The Section 2 Class 2A Champion Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights will face the unbeaten #1 rated defending State Champion Maple Lake Irish in their first match Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Knights (21-7) are playing their best volleyball of the season at the right time.

Last night they swept a very good Southwest Christian team at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter 25-18, 25-15, 25-20.  Southwest Christian was rated #7 in the final Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association (MVCA) rankings in Class 2A.

Ally Peterson was on fire and the whole team appeared to be laser focused for the match.

Peterson had 8 kills in the first set and 6 kills in the second set by my tally which is unofficial.  The sophomore ended the night with 16 kills and 2 errors.  See what I mean about laser focus.

Senior Corynne Dahl had 10 kills and one hitting error.  The Knights continued putting up a triple block at the net that has been very impressive.

I don't think too many people outside of the Kenyon-Wanamingo team thought they would be able to replace the seniors that helped them achieve a number one ranking a year ago heading into the State Tournament.

The Knights finished third last year, defeating Kasson-Mantorville in the all-Hiawatha Valley League match.

Both teams are back this year after the #10 ranked Komets upset #3 Stewartville in the semis they defeated Plainview-Elgin-Millville 3-1 yesterday at the Rochester Mayo Civic Center Arena.

The Komets received a #5 seed and will play #4 seed Holy Angels Academy.

This is interesting because Kenyon-Wanamingo finished with a better record, was the Co-Champion of the H-V-L with Stewartville and beat the Komets on their home floor.

I'm not saying the Komets don't deserve to be rated because they most definitely do but obviously they didn't take the rankings into account when seeds were made and I would always put head to head and common opponent information (Knights and Komets in same league) in front of anything else.

These rating were made before the K-M upset of Stewartville and during the conference season Stewartville swept K-M and beat K-W in a five set thriller.  The Knights were up 2-0 and dropped the final set 15-13.

In the final Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association poll Holy Angels received fewer votes to be in the top 10 then Kenyon-Wanamingo.

The Knights received 37 votes and the Stars 19.

There are just four teams ranked in the top 10 in the final MVCA rankings in this year's tournament.  Maple Lake, Marshall, North Branch and Kasson-Mantorville

Maple Lake is west of the Twin Cities with a population of 2,059 in the 2010 census.  Their enrollment is 277.

The defending State Champions are undefeated entering this year's tournament and have lost just 9 sets all year.

No team has been able to win more than one set against them in a match this season.

That's how dominate they have been.

They defeated Mayer Lutheran 3-1 in a super competitive match.  Which tells you how good Mayer Lutheran is also.

Scores were 25-23, 25-18 Maple Lake, 27-25 Mayer Lutheran and 26-24 Maple Lake.

Other teams to win a set against them included Hill-Murray, Rocori, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, St. Cloud Cathedral, Sauk Centre, Jordan, Greenway and Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta.

I have a hunch Kenyon-Wanamingo Head Coach Jen Nerison likes being under the radar heading into this tournament rather than having that number one team in the state target on her team's back.

All the pressure is on Maple Lake.  If the Knights can play with the laser focus they had against their section and subsection opponents then that's all you can ask.

Upsets happen all the time in sports.  It's one of the reasons why we love calling the games and the matches.

Kenyon-Wanamingo plays at 5:00 p.m. Thursday, November 9 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

I always say you have to beat the best to be the best so you might as well face the best right out of the gate.

Kenyon-Wanamingo Section 2AA Champions. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld