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All three champions return to defend titles at state girls' volleyball tournament

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      All three 2011 championship teams return to defend their titles at the 2012 State Girls' Volleyball Tournament. Bethlehem Academy of Faribault (Class A) is in the hunt for its sixth championship and Marshall (Class AA) is hoping to win its fifth. In Class AAA, the Eden Prairie Eagles are looking for their second title.

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      It is the fifth year of seeding for the tournament. Coaches of the qualified teams seeded all of the other teams online and then opponents were randomly selected for the top three seeds by coaches association representative Jeff Groves. Seeds No. 4 and No. 5 automatically play each other.

      In Class A, three additional teams return: Nevis, Win-E-Mac of Erskine, and Minneota. North Woods of Cook is the only school making its first appearance.

      Maple Lake and Sauk Centre also return to the Class AA field. Thief River Falls, Caledonia, and St. Croix Lutheran of West St. Paul are all making their debut appearances.

      In addition to Eden Prairie, three other teams return to compete in the Class AAA field: Lakeville North, Blaine, and Owatonna. All of the Class AAA qualifiers have previous tournament experience.

      Statistics provided by qualified teams are available on the League's Web site -- www.MSHSL.org -- as a Media Guide link under Tournaments, then Fall, then Volleyball.

      Class A Quarterfinal Highlights

      None of the Class A qualifiers have perfect records, and North Woods of Cook is the only team making its debut appearance.

      No. 1 Seed-Section 1-Bethlehem Academy, Faribault (23-7) vs. Section 2-Martin County West, Sherburn (23-10): The defending champions from Bethlehem Academy return in search of their sixth title. In addition to last year, they also won in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009. This is the second consecutive and 10th overall appearance for Bethlehem Academy. The Cardinals, who earned the No. 1 ranking in the final coaches association poll, defeated fellow qualifier Southwest Christian 3-1 during the regular season. The unranked Mavericks of Martin County West return after a one year-absence to make their fourth appearance. They lost to Minneota 2-0 during regular-season play and are still looking for their first championship.

      No. 4 Seed-Section 5-Nevis (24-8-1) vs. No. 5 Seed-Section 8-Win-E-Mac, Erskine (27-6): The Nevis Tigers, who were No. 6 in the final coaches poll, are hoping to improve on last year's runner-up showing. This is their second consecutive and third overall appearance. The Tigers have never won a state championship and they did not face any other qualifiers during the regular season. The Patriots of Win-E-Mac return for their third consecutive and 12th overall appearance. They've earned consolation honors the past two years. This year's squad was No. 8 in the final coaches poll and is in the hunt for its second title. The Patriots won their first championship in 1988. During regular-season play Win-E-Mac defeated Underwood twice; the score was 2-0 each time.

      No. 2 Seed-Section 3-Minneota (29-3) vs. Section 7-North Woods, Cook (23-3): Minneota returns for its fourth consecutive and ninth overall appearance. The Vikings have placed third the past two years and they won one previous title in 2006. Minneota was the No. 3 team in the final coaches association poll this year and is still searching for its first title. During the regular season Minneota defeated Martin County West 2-0. The Grizzlies of North Woods are making their first appearance. They were not ranked in the final poll and did not face any other qualifiers during the regular season.

      No. 3 Seed-Section 4-Southwest Christian, Chaska (23-10) vs. Section 6-Underwood (27-4): The Stars of Southwest Christian return for their second appearance, but first since 2008. They were ranked No. 4 in the final coaches poll and lost to Bethlehem Academy 3-1 during regular-season play. The unranked Rockets of Underwood are making their sixth appearance, but first since 2004. Underwood lost to Win-E-Mac 2-0 twice during the regular season. Neither team has won a state title.

      Class AA Quarterfinal Highlights

      Three teams are making their debut appearances: Thief River Falls, Caledonia, and St. Croix Lutheran of West St. Paul. Sauk Centre boasts the only perfect record.

      No. 1 Seed-Section 3-Marshall (26-5) vs. Section 7-Mora (24-7): The defending champions from Marshall enter the tournament as the top-ranked team in the final coaches association poll. They are making their 12th consecutive and 24th overall appearance. The Tigers are on the prowl for their fifth title, having also won previously in 2004, 2007, and 2009. Marshall defeated Caledonia 2-0 during regular-season play this year. The unranked Mora Mustangs are making their second appearance. They made their first in 1998 and have never won a state title. Mora did not face any other qualifiers this season.

      No. 4 Seed-Section 2-Belle Plaine (25-7) vs. No. 5 Seed-Section 8-Thief River Falls (26-5): The No. 5-ranked Belle Plaine Tigers return to tournament action after a six-year absence. This is their sixth overall appearance and they are still looking for their first championship. During the regular season the Tigers defeated Southwest Christian 3-0. The Thief River Falls Prowlers, who were not ranked in the final coaches association poll, are making their first appearance. During regular-season play the Prowlers lost to Caledonia 2-0 and Sauk Centre 2-0.

      No. 2 Seed-Section 1-Caledonia (25-6) vs. Section 5-Maple Lake (19-11): The Warriors of Caledonia are making their debut appearance. They were ranked No. 8 in the final coaches association poll and faced two other qualifiers during the regular season. They defeated Thief River Falls 2-0 and lost to Marshall 2-0. The unranked Maple Lake Irish are making their second consecutive and overall appearance. They lost in the consolation semifinals in 2011. During regular-season play Maple Lake lost to Sauk Centre 2-0.

      No. 3 Seed-Section 6-Sauk Centre (31-0) vs. Section 4-St. Croix Lutheran, West St. Paul (29-2): The No. 4-ranked Sauk Centre Mainstreeters are making their third consecutive and seventh overall appearance. They claimed consolation honors last year and are still in the hunt for their first championship. They defeated Maple Lake 2-0 and Thief River Falls 2-0 during the regular season. The Crusaders of St. Croix Lutheran are making their first appearance. They were not ranked in the final coaches poll and did not face any other qualifiers during the regular season.

      Class AAA Quarterfinal Highlights

      There are no perfect records in Class AAA and all of the teams have previous tournament experience.

      No. 1 Seed-Section 3-Lakeville North (29-1) vs. Section 7-Anoka (23-7): The Panthers of Lakeville North are looking to improve on last year's runner-up showing. They were ranked No. 1 in the final coaches' poll and are making their third consecutive and sixth overall appearance. If they win, it would be the second title for the Panthers. They won previously in 2010. Lakeville North defeated three other tournament qualifiers this year: Owatonna 3-1, Shakopee 3-0, and Eden Prairie 2-1. The unranked Anoka Tornadoes return for their fourth appearance, but first since 2003. During the regular season Anoka lost to Blaine 3-1. The Tornadoes are still looking for their first title.

      No. 4 Seed-Section 2-Shakopee (18-12) vs. No. 5 Seed-Section 4-Roseville Area (25-5): The unranked Shakopee Sabers return after a two-year absence to make their fourth appearance. They made their last appearance in 2009 and are in the hunt for their fourth title. They won three consecutive championships between 2007 and 2009. This year Shakopee lost to both Eden Prairie and Blaine twice. The Eden Prairie scores were 3-0 and 2-0, and the Blaine scores were 2-0 and 2-1. The Sabers also lost to Lakeville North 3-0. Roseville Area is making its third appearance, but first since 1993. The Raiders, who were not ranked in the final poll, are hoping to win their first title. During the regular season they lost to Blaine 2-1 and defeated Owatonna 2-1.

      No. 2 Seed-Section 5-Blaine (29-1) vs. Section 8-Bemidji (23-7): These teams met during a tournament this year and Blaine won 2-0. The Blaine Bengals return for their second consecutive and seventh overall appearance. They lost in the consolation semifinals last year and were ranked No. 3 in this year's final coaches association poll. In addition to Bemidji, Blaine defeated four other tournament qualifiers this year: Owatonna 3-2, Anoka 3-1, Eden Prairie 2-1, and Roseville Area 2-1. The unranked Bemidji Lumberjacks are making their second consecutive and overall tournament appearance. They lost in the consolation semifinals of the 2011 tournament. The Lumberjacks faced one other tournament qualifier this year; they defeated Owatonna 2-0. Neither team has won a state title.

      No. 3 Seed-Section 6-Eden Prairie (26-4) vs. Section 1-Owatonna (24-7): The Eden Prairie Eagles return to defend their 2011 title. This is their second consecutive appearance and their third overall. They were ranked No. 4 in the final coaches association poll and faced three other qualifiers during the regular season. They defeated Shakopee twice, 3-0 and 2-0, and lost to Lakeville North 2-1 and Blaine 2-1. The unranked Owatonna Huskies are looking to improve on last year's consolation title. They are making their second consecutive and fourth overall appearance. During regular-season play the Huskies lost to four other qualifiers: Lakeville North 3-1, Blaine 3-2, Bemidji 2-0, and Roseville Area 2-1. Owatonna has never won a state title.

      The Schedule

      The tournament will be conducted on two courts at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The 2012 State Girls' Volleyball Tournament will be played Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 8-10.

      Quarterfinal matches for all three classes will be played Thursday, Nov. 8. Consolation semifinals and championship semifinals for all classes will be held Friday, Nov. 9.

      On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Class A championship will be played at 1:00 p.m. on Court 1, the Class AA championship will be played at 3:00 p.m. on Court 2, and the Class AAA championship will be played at 5:00 p.m. on Court 1. Consolation title and third-place matches are also scheduled on Saturday.

      All three championship matches on Saturday will be webcast live and free on www.Prep45.com. In addition, Sauk Centre's quarterfinal and second-round matches will be webcast on www.Prep45.com.

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