BBE coach excited about having a better view
This is the seventh straight season that Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa coach Mimi Knutson will be attending the state tournament. The first six were as an interested spectator sitting among the fans. This time, however, the coach will get a much better...
This is the seventh straight season that Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa coach Mimi Knutson will be attending the state tournament. The first six were as an interested spectator sitting among the fans. This time, however, the coach will get a much better seat. For the first time, Knutson will get to seat courtside with her team as the No. 8-ranked Jaguars earned a berth in today's Class AA state tournament where they will open against No. 3 Stewartville at 5 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"I'm really not nervous at all," she said. "I'm more excited about getting a chance to compete. We've been so close before."
After a 5-20 record her first year as head coach, Knutson and the program have taken off, going 128-41 since, a .757 winning percentage.
Still, the team had never made it to the state tournament before this season. But a third trip to the Section 6AA final in th last four years proved to be the charm.
"These kids know what to expect from me as a coach," said Knutson. "When I first came here, I had some of them in my fourth-grade class. So they know me very well."
Knutson was an all-around player for New London-Spicer (then as Mimi Harrier) for three seasons before graduating in 1987.
"One thing I've done different this year is I'm more flexible with my players," she said. "I allow them to play to their strength, rather than have everyone do eveything the same way.
"My assistants and I have been to several clinics and they all teach things a different way. You just have to find what fits each girl the best. Each athlete is different. They aren't the same as the person next to them."
The Jaguars lost their second match of the season to Maple Lake, then rattled off 17 straight wins before losing to Willmar in the championship of the Willmar Invite Oct. 8. The Jaguars have now won 10 straight matches, including a sweep of Benson in the Section 6AA championship last Saturday in Melrose.
BBE, rated No. 8 in the final Coaches Association poll, has a solid hitting attack. When one player is having an off-night, someone else will step up. Four Jaguars have 100-or-more kills, led by juniors April Hansen with 335 kills and Ashley Lensing with 301. Tiffany Gruber, a senior, has 201 kills and Katie Gruber, a junior, has 120. Senior setter Holly Thompson 753 assists. Tiffany Gruber leads the team with 53 ace blocks. Hansen leads with 68 ace serves and 243 digs. Those numbrs are even more impressive when you consider BBE has swept 19 of its opponents, second only to Willmar in the area.
"We don't have a lot of conventional hitters," said Knutson. "None of them have the same approach. They all hit a different way."
The Jaguars have a tough assignment in the state opener against a team accustomed to playing here numerous times.
"We didn't come here just to say we've been to state," said Knutson. "We're here to win."