs. Fergus Falls/Eastview loser, 8:45 p.m., Court 2
At Southwest Minnesota State
In Bracket Order
Minneota (3-0) vs. Bloomington Jefferson (1-5), 5 p.m., Court 1
Wayzata (2-1) vs. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (2-0), 5 p.m., Court 2
Waconia (0-2) vs. Southwestern United 2-1), 5 p.m., Court 3
Owatonna (2-2) vs. Andover (0-2), 5 p.m., Court 4
West Fargo, N.D. (3-4) vs. New Prague (2-2), 6:15 p.m., Court 1
Chaska (4-0) vs. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (3-1) 6:15 p.m., Court 2
Sioux Falls, S.D., Roosevelt (2-0) vs. LeSueur-Henderson (1-3)6:15 p.m., Court 3
Burnsville (3-4) vs. East Ridge (1-1) 6:15 p.m., Court 4
Championship Second Round
Minneota/Bloomington Jefferson winner vs. Wayzata/Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa winner, 7:30 p.m., Court 2
Waconia/Southwestern United winner vs. Owatonna/Andover winner, 7:30 p.m., Court 3
West Fargo, N.D./New Prague winner vs. Chaska/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton winner, 8:45 p.m., Court 2
Sioux Falls, S.D., Roosevelt/LeSueur-Henderson winner vs. Burnsville/East Ridge winner, 8:45 p.m., Court 3
Consolation First Round
Minneota/Bloomington Jefferson loser vs. Wayzata/Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa loser, 7:30 p.m., Court 1
Waconia/Southwestern United loser vs. Owatonna/Andover loser, 7:30 p.m., Court 4
West Fargo, N.D./New Prague loser vs. Chaska/Russell-Tyler-Ruthton loser, 8:45 p.m., Court 1
Sioux Falls, S.D., Roosevelt/LeSueur-Henderson loser vs. Burnsville/East Ridge loser, 8:45 p.m., Court 4