Boys volleyball: K-M qualifies for first-ever state tournament

May 13, 2019

The Kasson-Mantorville boys volleyball team had two big reasons to be excited at the start of this spring.

First, the KoMets have a year of experience under their belts and were able to focus more attention on improving their skills, as opposed to learning the game. Second, K-M had something big to play for: A spot in a state tournament.

K-M can put a check mark next to both of those goals.

The KoMets are 8-1 overall entering their final regular-season match on Monday, at home against a strong Lakeville South team. The junior varsity match begins at 6:30 p.m., with the varsity match set for a 7:30 p.m. start. Admission is free.

And, win or lose, K-M knows it will end its week playing for a state championship.

“I think it’s exciting,” said K-M coach Adam VanOort, who has led the KoMets girls team to four of the past six state tournaments. “Going into the season it was exciting to have a goal like this.

“It’ll be a great state tournament. A lot of the best teams in the state are in the same conferences. It’s no different than in (girls volleyball) Section 1A or 1AA, with all the good teams.”

Though the boys game has yet to become a sanctioned sport by the Minnesota State High School League – this is just the second year that the Minnesota Boys High School Volleyball Association has existed – the first-ever boys volleyball state tournament will be held May 18 and 19 at Shakopee High School.

The KoMets qualified for state by winning the Southern Conference of the MBHSVA. Their first-round opponent will be determined this week, when champions of the seven other conferences around the state are determined.

The sport has grown significantly in its second season. Last year, the MBHSVA was made up of 23 teams. K-M was the lone non-Twin Cities metro area school that fielded a team.

That number has more than doubled this season, to 52. Joining K-M in the Southern Minnesota Conference are Austin, Rochester Mayo and Rochester Area.

This is the first year for those three teams to be a part of the MBHSVA, though Austin has had a club program for years, which has helped it be successful immediately. The Packers are 4-4 overall this season.

“Having that year under their belts for a few of our guys made a big difference,” VanOort said. “Coming in last year, no one had ever played in a six-on-six team setting. We were learning everything from Ground Zero, from scratch.

“This year we had some offseason open gyms to start the process early for the newer players. The level of play is significantly higher, not just for us, but for many of the teams we play. They’ve also improved a lot.”

K-M could have the opportunity to avenge its only loss of the season so far, a tight 3-2 setback at Prior Lake. The KoMets led that match 2-0 before the Lakers rallied to win.

“They won a close third game and we kind of let it get to us,” VanOort said. “It was up at their place, they had a great crowd. … They play in a very strong conference with four super-tough teams.”

Prior Lake plays in the South Metro Conference, the same conference as Lakeville South, K-M’s opponent on Monday in its final home match of the year. VanOort said South will provide K-M with another tough test, and fans who come out to watch the KoMets will notice a vastly improved level of play from last year’s inaugural season.

“Lakeville South is one of those very strong teams from the South Metro,” he said. “They have a lot of good athletes, a very well-balanced team. We’re expecting it to be a great battle and we’re hoping to get a good crowd. I think people will be surprised to see where we are as a team compared to last year.”