Nov. 8—ST. PAUL — The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa volleyball team is excited to be returning to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since 2019.
One player on the state tournament roster remains from that squad, senior outside Ava Mueller.
"Some of the kids were in the stands cheering and a couple of them were rooting for their sisters," BBE head coach Alanna Hunter said.
Allison Dingmann and Abby Berge, players on this year's team, watched their sisters, Jenna Dingmann and Brittany Berge, compete.
Hunter hopes the lack of court experience won't be a factor when BBE plays Badger/Greenbush-Middle River in the state quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Class A state tournament.
"Experience on the floor at the X could give them a leg up on us," Hunter said of the Gators, who competed in last year's state tournament. "It's a big venue."
B/G-MR is the fourth seed. BBE is the fifth seed. Seeds were determined by coaches before the tournament. The Gators (30-2) return seven seniors from last season's state tournament team that lost twice in St. Paul, including to Minneota in the first round.
"We're pretty excited," Gators head coach Stacy Dahl said. "We're definitely a senior-laden team with seven seniors and they all play."
Included are senior setter Cassie Dahl and sophomore outside hitter Kenzie Dahl, the coach's daughters. Cassie Dahl and senior middle hitter Jade Reese were being honored Tuesday night at the state tournament banquet as Class A All-Staters. Included in that 18-person team is Mueller of BBE.
Stacy Dahl agreed that playing at the X is a different experience. She's in her 18th season as head coach and has a 307-185 career record, all at B/G-MR. Last year was the first time the Badgers got to play at state.
"It's a whole different feeling when you're on that floor," she said. "I hope that's an asset for us. It's definitely a thrill."
Both teams have seen videos of the other. B/G-MR, located about 95 miles northeast of Grand Forks. North Dakota and about 35 miles south of Warroad, ventured to the Minnesota Showcase in Tournament in Burnsville. That's where the Gators (30-2) suffered their two losses, losing to top-seeded Minneota (2-0) and third-seeded Mabel-Canton (2-0). They also beat several teams that were state-ranked, including Spring Grove and Kenyon-Wanamingo.
BBE is 25-6 with losses to Class AAAA schools Wayzata (2-0) and Lakeville South (2-0), as well as Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (2-1), MACCRAY (3-0), Eden Valley-Watkins (3-1) and Class AAA Alexandria (2-0). The Jaguars are the only Class A squad in the eight-team Central Minnesota Conference. BBE went 6-1.
Hunter said she got a great scouting report on B/G-MR from Brandon-Evansville head coach Kelly Olson and Ada-Borup head coach Jim Lee.
"They (the Gators) are scrappy, a lot like Henning," said Hunter of the Hornets, who fell to BBE 3-2 in an intense, dramatic Section 6A final.
"I feel confident in these girls," Hunter said. "Our leadership has been phenomenal, the best since I've been coaching (seven seasons)."
Dahl looks forward to Thursday's match-up as well.
"I did see their Henning match and they have a very good outside hitter (in Mueller)," she said. "Their middle (Brooklyn Fischer) is very effective. ...
"I think it's going to be a good match. It should be real good."
(at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul)
* 1-Minneota (31-3) vs. New Life Academy of Woodbury (21-11), 5 p.m. Court 2
* 4-Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (30-2) vs. 5-Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (25-6), 5 p.m. Court 1
* 2-Mayer Lutheran (26-5) vs. Ely (29-0), 7 p.m. Court 2
* 3-Mabel-Canton (34-2) vs. Pine River-Backus (27-4), 7 p.m. Court 1