Tom Elliott: Willmar, Marshall headed to a showdown in volleyball

Two of the top teams in the state also Nos. 1 and 2 in Section 2AAA

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Willmar senior Mackenzie Knofczynski and the rest of the Cardinal volleyball team celebrate after scoring a point in the first set of a non-conference match against Marshall on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 at Marshall High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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It seemed like just another season-opening, non-conference match.

But for those in the know, the Willmar at Marshall match Aug. 26 was a lot more than that.

As prep volleyball heads into its last week of the regular season, Marshall’s 3-0 home victory at Willmar is looking more and more like the difference between at No. 1 and No. 2 seed in Section 2AAA.

That’s just one take of several after Minnesota-Scores.Net released its first batch of QRF power rankings for the 2021 season.

The QRF, or Quality Results Formula, is a computer-based rating system that many sections use for seeding purposes in a variety of sports, including volleyball. It measures strength of schedule, quality of opponent and other pertinent factors. The actual formula is proprietary.


What it does for sports fans is give them a way to measure where their favorite team stands before the actual playoff seeds are determined.

In Class AAA, Marshall (19-2) has the No. 1 QRF in the state. Willmar (12-4) is No. 5. That sure looks like a potential showdown in Section 2AAA on Nov. 4, which will be played at the high seed.

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Tom Elliott

Here’s a look at sections with West Central Tribune area teams:

Section 2AAA

Marshall and Willmar are the clear favorites, of course. The rest of the section is balanced. There is no automatic win for top seeds.

No.13 Mankato West (13-9), No. 18 Hutchinson (18-10) and No. 19 St. Peter (17-5) are fighting for first-round home matches. No. 25 Worthington (14-12), No. 27 New Ulm (9-7) and No. 28 Mankato East (9-12) are going to be tough first-round draws.This might be the best AAA section in the state, with high seeds being the host all the way through.


Section 3AA

Don’t look now, but No. 14 Paynesville (16-3) is headed to a No. 2 seed overall and a No. 1 in North Sub-Section 3AA. No. 2 Jackson County Central (18-3) is the team to beat in South Sub-Section 3AA and the section overall.

In the North, No. 37 New London-Spicer (13-10), No. 39 Eden Valley-Watkins (13-9) and No. 53 West Central Area (16-4) should be potential top-four seeds.

No. 56 Litchfield (7-15), No. 101 Minnewaska (4-14) and No. 111 Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (2-10) hope to be spoilers in the North.

In the South, No. 71 Montevideo (10-12) looks headed to a first-round road match against either No. 30 Pipestone (14-11), No. 31 Luverne (14-6) or No. 36 Windom (13-11).

The Section 3AA final is Nov. 6 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Section 2A

This mammoth, 19-team section currently has seven teams with records better than .500. No. 1 Mayer Lutheran (18-1) is the team to beat. No. 5 Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (20-0) is having a great season. No. 15 BOLD (15-3) is right behind. No. 17 New Ulm Cathedral (18-3), No. 21 Cleveland (14-8), No. 30 Cedar Mountain (14-8) and No. 43 Nicollet (15-9) are all going to be really tough in section play.

No. 51 Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart (13-13) is a spoiler.


The Section 2A final is Nov. 6 at St. Peter High School.

Section 3A

Section 3A is divided into North and South sub-sections. In the North, No. 2 Minneota (18-3), No. 3 Canby (19-3) and No. 8 MACCRAY (16-5) are the top three seeds with No. 32 Central Minnesota Christian (16-9) the likely fourth.

No. 61 Lac qui Parle Valley (10-9), No. 66 Renville County West (10-13), No. 71 Wabasso (7-11), No. 75 Yellow Medicine East (7-14), No. 80 Dawson-Boyd (5-9) and No. 115 Lakeview (5-19) are jockeying for position and aiming for upsets.

South Sub-Section 3A is led by No. 9 Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda (16-4), No. 11 Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (15-6), No. 13 Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (18-9) and No. 28 Red Rock Central (14-6).

The Section 3A final is scheduled for Nov. 6 at SMSU.

Section 6A

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa looks like the best team in this section, but it’s close. No. 7 BBE (18-7) is headed toward the top seed in South Sub-Section 6A. No. 37 Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (12-7), No. 68 Hancock (7-7), No. 69 Parkers Prairie (10-7), No. 74 Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (9-9) and No. 81 Brandon-Evansville (10-10) are the top of the section.

No. 93 Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (5-15), No. 106 Benson (4-19), No. 124 Ortonvillle (3-14) and No. 145 Ashby (3-18) aim for upsets.

In the North, No. 10 Breckenridge (20-0) is the team to beat. No. 22 Henning (13-6), No. 36 New York Mills (14-4) and No. 44 Underwood (12-5) are having good seasons and are headed to first-round home matches.

The section semifinals and final are Nov. 4 and 6 at Fergus Falls High School.

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Willmar senior Lydia Larson (4) sets the ball while senior Mackenzie Knofczynski look on during a non-conference match against New London-Spicer Tuesday at New London. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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