Minneota turns back Mayer Lutheran for Class 1A volleyball championship

A team of admitted slow starters, Minneota picked the perfect place to get off to a strong beginning.

The Vikings jumped to a two-set lead and parlayed that into a 25-23, 25-23, 20-25, 19-25, 18-16 victory over rival Mayer Lutheran in the Class 1A volleyball state championship match Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Vikings led 6-1 and 11-2 in the first two sets, withstanding Mayer Lutheran rallies in each to gain an early advantage in the match.

“We talked about this: We have just not started strong in any set,” Minneota coach Haley Fruin said. “We came out ready to go. In those first two sets, we started and we just kept rolling.”

The match was a reprise of the 2021 final, except then it was won by Mayer Lutheran in straight sets. One of the teams or the other has won the Class 1A title each year since 2016. Coaches for both teams agreed the matchup was the conclusion to the season each had hoped to see.

“We were looking at this, in a faraway place, as being where we wanted to finish,” Mayer Lutheran’s Joelle Grimsley said.

“I do think that these were the top two teams in the state playing,” Fruin said. “It’s our benefit that it went to our side because it easily could have went the other way.”

Mayer Lutheran, moving its attack around, reset itself in the third and fourth sets, setting up a nip-and-tuck fifth set.

Mayer Lutheran (28-6) fell behind 8-4 in the set, rallied and had three match points. Minneota (34-3), playing the breathtaking defense it had played all match, saved all three thanks to a pair of Mayer Lutheran miscues sandwiched around a kill by Elivia Faris.

“Our defense really showed up today,” senior setter Ireland Stassen said.

Fruin singled out junior libero Lyzah Sussner for repeatedly refusing to let Mayer Lutheran attacks hit the floor. Sussner finished with 37 serve receptions and 29 digs.

“She does not get the credit that she deserves,” Fruin said. “We are so glad she’s on our side. We put a little more pressure on her today, making her cover a lot more ground. And we were willing to do that because she can do it.”