Physicality will likely be at the forefront, when the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta football team plays in its first-ever state tournament game Friday. The 9-1 Tigers face off against 10-1 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton at 7 p.m. tonight at Alexandria High School in the Class AAA opening round. Though both Morris and Chokio-Alberta have reached before—Chokio-Alberta even won a pair of titles in the early 90s—this is the first time the team has qualified for state since the schools joined forces.
MARSHALL— A BOLD defense that had been dominant all season met its match in the 5A football section final. Nick Altermatt ran for four touchdowns, Mitchell Fulton accounted for three more and third-seeded Wabasso ran all over the top-seed Warriors 49-6 at Southwest Minnesota State on Friday. The outcome was particularly surprising because the Warriors had only allowed 69 points in their first 10 games. The defense was particularly dominant in the postseason, where it allowed just 110 total yards in two shutouts.
A season once defined by second-half collapses took a 180-degree turn for the Willmar football team last Saturday, one that helped the Cardinals reach the Section 8AAAA title game for a second straight year. Willmar's season looked ready to end entering the fourth quarter, as unbeaten Fergus Falls held a 34-14 lead. But the Cardinals fought all the way back, getting a touchdown run from Tyler Johnson and two touchdown passes from Donald Jurek to Noah Slagter, including a game-winning three-yard toss with just over 30 seconds to play, securing a 35-34 win.
MARSHALL— A bad second set was too much for MACCRAY to overcome, as the Wolverines fell 3-1 to Minneota in the final round of the 3A Subsection North Thursday night. The Vikings, the tournament's top seed and the fourth-ranked team in Class A, put together 25-11, 25-22 and 25-15 wins after dropping the opening set 25-21. The Wolverines looked sharp early, leading for a good portion of the way and clinching the first set behind a pair of Sydney Schwitters kills.
NORTHFIELD—When discussing last year's Class AA girls cross country state finals, Willmar head coach Jerry Popp doesn't make any attempt to hide his disappointment in the way his team performed. "Last year was, without a doubt, the worst team race we ran all year," Popp said of the Cardinals' third-place, 119-point performance. "I think we had girls that didn't follow the race plan at all. Two-hundred meters into the race, we were already out of the picture."
WILLMAR — Despite sweeping Sartell in the regular season, there stood reason to believe Willmar would face a stiff challenge when the two teams met again in Tuesday's Section 8AAA volleyball semifinal. That wasn't the case. After winning a tight 25-22 first set, the Cardinals ran away with the next two, winning 25-16, 25-14 to punch their ticket to the section title game. Willmar moves on to face top seed Moorhead at 7 p.m. in Fergus Falls Saturday.
Most statistical data would suggest that Fergus Falls should be heavily favored against Willmar in tonight's Section 8AAAA football semifinal. The 8-0 Otters, the tournament's top seed, average 32.4 points per game while allowing just 9.3. They've been particularly dominant in their last four outings, outscoring opponents 167-21. Conversely, the 3-6 Cardinals allow a section-high 30.1 points per game and have been outscored by nearly 10 points on average.
WILLMAR—An ugly finish to the first set didn't have any lingering effects for the Willmar volleyball team in its first section match Friday. Carly Wedel and Cami Sletta had 20 and 17 kills, Esther Grussing had 45 assists and 14 digs and the second-seeded Cardinals topped No. 7 Bemidji 20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-17 in the second round of the 8AAA tournament. Willmar looked like it would win the opener with ease after scoring the first five points and eventually pushing its lead to 12-6.
ST. CLOUD — A record-breaking season ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Willmar boys soccer team Wednesday night. Northfield went a perfect 4-for-4 in a penalty kick situation and goalie Cristian Fuentas-Rivera made two critical stops to lift the Raiders to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in the quarterfinals of the Class A state tournament at St. Cloud State.
ST. CLOUD—After surviving a pair of slugfests to win a section title, the Willmar boys soccer team is likely in store for another when state tourney play opens today. Awaiting the fourth-seeded 18-1-1 Cardinals is a battle-tested Northfield team that enters the 7:30 p.m. game at St. Cloud State University with a record of 14-3-3. The fifth-seeded Raiders, who are making their first state tournament appearance since 2009, topped Austin 1-0 in the Section 1A final. They are one of three teams to reach state out of the Big 9 Conference.